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Gallery won’t work

HADRIAN Ellory-Van Dekker portrays a rosy picture in his article praising the development of the new museum and art gallery (SA 31 March).

If only he had waited another day your readers might have thought it was an All Fools jape; after all who is he trying to convince when he writes “the construction of a new building will be a catalyst for regeneration and development for the town centre”?

Many of us will have heard such statements before, including the infamous ‘if we build it the people will come’ a misquote from the film Field Of Dreams used by local council leaders when they sanctioned spending £15m on a car park as part of the Kimmerfield development, a venture described by Coun Garry Perkins in 2013 as an “investment in the future” adding “If we did not do this then Swindon would become an economic backwater.”

In 2017 progress has been pitifully slow with very little private investment or activity.

Mr Dekker refers to the construction of the Guggenheim Museum and invokes the so-called Bilbao effect, which was once viewed as a way for post-industrial cities in the 1990s and 2000s to replace their economic reliance on failing industry with tourism, and to reinvent themselves as destinations of high culture.

This has long since ceased to be the case, and is now seen by many instead as an inelegant monument to hubris.

The economic benefits which accrued to Bilbao came about as a result of some pretty impressive inward investment, not least from the funding they received from the EU when Spain became a member in 1986, which helped ease the pain of spending $85m for design and construction, subsidies towards a $12m annual budget, $50m for an acquisitions fund, and $20m to the Guggenheim for its name, curator services, and the use of parts of its collection.

Mr Dekker has not shared any details with regard to the running costs associated with the new SMAG beyond the design and build of £22m.

I am sure he has some idea of interest and running costs, which I am sure he would like to outline and allow the people to consider against the council leader’s aspiration of no charge entry, 90,000 visitors annually and a subsidy not exceeding that currently paid to the Old Town Museum?

In the UK, Dundee is building a new V&A Museum of Design which is already £35m over budget and three years late in opening.

Liverpool and Margate have the Tate Liverpool and the Turner Contemporary. Every city, it seems, wants to share in the Bilbao Guggenheim experience, but can they and what does it actually do for grass roots culture and the arts?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’ to the first and a sad ‘nothing much’ to the latter, a point confirmed by some groups resident in Bilbao.

As a Swindonian, I want the very best for our town but before we spend (not invest) £5m of Swindon Council taxpayers’ money and £15m of taxpayer money in a new museum and art gallery I refer to figures from the Museums Association which states that since 2015, nearly one in five regional museums has closed a part or branch of their museum to the public in the last year, or plans such a closure in the year to come.

One in 10, meanwhile, expects to introduce entrance charges to cover reductions in local authority funding.

Swindon Council does not consider itself to have a role in the provision of leisure facilities, or indeed of libraries, and yet it wants the public to believe they are passionate about the need for a flagship museum and art gallery - now what was it I said about a ‘monument to hubris’?


Caraway Drive


Blind will be at risk

VAL Hemmens (Letters March 30th) is absolutely right.

Looking at the proposed removal of a pedestrian controlled crossing in High Street, Old Town and replacing it with a shared space equivalent, only confirms our belief that Swindon Borough Council has no interest in the welfare of blind people in Swindon.

Shared space crossings rely entirely on eye contact between pedestrian and driver so they effectively become a no-go area for the blind.

This new proposal will prevent blind residents of Beatty and Henrietta Courts gaining access to the shops in Old Town.

When we objected about a similar installation outside the Regent Circus redevelopment, council officials said they had carried out audits which showed these crossings met safety standards.

Presumably there has to be a fatality before they are forced to take action.

Our late chairman, John Vickery, challenged a senior councillor to wear a blindfold, carry a white stick and use one of crossings. Not surprisingly, he refused.

We shall be joining some of our members in writing to the council objecting to their latest proposal, though we don’t expect any action.

After all, despite having almost 400 visually impaired residents in the town, they are still considered a minority by our elected representatives.


