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Bid for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery – A Statement from the Trust

Letter to the Editor of the Swindon Advertiser for publication on Friday 4th May 2018


Today Swindon citizens know the shape of their next Council, which sets the stage for the next year of local government.

What we do not yet know, but await momentarily, is the announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) of its decision regarding the funding application for a new art gallery and museum. The decision has been made, but the announcement has been delayed until after the election.

The HLF was concerned that the decision (either way) would influence the election; that in itself is an interesting position regarding local democracy. Who can say how a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘try again’ result might have affected Swindon voters’ ballots?

The decision, when it is announced, will have an impact on The Mechanics’ Trust’s upcoming Viability Study, which will lead to the Trust’s own effort to fund the restoration of the Mechanics’ Institution. The Trustees met on Monday this week, and considered how to respond to a result about which we have no hint.

We decided to make a simple statement in advance of the announcement. We deliberately did not engage in the public debate directly before the submission of the HLF bid; this was so that we could listen to the debate ourselves and understand how local people’s opinions ranged.

But now, we wish to state:
Whatever the result of the HLF bid, the Mechanics’ Trust wishes to work with the new Council to achieve the best possible result for Swindon. It may still be arguable by different interests whether the balance of aspirations can be achieved and funded.

If anyone thinks it is naive or impossible to achieve this, then we ask them to reflect upon their view, and consider whether this is not precisely what Swindon needs – a coming together in the interest of all, with the result that the full range of people’s needs are met.

But we especially hope that Swindonians will not want to continue a divisive argument about these two projects. We seek a coming together of people across Swindon, to achieve what is best for them in their town. The range of people’s views and aspirations will be explored as part of our upcoming Viability Study.

The Trust will have more to offer by way of suggestions for how to move ahead, once we have seen the HLF announcement.

Michael Gray Chair of Trustees