A SoMAG response

A SoMAG response

A SoMAG response to SBC’s leader’s response to a question

SoMAG responds to SBC’s leader
NB: I’ve edited the following only for the purposes of SEO &YOAST

Dr Barbara Swan sits on the committee of the Friends of the Museum and Art Gallery. At SBC’s cabinet meeting on 13th Oct 2021 she asked this question of the Leader:

( a title I can’t hear without thinking of Daleks …)

‘Can the council explain the financial logic of selling off a substantial piece of property in a prime location [Apsley House], at a time when interest rates on cash deposits are very low, to part- fund a project that has no starting date as yet?

Property is the one asset that increases substantially in value. So what’s the financial argument for selling the building now? Surely it makes far better sense to make the necessary repairs (which we understand you’re making in order to make it saleable) and hang on to it so the council can get maximum benefit from its future appreciation in value?’

The Leader of the council responded thus:

‘Thank you for your question.

As we explained at the previous meetings of Cabinet and Scrutiny, we need to sel Apsley House to contribute to a new permanent facility in the Town Centre. The sale of Apsley House will make a small contribution to the cultural quarter as a whole. But a potentially significant contribution to an Art Pavilion in the Cultural Quarter or a relocated museum elsewhere. 

We need to move quickly with the sale of Apsley House. That will enable us to deliver a solution that will minimise the time that the collections spend in a temporary location. The costs of repairing Apsley House are significant. And the problems of disabled access into the majority of the building were detailed at the previous Cabinet and Scrutiny meetings. The Council cannot make Apsley House DDA compliant. And we cannot continue to permanently operate a facility in a building that does not enable access for all.

Of course, not all improvements costed for Apsley need doing prior to any sale. Indeed a number could prove abortive depending on the end use of the building. 

There is no guarantee that the value of the building would increase if it were retained. Buildings deteriorate quite quickly when they’re empty. Especially so in this instance as the building is listed, so there are holding costs for maintenance and for security. In the circumstances, there is nothing to justify the Council retaining ownership of the building.’

Aspley House home of Swindon museum and art gallery - Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Closure - SoMAG responds to SBC's leader
Aspley House home of Swindon museum and art gallery – Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Closure

SoMAG’s response

A spokesperson for Save Our Museum and Art Gallery (SoMAG) said:

To be very clear, SoMAG is in full support of the concept of establishing a cultural quarter. One that includes a museum and art gallery, in Swindon’s town centre.

Indeed, many of our 5,000 plus supporters, from all areas of the borough, worked to support the 2017 Heritage Lottery Fund bid for a new museum and art gallery in that very area. That demonstrates our passion for a central cultural quarter.



Yet SBC’s response to Dr Swann’s question is alarming for several reasons


In 2017, as part of the bid for HLF funding for a central museum and art gallery, the Council committed to retaining Apsley House as a community asset. The Council has come under fire over the years for failing to safeguard buildings it doesn’t actually own and thus has little control over. The Mechanics’ Institute and the Corn Exchange being two examples.

But the Council does own Apsley House. It can control that building’s future, at least until realisation of its vision for the town centre.

It’s worth remembering that, in 2017, SBC requested the Parish Council take on Apsley house for community use in the event of success with the Heritage Lottery Fund bid. Indeed, South Swindon Parish Council did register an expression of interest in 2017.

SBC state the sale of Apsley House has the potential to make a significant contribution to an art pavilion in the cultural quarter or a relocated museum. In which case isn’t it crucial that SBC does all it can to maximise the real value of the sale?

A disingenuous assertion?

They assert ‘there is no guarantee that the value of the building would increase were it retained. That is either very naïve or disingenuous.

‘There’s no guarantee about almost anything in life. But history shows that well-maintained property very much tends to increase in value. We’re not proposing that Apsley House remain empty, to deteriorate. Rather we’re urging SBC to take South Swindon Parish Council up on its offer to take on a lease and running it.

That way, the Council can sell Apsley House for a far larger sum when everything is in place to start on the art pavilion in the cultural quarter.

3. If Swindon Borough Council sells Apsley House now, the money will sit in an account earning very little interest. Meanwhile the cost of a potential art pavilion is almost certain to rise as inflation bites and construction costs rise.

Light years away

By the Council’s own admission, the cultural quarter is years away from happening. And, by the time it does, the contribution from the sale will make will be a drop in the ocean.

Referring to Apsley House, SBC also says: ‘it can’t continue to operate, on a permanent basis, a facility in a building that “doesn’t enable access for all”. But as things stand now, there is access for no-one.

