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Museum guesswork

IN THE latest instalment of the SMAG saga, the trust charged with bringing the museum to Swindon has been asked to look again at whether it is realistic to keep entry free of charge (SA 16 Oct).

I have to say I am not surprised at this volte face, it is entirely consistent with the behaviour of the council and on this occasion it reflects a pattern prevalent throughout the country.

The director of SMAG suggests he can demonstrate that the museum is sustainable, I would be disappointed if he couldn’t manipulate the figures to ‘say whatever he wanted them to say’ and I am sure he can find a supine audience to hang onto his every word.

After all, who can forget the report presented by a former leader of the Conservative group that a £400k investment would lead to a £700k net profit on a turnover of £1m – it came as no surprise the council lost the £400k.

I have previously written to applaud the council for its desire to bring a new museum and art gallery to Swindon but have pointed out that there is a high degree of financial risk associated with museums and the viability of such a facility is highly doubtful.

When challenged on a previous occasion as to the level of subsidy the new SMAG would require, Coun Renard said: “The expectation is that the subsidy will be no more than the current sum with a drive to get it close to zero as possible.”

It now seems that ‘the expectation’ was misplaced and that the trust envisages a budget shortfall which they expect taxpayers to pick up.

Given Coun Renard’s insistence that “no amount of taxpayer funded ‘subsidy’ is acceptable for Lydiard House and Park” it is difficult to understand how he justifies a £250,000 subsidy for SMAG, or the continuing subsidy of £200,000 for Steam.

His colleague Coun Perkins is on record as stating that “free access and the decision not to charge an entry fee to the current museum is based on ‘principle’” – how quickly principles are cast aside in the greater cause of economic necessity.

Coun Renard maintained the same principle would apply to the new museum.

The inescapable truth is that many museums throughout the country are either closed or in the process of closing, reducing hours of opening, introducing entry charges and increasing the use of unpaid voluntary staff.

Coun Renard’s own estimate is that 90,000 visitors a year (almost half of those visiting Steam) will walk through the museum’s doors.

Frankly, I doubt anyone believes that figure to be anything other than a guess.

DES MORGAN, Caraway Drive, Swindon

Farmers disgruntled

ACCORDING to the Government’s Tory Transport Minister Chris Grayling British farmers would produce more food in the event of the UK leaving the EU with no trade deal, after being asked about claims from the food producing industry that prices could soar by as much as 20 per cent.

However, he seemed fairly confident that a trade deal with the EU would be achieved and that could in turn be agreed with the 27 remaining member countries after the much talked about divorce settlement has been agreed with the EU.

This is the same Chris Grayling who has been prepared to allow chaos to reign on our rail network while refusing to have meaningful talks with the unions regarding their quite justifiable concerns that have forced them to take industrial action and cause persistent misery for commuters on parts of the network.

He has also been defeated in the Supreme Court over the unfair legal aid charges that were put on those workers who needed, for one reason or another, to take an employer to an industrial tribunal.

Therefore, should any of us be reassured by his optimism considering his track record of incompetence?

It is rather amazing that Grayling has such confidence in our farming community in being able to make up such a perceived shortfall should it happen, as there is currently much trepidation among farmers who stand to lose the very lucrative subsidies that they have become accustomed to from the EU.

Many are not at all reassured that these will be matched by the Government, especially after hearing recently from the Agricultural Minister that, after each is looked at on a case by case basis, they are unlikely to match up, leaving many of them worse off.

Finally, I am sure that there will be a lot of disgruntled farmers, some of whom may have voted for Brexit, who will be in no frame of mind to want to produce ‘more for less’, and step in to the breech to make up for inevitable shortages in the event of no new trade deal with the EU being reached.

And, as time goes by, this does seem an increasingly likely eventuality.

GA WOODWARD, Nelson Street, Swindon

Radio show memories

I DID not realise that people still had memories of the original Wiltshire Radio which first came on the air on October 12 1982.

Apart from the first news bulletin, I was the second voice on the air with DJ Dave Barratt.

I would just like to say a heartfelt thank you to all those people who remembered me and contacted on social media and email over the station’s 35th anniversary. I was in Lanzarote at the time of the anniversary otherwise I would have come to Swindon for a get-together.

I presented the afternoon show for a year before moving to the late slot. I also schemed up the original Make Me A Match feature and was pleased that so many people got together. I was invited to the the wedding of a middle-aged Swindon couple who had met through the feature.

One of the compliments I received I have treasured ever since. At one of our outside broadcasts, a woman came up to me and said: “I am usually at work during the week so hadn’t heard your afternoon programme. But last week I was in bed with the ‘flu and listened. It’s almost as though I could have reached out and touched you.”

That I have never forgotten, or indeed, the loyalty of the audience we were serving.

A few years later I was appointed head of programmes at BBC Wiltshire Sound and listeners will no doubt have heard the programmes I present or produce on Swindon 105.5.

But this would not have happened if I had not had the time and the loyal audience and had not met Shirley Ludford, from Wiltshire Radio. My grateful thanks to you all.

ALAN THOMPSON, Swindon 105.5 FM

A fitting tribute

FILM goers may have seen Legally Blonde. A few may have seen the stage version in London. Very lucky Swindonians caught the SALOS production at the Wyvern.

What a super show. What amazing local talent on stage, in the pit, back stage and in the production team.

What a fitting tribute to the late Peter Jones, the past president of Swindon’s top notch theatre company.

JOHN DAVIES, Byron Avenue, Wootton Bassett

Thanks for the cash

HIGHWORTH branch of the RNLI would like to thank all who supported us at the Highworth Co-op on October 21.

We raised £371.34, plus £114 on RNLI merchandise, making a total of £485.34. Our thanks to Highworth Co-operative Society for allowing us to use their premises.

If you feel you could help this cause, call 07759 439480 or visit the website

RON ROSE, Highworth RNLI

Widows welcome

HAVING read the article on Kevin Logan’s marvellous lasting legacy of the charity he set up before his death, I was actually moved by his partner Vivienne’s shock over his passing.

I have set up a group for women who have been widowed in their 50s and 60s and we meet up regularly.

So any women who are in a similar position are welcome to email me via