10th March 2023
3 years & no museum and art gallery in Swindon is not one bit fine. It’s not fine at all. Swindon must be the only town in Wiltshire NOT to have a museum. It sure as hell feels like it anyway. And it’s pathetic. And it’s an embarrassment.
Further, a small selection of paintings on the ground floor of the civic offices and a few ceramics in a case in a meeting room in the same building, do not a credible museum alternative make.
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls – Pablo Picasso
Well, Swindon has been short of a major washroom for three years now. I’m not saying that Swindon has no other arts activity – that wouldn’t be true. It also wouldn’t be the point! The town, its people – its CHILDREN – have now been denied access to our wonderful art, our brilliant local collections, the archeology, the prehistoric stuff and – of course – the croc, for three years now.
Friday the 17th March 2023, marks the third anniversary of Swindon museum and art gallery closing. To mark this lamentable situation there’ll be a gathering outside Apsley House on the aforementioned date at 1pm. With cake!
If you’re wondering why a croc, or gharial to be precise, read this:
Why we need our museum …
… Or why any town or city needs a museum. The museums’ association writes:
‘Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, can inspire, challenge and stimulate us, and make us feel healthier.’
The local collections in SM&AG for sure made us proud of our town. They helped to tell its story. The Garrard record decks, the Bluebird toys, the vintage/veteran fire engine, the archeological artefacts – all played their part in telling Swindon’s story. And IT’S ALL OUT OF SIGHT. Our adults can’t reminisce and our children can’t learn!
Further the article states:
‘With society facing issues such as poverty, inequality, intolerance and discrimination, museums can help us understand, debate, and challenge these concerns.’
Unless you’re in Swindon that is. What with 3 years & no museum.
Aside from everything above there are benefits to business from having a thriving museum and art gallery. An obvious cultural scene offers an attraction to people considering coming to a town for work. Those people spend and that’s good for the local economy. And so on and so forth.
I’ve sat in business networking meetings listening to men in suits bemoaning the fact that they can’t get more men in suits to come and work in Swindon. And that’s because there’s a pervasive perception beyond Swindon that the place has no culture. It’s not true of course. But the reputation persists. ERGO YOU’D THINK WOULDN’T YOU that it would be axiomatic for the council to do all it could to dispel these beliefs? But no. Instead they turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy and close SM&AG. Genius!
So here we are. Despite an active Save our Museum and Art Gallery campaign and what feels like a half-hearted attempt by SBC to convert the top floor of the civic offices into an interim* museum/art gallery we’re not much further forward. Instead we’re 3 years & no museum.
*interim – until the much-vaunted cultural quarter comes to pass. Speaking for nobody but myself, I’d say the chances of the cultural quarter actually ever happening are as real as fairies at the bottom of the garden. Given that there’s been talk of such a thing since 1968 my confidence levels aren’t high.
See also: http://friendsofsmag.blogspot.com/2023/02/update-on-opening-of-sm-in-civic-offices.html