The final words from SBC, that ‘there is nothing to justify the Council retaining ownership of the building’ are both shocking and sad.

2017

In 2017, as part of the bid for HLF funding for a central museum and art gallery, the Council committed to retaining Apsley House as an asset for the community. The Council has come under fire over the years for failing to safeguard buildings which it doesn’t actually own, and thus has little control over. The Mechanics’ Institute and the Corn Exchange being two examples.

But the Council does own Apsley House. It can control that building’s future, at least until realisation of its vision for the town centre.

It’s worth remembering that, in 2017, SBC requested the Parish Council take on Apsley house for community use in the event of success with the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for a new museum and art gallery. Indeed, South Swindon Parish Council did register an expression of interest in 2017.

A beseechment to SBC

Let the parish council take a lease on it and run it in the meantime. That rather than sell it to a speculative developer and risk it going the same way as those other historically significant buildings.



Final push for Beat the Street Swindon!

Final push for Beat the Street Swindon!

Beat the Street Swindon enters its final week with nearly 30,000 people from the town playing the physical activity game!

19th October 2021

Final push for Beat the Street Swindon!
Beat the Street – the game taking place across Swindon – draws to a close this week.

From Wednesday 20th October, it’s the game’s Go Celebrate week, where each Beat Box will give out double points.

The game will come to an end at 7pm on the 27th October. On that date the leaderboard comes down. The winners get announced shortly after the competition.

More than 29,200 people have signed up and have together walked, cycled, wheeled, run and scooted an incredible 284,000 miles so far in the competition.

Haydonleigh Primary School leads the total points leaderboard. Meanwhile, Centurion Wolf Explorers is at the top of the average points leaderboard.

Final push for Beat the Street Swindon! - Ella plays Beat the Street Swindon
Final push for Beat the Street Swindon!

It’s a partnership

Swindon Borough Council have brought Beat the Street to you in partnership with Wiltshire and Swindon Sport (WASP), and Swindon Healthy Schools. Intelligent Health are the delivery partners.

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: ‘The six-week game has gone by so fast. It’s been the talk of the town for the past few weeks.

‘It’s been fantastic to see everyone getting active as a community. And, what’s more, hearing stories of people spending more time as a family and chatting more to their neighbours. Players have got to experience green spaces and parts of the town that they may not have known about before. 

The Beat the Street game itself is only the start though. When the game comes to an end, we’ll continue to work with the local community to ensure that these healthy lifestyle habits continue.

More information including the winning teams will be available at www.beatthestreet.me/swindon

To find out other ways you can stay active and reduce your impact on the environment beyond the game, visit the Be the Change webpages: www.swindon.gov.uk/bethechange









Platform Project Teenage Intern Success

Platform Project Teenage Intern Success

TEENAGE INTERN URGES OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE TO EMBRACE WORKING WITH THE PLATFORM PROJECT

Platform Project Teenage Intern Success
Teenage film maker Reuben Bell is urging other young people struggling with their careers to consider an internship to build confidence and experience.

The 19-year-old from Highworth, has completed a six-month internship with the Swindon-based social enterprise The Platform Project. The project helps 16 to 24 year olds become ‘employer ready’.

Reuben Bell - Platform Project Teenage Intern Success
Reuben Bell

Fantastic experience

Said Reuben: ‘It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ve not regretted a moment. It’s been a tough couple of years for me and many others. I gained a media production qualification and then we went into lockdown. There have been no opportunities for me to build up credible experience.

I tried to start building my skills yet felt lost and it can sap your confidence. With The Platform Project I’ve been filming for them including a charity event. I’ve made a film for Wiltshire Community Foundation, made my own showreel, built my website and improved my CV. As a result my confidence has grown.’

Reuben, a former student at Highworth Warneford School, has done all this while working part-time.

Sadie Sharp, founder of The Platform Project, said: ‘Reuben has been such an asset to our team. As well as gaining skills and building his own confidence, he’s learned to network with business owners. In all this he’s gained an understanding of how he can move forward with his life.’

Hopes for the future

Reuben is now hoping to move into film and tv production. Thus he’s applied for various apprenticeships including one with the BBC.

About the Platform Project

The Platform Project, now in its fourth year, is a social enterprise that helps prepare young people for the work environment and take their next steps into a career. 89% of the young people they work with move on into paid work, further education, or self-employment.

Any young person looking for help in launching their career or taking their next steps can contact The Platform Project on internships@platformproject.co.uk to find out about how their programme can help.

