Families of GCHQ staff were given a peek into the secret world of the Doughnut on Saturday and Sunday (9 and 10 July) when they were invited to Family Days at GCHQ.
Families were treated to a tour of the doughnut, missing out the secret bits, but enjoying interactive displays on Cyber Security, Counter Terrorism and Serious Crime. Another display featured the vital support that GCHQ provides to Military Operations. This provided the chance to try on flak jackets and other military equipment, whilst gaining some understanding of the important work that goes on within GCHQ to support our troops.
GCHQ planned the event in response to strong interest among employees. It follows a previous family event in 2008, and subsequent mini family days, all of which have proved to be extremely popular.
Children were entertained with a Lego robot challenge, interactive computer games and a F1 Racing simulator. There was also the opportunity to get taster sessions in exotic languages and see demonstrations by some of GCHQ's engineers on how alternative forms of energy can be generated.
One of the highlights for many of the visitors was the opportunity to sit in the GCHQ Director's chair. Stuart, 14, a future cyber security expert said: "I'm surprised the Director sits with everyone else. If I was the boss I'd have a big flash office, with my name on the door and a receptionist to tell people I'm busy!"
Other displays reflected GCHQ's engagement with the local community and charity work. These included motorbikes from Gloucestershire Blood Bikes and a Gloucestershire Police dog handler (complete with dog) and police riot van.
A display showing the history of GCHQ in 100 objects was a particular feature. Many of these historical artefacts are rarely put out on display, so it was a real opportunity to see and learn more about GCHQ's heritage. Also available was a time line, produced to mark the Intelligence Agencies' Centenary in 2009. Extending for over 500m, it was laid out along the inner ring of the doughnut, offering a unique chance for visitors to understand more about the key events that have influenced GCHQ's development over the past 100 years.
"Amongst the fun, hopefully we have provided an insight into the work we do to support National Security" said a spokesperson. "Staff are not able to discuss their work at home, so this sort of event is really important to thank families for their understanding and support".
Another weekend of Family Events is planned for later on in the year.
10 July 2011