Swindon Blind Association

Craven House

Victoria Road


Youngsters were stars

I WISH to write to congratulate Rising Aspirations Academy Of Performing Arts on their performance of Whistle Down The Wind, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman at the Wyvern Theatre on Saturday.

The company of young people between the ages of three and18 performed this show with great passion.

Although at times some of the singing was slightly ‘off key’ (which would be expected), you were clearly able to see how much they were putting everything possible into what they were doing.

This was a very ‘tight’ budget performance with no spectacular stage sets but that really did not matter and the performance was backed by a superb Live Band in the pit.

The show starred John Sheehy who played the role of The Man was from Ireland’s version of The Voice, who gave some powerful performances.

But the youngsters Caitlin and Lloyd jelled well together in the roles of Candy and Amos during their performance of the song Tire Tracks And Broken Hearts which was brought to fame by singer Bonnie Tyler.

They both gave incredible performances and are stars of the future to look out for.

The only let-down with the show was the sound quality. For most of the matinee many on stage were not heard, including those with mics and the small amount of dialogue in the show was completely missed.

But,all in all, it was a superb performance from this group of Rising Talent. Congratulations to Everyone at Rising Aspirations on their performance.


Briarswood Court



Here are Christian facts

I SOMEWHAT shivered when I read Ian Hunt’s letter “lesson in religion” with its reference to re-educating me, as it has horrid overtones of Stalinism.

I was also surprised that he sought to re-educate me on the meaning of Islamist when he had written that Blair had allowed millions of Islamists into the country.

He had obviously, himself, confused Muslims with Islamists.

I had not realised how lucky I am that I live in a Christian country that tolerates me, as a non Christian, although I would dispute that this is a Christian country any longer.

He finishes with a last paragraph stating “Christianity is not tolerated in the Middle East or Pakistan.” In fact between 11 and 20 per cent of Egyptians are Christian, they even have their own Pope.

In fact 40 per cent of Lebanese are Christian.

In fact three per cent of Jordanians are Christian.

In fact two per cent of Pakistanis are Christian Before the civil war ten per cent of Syrians were Christian and before the invasion by us and the Americans six per cent of Iraqis were Christian and far from being persecuted, the Iraqi foreign minister was Tariq Aziz, a Christian.

I am very relieved to read that Mr Hunt feels that he has no problem with Muslims in general, as I am sure all your Muslim readers must be.


Norman Road


Change up to us

THE disdain amongst people towards the local council has never been higher.

The letters page regularly has contributors condemning the actions of the council and the service it gives to its residents.

One day we read that recycling stations are disappearing and to use the Cheney Manor facility only to read days later that the council is cutting its opening hours.

The cuts to local services and the redistribution of responsibility to parishes has caused a great deal of upset in the community and has left us all unsure what the future holds.

The one and only thing we as residents can do is to remember the actions of the council when the local elections arrive.

Only we, the people, can make the changes necessary.


Cookham Road



Marine is no hero

THE recent correspondence to the letter pages of the Swindon Advertiser showing support for the ex-Royal Marine Alexander Blackman wo has absurdly had his conviction for murder reduced to manslaughter are completely ignoring the fact that he, on shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter, broke the Geneva convention.

I have no doubt that Alexander Blackman is a hero to many people across the country, there is nothing heroic in shooting dead a badly wounded enemy combatant, such actions make him no better than the violent cruel organisation he was fighting and trying to defeat.


Old Town


Shocked by owners

I AM astounded that not only do dog owners let their animals foul in public places, and in some cases pick it up, but I have now had an altercation with a female dog owner who blatantly stands and lets her dog foul on a private front garden in our close.

When confronted her response was, “He’s got to go somewhere” and a mouthful of abuse. Although she did pick it up.

Do dog owners have any respect for other people’s property or do they think they have a divine right to do whatever they please.

When will Swindon Borough Council bring in a lawful enforcement to penalise disrespectful dog owners?


Farriers Close