I heard some troubling news today, Staffordshire County Council is proposing to remove the gallery and library from the town centre Shire Hall and sell it.
I’ve been there a few times with my children to look at art (and enter the annual open exhibition) and if this proposal came to fruition, it would be a huge loss. If I lived locally, I would visit more often. I think the gallery provides a wonderful cultural centre and art space for local artists.
This idea to sell the site is apparently part of a proposed plan to save the Council £109 million over a five year period. It is purely an issue of economics.
It’s not clear from reading about this proposal what would happen to the gallery. I don’t mean the current space it occupies which could become a pub or a shop, but the provision of space for artistic ventures in the area. I guess nothing.
The Shire Hall was built in 1798 and used to house the courts (at least that was the building’s function when I was growing up there) and it is a beautiful listed building, the centrepiece in the town centre. At some point since I moved away (in fact in 1991) the gallery and library were created and that was a great use of an old historic building in the centre of a town. It was deliberately done to create a cultural centre for Stafford with the library, gallery and theatre being placed all together.
I can’t believe they want to take that away for the sake of saving money. The council are taking the easy option. They are shedding what they see as expendable areas of expenditure. Of course it will save money but the value of what will be lost in terms of culture, the arts and a place for local artists to showcase their work to the public is worth more than the money that will be saved.
I really hope it doesn’t go ahead.
Stafford Newsletter, 12 December 2013 http://www.staffordshirenewsletter.co.uk/Stafford-s-Shire-Hall-Gallery-closed-radical/story-20307437-detail/story.html [last accessed 20 December 2013]
Save Stafford Shire Hall on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/savestaffordshirehall [last accessed on 20 December 2013]