Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Disappointment. Or how Bradford Council gave up the fight over the Royal Photography Society collection.


Yesterday Bradford Council met and, amongst some other stuff, debated what has gone on with the National Media Museum through a motion I proposed asking the Council to, in effect, keep up the pressure on assorted London-based government agencies and ministers over the transfer of the Royal Photography Society collection from Bradford to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our motion was amended by the Council's Portfolio Holder for (amongst other things) culture, Susan Hinchcliffe, and this amendment was passed.

In the end the debate was a little ill-tempered - not because of my speech but because of Cllr Hinchcliffe's attempt to turn it into a piece of party political yah boo. In summary I argued that the anger in Bradford - and elsewhere - over the manner of the Science Museum Group's decision needs channelling to the wider subject of how it is assumed that any new national institution has to be in London. And that it's our duty as the ninety people elected to represent the half million Bradford residents to lead the charge - however quixotic that charge might be. Oh, and that there are a lot of pretty angry folk out there.

Cllr Hinchcliffe saw things differently. She said she had acted - mostly by writing a letter and having a meeting. The museum was saved. Visitor numbers were up. And who wants a bunch of silly photographs anyway when we'll have lots of lovely sciencey stuff. Then came the crass party politics - apparently I hadn't done anything really and 'the Tories' probably had an ulterior motive about doing down the Council. Bear in mind that this ridiculous attack came after I'd praised one of Bradford's Labour MPs for her efforts and criticised the Secretary of State for Culture for describing the National Media Museum as a 'satellite'.

The result of all this - plus the tribal nature of voting on Council - means that the Council has made an expression of regret at the Science Museum's decision, committed itself to support the museum's new focus and undertaken to write a stern letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport saying how jolly bad it is that so much arts funding goes to London. The idea of a cross-party campaign to persuade the V&A to base a new centre for art in photography here in Bradford was lost. And it was lost because of a crass piece of party politics - plus a huge piece of self-justification - by Cllr Hinchcliffe.

Perhaps I was a little bit naive in believing that the Council - which sort of knew about the possible RPS decision a year ago - would commit itself to a campaign that set it at loggerheads with the Science Museum Group. But I still think I was right to make the noise I made - as Councillors we're not elected to act as local agents for national government, even the cuddly bits like the national museum groups. Yet this is how Bradford Council seems to want to behave.

I am, as they say, disappointed.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In doing so the Labour MP's and Executives have rendered themselves impotent and any future protests they may make at a national level will be as much use as one by those facing the lions at a Ronan Coliseum.