I don’t often deviate from the subject of beauty on my blog but one of my huge passions is the Arts, heritage and education so when I heard the Lancashire County Council plan on making massive budget cuts, which include the closure of dozens of local libraries and completely pulling the funding of five museums in the area, I was livid and wanted to put my view forward. I do hope my regular readers aren’t put off by my off-topic, bit of a rant, but here goes.
The LCC proposes slashing Lancashire’s Cultural Services budget from £1.2 million to £98,000 by 2017 – to put that in perspective that’s less than the average house price here in the UK and that is expected to be shared amongst the area’s museums for their upkeep – and the council’s ‘helpful’ suggestion is that the ‘at risk’ museums be taken over by volunteers or community groups. Now I’m a volunteer and I believe it plays a vital role in society, but I do not think sole responsibility for the running of these important buildings should be given over completely to a group of unpaid volunteers, who whilst enthusiastic will for the large part lack the indepth knowledge and expertise required. Besides our museums already benefit from dozens of volunteers as it is, so to demand more is a downright cheek. Is the MPs role voluntary? Perhaps it should be, that would save a few million.
But seriously, do the LCC not recognise the valuable role our museums play in heritage and education? One of the victims of this cull, the Queen Street Mill in Burnley (pictured), is already the last surviving fully operational steam powered mill in the world, and when that goes all that knowledge will be consigned to the history books. I believe children learn through best tangible experiences, from sights and sounds and getting hands on, and as a mum I don’t want my daughter’s only experience of the past to be through text books and computer programs.
If you’ve ever watched the film The Kings Speech or saw the recent BBC adaptation of An Inspector Calls, the Queen Street Mill interior was used for the filming. People have invested many years’ worth of time and money in the upkeep of this mill, long after the last cloth was produced here in Burnley, and it could all come to an abrupt end in the name of Austerity. I feel this move is short-sighted. I know the LCC faces an unenviable task in deciding where to make cuts, and that it is central Government that has forced them to find the savings, but I just hope they have considered the wider implications to the local community and economy and not just chosen the museums as an easy target. Once these cuts are made, it will be very hard to go back.
The full list of museums facing cuts is as follows:
Queen Street Mill, Burnley (support the petition to save Queen Street Mill here)
Fleetwood Museum, Fleetwood
Museum of Lancashire, Preston
Helmshore Mill Textile Museum, Rossendale
Judges’ Lodgings, Lancaster (you can support the campaign to save the Judges’ Lodgings by signing the online petition)
If you feel as I do please do pledge your support, lobby your local MP or get vocal on Twitter. And if you’re not from Lancashire this could well be happening in your area, so make sure you keep your eye on the news and show those with the power that you care for your local services before they’re lost for good.