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I BELIEVE the proposal to create a museum and art gallery in the town centre to be a project requiring belief, confidence and vision. I also believe the town centre is the right location.
This project is not just about moving the Old Town museum and gallery down the hill to a new building. If allowed to go ahead and funds are secured, not only will more of the widely renowned collection of 20th century British art owned by Swindon be displayed, it will also mean other important visiting collections can be attracted, of the type normally only seen in larger towns and cities.
Its location makes it easily accessed and there are three multi-storey car parks nearby.
The Swindon Collection and visiting displays will not only be of interest to local people but will attract visitors from elsewhere.
With the redevelopment of the town centre the new museum and art gallery will play a significant role in bringing more people into the heart of the town, which must be good for the retailers and for the health of the town.
It will greatly enhance the reputation of the town in the eyes of potential investors and visitors.
There are still former rail works buildings that need to be used for good purposes and to be preserved in the process. The Designer Outlet Village and Steam Museum have seen important heritage building put to a new and valuable use, as with the English Heritage HQ, the National Monuments Records Centre and the University Technical College.
But I do not believe the new museum and art gallery should be located there. Swindon must preserve its valuable heritage but that doesn’t mean every new development should be located in one of the old railway buildings.
I think we have to be careful not to put all our eggs in one basket. The town should also look to the future and to create new ventures and success.
If we talk down every brave new idea, that will guarantee visionary new projects (more heritage for the future) will never happen.
It would do Swindon good if its reputation was enhanced by the creation of an important cultural centre.
The eye-catching design proposed for the project would help in promoting Swindon and its museum and art gallery nationally as a place worth visiting. A town that knows how to celebrate its past but is also innovative.
The proposed building has been designed not just for exhibitions but will include other facilities for the community which will encourage people to visit it. It would be an excellent facility for our schools and colleges and would make the town a more attractive proposition for potential new employers and employees.
Art and museums are not just for some elite, they can play an important role in the wellbeing and understanding of us all. It could also enhance the chances of a university becoming a reality in the future.
Swindon is well known for its Railway Village, a superb designer outlet village in its railway workshops, and the excellent Steam Museum.
This project would show Swindon is also a town that has confidence in itself and can develop creative ventures as it looks to the future.
Swindon should learn from the pioneers like Brunel who were so important in creating something new and lasting for the town.
Gallery not needed
WITH the resignations of chairman Robert Hiscox and director Hadrian Ellory-van Dekker the flagship SMAG project looks set to enter choppy waters.
Only a few short weeks ago both men were waxing lyrical about how ‘one new building will generate strong economic growth while becoming the beating heart of our community.’ After four years of talking about the development of the SMAG on the car park site the reality is that the second HLF bid has not yet been completed but is scheduled to be submitted towards the end of 2017.
Council leader David Renard invited multi-millionaire Robert Hiscox to use his contacts with ‘wealthy donors’ to help with the costs of the project which were said to be in the region of £22.5m. According to Mr Hiscox, the new museum was to be: “The best investment the council has ever made.”
In January Mr Dekker was effusive in an interview in which he suggested a major attraction for taking the job “was the opportunity literally take charge of a new museum from the ground up.”
In February he was given a monthly column in the SA and he spoke of his passion in the power of museums and galleries, the wonderful collections they hold, and the amazing stories that those artworks and objects tell, to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and communities.
After a few months the attraction has gone and so has his enthusiasm and passion - so much for fine words.
It now appears that Mr Hiscox and Hadrian Ellory-Van Dekker believe the council is not as supportive of the project as they would like them to be.
It is a view at odds with a recent statement by Mr Hiscox when he said: “It is inspirational that the council, politicians and local people have united behind the vision.”
It also appears they have recognised Swindonians do not share the council’s appetite to spend £22.5m on a vanity project which would require a substantial subsidy for years to come.
However, Mr Hiscox and Mr Dekker would be wrong to assume the people of Swindon are cultural Philistines; the town boasts so much in terms of artistic talent across many genres.
The truth is that the people of Swindon have little confidence in the people who are supposed to ‘represent their best interests.’ According to Coun Garry Perkins: “We have the second most impressive 20th century art collection in the country and it should be on display.”
The problem is he said that in December 2013 and the impressive collection remains hidden from the view of Swindon art lovers in secret locations known only to a few.
A new art gallery isn’t necessarily what is needed, what is needed is the political will to find an immediate solution which will enable the town’s treasures to be viewed as opposed to being stored.
THANK the Lord the two in charge of the new museum bid have resigned. It is a financially nonsensical proposal to build a museum at your and and my expense.
Perhaps as a resident of 46 years in this town, I am missing something. We have the derelict Mechanics’ Institute and the disgraceful neglect of the Locarno site - both of them steeped in the history of Swindon and its great heritage.
In the meantime, let us increase council tax. Let us us give ourselves an increase in our expenses Let us even impose parish councils on the plebs without their democratic influence.
How much longer do we all put up this charade of false democracy? My patience is getting very thin. Am I alone in my sincere but angry thoughts? I doubt it.
Some councillors act
MAY I reply to Terry Reynolds’ letter “Council is arrogant” and put into contrast the attitude of the councillors elected to represent Terry and that of the councillors in my ward of Eastcott, in particular Dave Wood, Lib Dem, who has worked on my behalf to get issues resolved here in Eastcott.
Likewise, council leader David Renard who I had reason to write to over the past few months on outstanding issues, he acted on my behalf and put the matter right.
I have met Terry at council meetings and election hustings, our views on the wider political landscape are chalk and cheese but I, like a lot of people in Swindon, share some of Terry’s concerns not only about the state of Swindon itself but also the attitude of certain councillors.
What a pity there aren’t more people like Terry in Swindon to hold Mr Renard and the councillors to account for their actions.
Finally, Terry don’t take it as an insult at being called a ‘bad penny’, take it as a compliment. No doubt you’re a thorn in the side of councillors but you speak up on issues in Swindon that concern the people. Keep up the good work.