Ross fights to keep City Gallery

17th December, 2010

CURVEconstrction

Why Leicester should have the art gallery it deserves.

Some time ago as Leader of the Council I decided that I would try and solve two problems in one. The lease for the existing City Gallery was running out on Granby St (after 21 successful years) and we had an empty building on New Walk that was falling into rack and ruin. Here was a chance to turn two problems into one solution. I suggested that we move the gallery to the New Walk premises, the city gets a new gallery, saves on the costs of the lease and brings back into use a derelict property, win-win all round. Fellow councillors thought this was a good idea. So we went ahead and commissioned architects, obtained some more money from the Arts Council and after a few planning hiccups we were set to go. Or so I thought. Since stepping down as Leader of the Council in March all this has run into the sand. Plans have been put on hold and recently the cabinet was going to axe the budget for the gallery even though they had supported £300,000 of spending on the plans already. (Link to Leicester Mercury article)

Remember the story that Winston Churchill was asked at the height of WWII whether he would consider slashing Britain’s arts budget to pay for other programs.
His response? “My God, no! What have we been fighting for?”

The Gallery is a really great thing to have in Leicester and not just because every other city worth speaking of has one, but because of the contribution to city life that it makes. Its much more than a place to hang pictures, its where local artists get to display and sell their work, its where children get to make art and have it shown to the public, and its where some people have launched their careers.  It helps to give Leicester character and distinctiveness, personality! This is something inward investors want to see and so has an important role to play in our future success. It’s also good value for money. For every pound we spend on the Gallery we get another pound from the Arts Council, pretty good value I think.

I want to see the art gallery re-open as planned on the New Walk site owned by the council. We have the money. The Council has access to capital of over £75million and the gallery will need an investment of £2.4m. Nottingham’s gallery is much acclaimed and many people have said to me why shouldn’t Leicester have one. Nottingham’s cost £18m.

If you support the City Gallery Sign the petition at: http://savevisualartinleicester.blogspot.com

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