Supporting galleries and museums

By | Category: Travel rumblings
exterior of New Art Gallery, Walsall

New Art Gallery, Walsall

There is just a fortnight left before the New Art Gallery in Walsall must submit its Arts Council request for funding for the next four years. That is before it will find out whether the local council will withdraw all its funding as part of cuts the council has to make to its budget.

On Monday in the House of Lords there was spirited questioning of the government about its attitudes to regional museums amidst pleas to keep the New Art Gallery open. It was mixed with concern about other regional museums.

There is an age-old problem. Do you cut social services or local amenities like making rubbish collection once a month or do you remove grants from the arts? There is less of a problem if you can raise taxes locally, obtain lottery funding or tap other revenue sources but generally people don’t like paying more taxation.

So how do you resolve a problem like this when central and local government has to make savings?

At present about 200,000 people visit this gallery each year and it costs them nothing to enter.

Visiting museums is one of the most popular leisure and holiday pursuits and we expect to pay for those pursuits even to the point of having to pay when we park or use a toilet.

Has the time come to introduce mandatory charging for all museums at a rate of, say, £2 a ticket so sufficient money can be raised in support of them?  If we visitors knew that all museums and galleries had an entry fee we would soon become accustomed. We pay in France, Italy, Spain and the US so why not here? The argument about charging would cause the lower paid to stay away may be true. The argument that everyone should have access to their culture and heritage is also a strong argument. But arguments don’t provide funds.

So unless you find someone like Bill Gates who will pay all the costs for a year, another way must be found.

Many local museums already charge.  You pay £17.50 at the nearby Black Country Museum in Dudley, Cadbury World is £16.75 the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is £7 and the Pen Museum is a fiver. If you go and see Walsall Football Club play it costs £18 so why not make it £20 and £2 goes to the gallery One part of the area supports another.

School children could be admitted for nothing and each school could be made to take all students at least twice in their school life to all galleries and museums in their area. To lessen the impact perhaps all locals could have free entry on production of a card they collect from a council office.

The alternative is that we have fewer museums and galleries because many would have to close if local councils had their way. Should all museums be the responsibility of governments in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London rather than local government? No, because then some area would moan that one part of our countries was receiving treatment at the expense of another.

The New Art Gallery issue isn’t an easy one to answer but at some stage it must be faced.

 

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