Our museum needs good signposting
I ATTENDED the 'Save Our Museum and Keep it in the Gaslight Building' meeting on March 6, held in the Blakehay.
I ATTENDED the 'Save Our Museum and Keep it in the Gaslight Building' meeting on March 6, held in the Blakehay. The theatre was packed with supporters for the museum, and five councillors out of 61 attended.
A very strong case, both practically and financially, for keeping the museum in the gaslight building was delivered by a panel of five very knowledgeable people representing all sectors, from mums with young children, researchers, students and financial viability.
Councillor Bryant opened his reply to the panel by likening himself to 'Daniel in the Lions' Den'. He obviously has not grasped the fact that Daniel was a good man championing the right cause, and that he and other councillors who want to move the museum from the gaslight building and sell this building are perceived to be the villains.
He continued his speech by gleefully rubbing salt into the wound, arrogantly reminding us that the gaslight building is being sold to pay for the council's move to Clevedon. He then went on to say that the museum could be moved into the Winter Gardens because, according to him, visitors to Weston would be more likely to visit the museum there as it would be sited closer to the seafront where there is a higher footfall. As far as I am concerned this is absolute rubbish. Yes, there is a higher footfall than in the area of Burlington Street, but people who visit the seafront do so for the sea, sand, fresh air, and when completed such attractions as the pier, funfairs and the big wheel. They will not be enticed into a museum in that vicinity or environment. Neither does the Winter Gardens exude the appropriate atmosphere to house a museum. The building does not have the age, heritage or historic pedigree compared to the Gaslight Building. There is not a better or more appropriate place in Weston for our museum other than the gaslight building. All our museum needs to attract the footfall is good signposting.
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The future of the Winter Gardens is also uncertain. If this proposed move takes place how long before the Winter Gardens itself is sold? Where will our museum go then? It will become non-existent. In turn the gaslight building will also become non-existent as it is given over to developers, or left to rot and decay as Birnbeck Pier and the Tropicana.
Councillor Bryant also stated that, at the present time, the museum costs �250,000 per annum to maintain, but had no figures to confirm the cost of the move or to support claims that it will be cost effective and save money. In fact he had no facts and figures at all, �250,000 is very little money to keep our heritage and the service it provides to the community and visitors beyond. Our museum is much more than a mere showcase for artefacts from the past, and the gaslight building is the most appropriate place for all aspects it provides to researchers, schools, university students and others.
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A gentleman in the audience compared the cost of the museum at �250,000 per annum to that of �247,000 per annum for Councillor Ashton's 'Life' magazine. If these figures are accurate there is no contest, in their words it's a 'no brainer' - ditch 'Life' magazine and use the money to keep the gaslight building. I suggest that everyone who receives 'Life' magazine, and who wishes to save our museum and keep it in the gaslight building, return the magazine to Councillor Ashton at the Town Hall, in protest.
Councillor Robert Cleland, who is also in favour of moving the museum to the Winter Gardens said, "We must move forward". We do not have to sell Weston's heritage and the legacies of our ancestors to do so. Where is their vision, their lateral thinking, their soul?
At the end of the meeting a show of hands recorded everyone in the theatre in favour of keeping our museum in the gaslight building, everyone but five put their hands up, with three abstentions and two in favour of the move - Councillors Bryant and Cleland.
Thank heavens for The Mercury, the paper Councillor Ashton so belittles and tries to undermine, a paper that represents us better than most of the people who are paid to do so.
These councillors are selling off the heritage and legacies of our ancestors for their own good. They appear to perceive the people of Weston as living in an ignorant bubble, and talk of North Somerset as if it is exclusive of Weston. I believe it is they who are living in a naive bubble, and one consolation to me is that their legacy, the legacy they are leaving behind them, the destruction of Weston's heritage and uniqueness, is etched in the paper some of them so vilify. Their names are recorded for history and prosperity for future generations to know who they are. They should hang their heads in shame.