Art Gallery ‘head to head’ with Elected Mayor

8th September, 2011

Radio Leicester ran an enjoyable head to head (about 2.25 in) between me and Peter Soulsby on their breakfast programme this morning about the replacement for the City Gallery. This was followed by an interesting phone in.

I have been campaigning for 2 years to get the promised replacement gallery and I am really pleased to see so many people now calling for it to happen.

I very much welcome that the mayor restated his support in principle for our manifesto commitment to have a new gallery and display space in the city. The main difference between us seemed to boil down to; where, when and how much it should cost.

I have backed the site that was chosen by the council on New Walk. It has 4 virtues: the council owns it so no purchase cost, the current building is empty, its near the Museum in the busty heart of  the city helping to make access easy for visitors, and it improves New Walk getting rid of an empty building as we did with the former night shelter which is now housing once again.  In the scale of things the new building is not a big investment – £2.5million. There were significant contributions towards the running costs by a £80,000 saving on the lease payment for the old shop on Granby St, and from the Arts Council.

However if a workable alternative is proposed that can be delivered I am sure I would have every reason to support it, as Leicester has been without a dedicated gallery for too long. We looked at many buildings including the empty banks and shops. Unfortunately they were not suitable. A gallery needs blank walls and controlled lighting. This would mean that in the HSBC Bank we would have to block out the beautiful stained glass! Hardly acceptable.

I understand that the Council has around £100million in its coffers so has enough money to do this and to provide for instance the 3 new extra care housing developments for elderly people that I also strongly support.

Thanks to all those that are calling for a gallery. There can’t be a city of Leicester’s size without one and I am hopeful that by working together we can make it happen.


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