See also from earlier this year:



Beat the Street Swindon invites you to Go Active!

Beat the Street Swindon invites you to Go Active!

14th October

Beat the Street Swindon invites you to Go Active! The Beat the Street challenge taking place in Swindon enters its Go Active themed week on Wednesday, 13th October. The aim of the Go Active week is to encourage participants to find new activities and sports to try out.

It’s hoped that people will:

a. Find something that they’ve not tried before
b. Continue being active after the Beat the Street competition finishes at the end of October.
c And explore the sports and leisure options on offer.

Beat the Street Swindon invites you to Go Active!
Beat the Street Swindon invites you to Go Active!

Bonus points

There are bonus points available at parkrun and junior parkrun events this weekend at Lydiard Park and Seven Fields. Plus Beat the Street Swindon players can join free health walks from Haydon Centre.

Almost 29,000 people have signed up to play the Beat the Street Swindon game this year. Between them they’ve walked, cycled, wheeled, run and scooted an incredible 244,000 miles so far in the competition.

Anyone of any age can take part and you can still get involved now by picking up a card from one of the distribution points on www.beatthestreet.me/swindon. You can join an existing school, community group or workplace team or you can set up your own. Or, you can join the charity teams Jessie May and the Harbour Project.

Teams including schools, community groups and workplaces have been battling it out across the average and total points leaderboards, to take home prize book vouchers. There are also prizes for individuals and ‘lucky spot’ prizes simply for taking part.

The leaderboard

Haydonleigh Primary School once again leads the total points leaderboard. Meanwhile Centurion Wolf Explorers leads the average points leaderboard.

Beat the Street comes to you via Swindon Borough Council working in partnership with Wiltshire and Swindon Sport (WASP), and Swindon Healthy Schools. Intelligent Health deliver it.

Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health said: ‘The aim of Beat the Street is to encourage communities to become more active. And to encourage residents to incorporate healthy habits into their lives.

‘The Go Active-themed week is a celebration of all the ways you can get moving in and around the area. It’s also a great opportunity to try out something new without any pressure.’

Further information

For more information, visit www.beatthestreet.me/swindon Or follow on social media @BTSSwindon

To find out other ways you can stay active and reduce your impact on the environment, visit the Be the Change webpages: www.swindon.gov.uk/bethechange

Gel Studios Website Donation

Gel Studios Website Donation

13th October 2021

GEL Studios set to donate a bespoke website to a local good cause

Swindon-based creative agency, GEL Studios has launched a competition whereby one local good cause will win a bespoke new website.

Gel Studios Website Donation - Gel studios logo


The competition to win a new website is open to any:

  • Charity
  • Non-governmental organisation
  • Not-for-profit organisation or
  • … B-Corp that helps residents in any SN postcode

To be in with a chance of winning, good causes should visit www.gelstudios.co.uk/win-a-website and complete the short entry form.

The closing date is 5pm on Wednesday, 28th October. 

Gel Studios will open up voting from 1-12 November. The public will decide a final shortlist in the first instance. Then an independent panel of judges will select the overall winner.

Graeme Leighfield
Graeme Leighfield by Barbara Leatham Photography


Managing Director of GEL Studios, Graeme Leighfield said: ‘Over the years we’ve helped lots of local good causes. Making a difference has always been at the forefront of everything that we do at GEL Studios.

‘We know how tough the last year and a half has been for so many people. But we’ve drawn inspiration from the strength and compassion our community has shown each other. So, to show our appreciation, we’re launching our biggest giveaway ever.

‘We can’t wait to read about the amazing work that has gone on in our community and donate a bespoke website as a thank you from GEL Studios.

Good causes helped already

On the Gel Studios website you can read about some of the great local causes they’ve already helped. The Swindon Food Collective and Threshold, Swindon’s homeless charity to name but two.

For Swindon Food Collective

During the pandemic, Swindon Food Collective saw a drastic spike in the number of people who needed help and their website was struggling to keep up with demand.

We dramatically improved the web design and user journey, making it easier for users to find the information they need. We also increased the visibility of sections of the websites that were hard to find like ‘Become a member’ and ‘Corporate Sponsorship’.

Threshold

With Threshold, the brief was to help the charity debunk myths, change perceptions and create long-term awareness of homelessness in Swindon. We focused on improving the events and fundraising sections of the site and reduced behind the scenes admin for the Threshold team. Taking part in The Big Sleep out gave us a much deeper level of understanding of what those who are homeless face.