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Letter: I Support the Friends of Guildford Museum and Their Vision for the Future

Published on: 4 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 4 Dec, 2020

From: Gordon Jackson

Independent borough councillor for Pirbright

In response to: If You Value Our Heritage It’s Time to Show Your Support

Over the 10 years I have been involved, I have frequently heard people who should know better, dismiss the Museum as tired and uninspiring with a collection of “old stones and bones”. Those are the people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Quite apart from the national importance of some parts of the Museum Collection, the really critical point to understand is not what the Museum has been, but what it can be. The museum should not just be viewed on its own.

Uniquely, it is built into the old Castle wall and the whole of the Castle and its historic grounds should be viewed and managed as one. There are so many opportunities for exciting interpretive display and for many years those opportunities have been missed.

Guildford has an amazing heritage and there are fascinating stories to be told, from pre-history to the present time. The town sits at the centre of a cultural web that comprises some of the great houses and gardens of the past, the legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement in Surrey and of course, our historic Surrey Hills.

We also need to capture the stories of the present. Guildford has been described as the Hollywood of video games, and has been at the core of innovation in 5G telecommunications, space technology, digital health and much more besides.

The Guildford Gaming Festival last month had 2.7 million unique views and Surrey Satellites is the largest manufacturer of small satellites in the world.

The previous administration developed an inspiring vision of a refurbished Museum connecting with the Castle Grounds, not only telling the stories of our historic past and the exciting present, but engaging the community in education and learning to promote Guildford as a centre of arts, history and innovation.

In short, a cultural hub appropriate to Surrey’s market town. This was developed on a cross-party basis and had widespread support within the town.

With some 40-plus arts organisations, our cultural heritage is what defines our town. It provides important social and economic benefits and increases the overall wellbeing of individuals and communities.

As we begin to recover from Covid we must be careful not to take short-term decisions that strike at the very heart of what Guildford is.

Savings have to be made but we need to find a way of achieving this while not destroying the vision that was close to reality before the pandemic struck. Our art and culture is our lifeblood and it is what distinguishes a thriving community from a barren urban settlement.

This principle has clearly been recognised by Rishi Sunak, who has launched the £4 billion levelling-up fund specifically aimed at enabling communities to build museums, libraries and galleries. I hope the council will immediately pursue funding from this source. We have an “oven-ready” project.

Without such funding, the Museum project as recently envisaged will have to be deferred, but a great deal could be achieved with vision and vigour and most importantly with the involvement of our community to make things happen.

The present administration needs to come up with ways of incorporating as much of the previous administration’s vision as possible while obviously paring back if necessary.

I hope the council will respect the value of the assets of which it is the guardian and ensure their long-term future is not impaired.

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Responses to Letter: I Support the Friends of Guildford Museum and Their Vision for the Future

  1. Peta Malthouse Reply

    December 8, 2020 at 10:37 am

    The Friends of Guildford Museum have been excited by the plans that were made to extend the museum and provide access through the Castle Grounds. It was to feature a cafe and would at last link up one of the very many parts of historical Guildford which at times, I have felt personally, are almost scattered across the Borough.

    Sadly, the application for Lottery funds was no longer available as a result of Covid. However, the Friends have managed to provide funds to the Museum for a new database to allow the collection to be more effectively accessed.

    The Museum has been closed for repairs and then twice because of lockdowns and now this, the threat of more cuts as referred to in other correspondence and Cllr Bigmore’s [GBC leader] announcement.

    I am grateful for Cllr Jackson’s letter. I recently joined the Friends and we are starting a recruitment drive. If you click on the link it will take you to our webpage on which you will find the back copies of our newsletters

    Guildford has a fascinating history and is a proud engine for the recovery of our economy. Museums are not just about the past but the present and future of Guildford and our historical past makes Guildford a destination for the retail trade.

    I would like to see our High Street proudly provide information about the history of their historical buildings but this goes to a wider discussion of which you might be a part. Readers interested are asked to please contact us via our website. Our Facebook page will be launched in January.

    • Paul Spooner Reply

      December 8, 2020 at 10:31 pm

      I completely agree with Cllr Gordon Jackson and we must find a way of protecting our culture and heritage in these difficult times.

      Our efforts to modernise the museum and future vision for a museum to be proud of in our county town should remain a key focus for current incumbents of the leadership at Guildford Borough Council.

      Paul Spooner is the Con ‘ind’ borough councillor for Ash South & Tongham.

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