A Difficult Year, But Don't Damage The Arts In Ely
PUBLISHED: 10:23 07 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:23 04 May 2010
I REFER to Councillor Ashton s letter dated May 1 concerning the possible closure of the Babylon Gallery. Whilst I can understand the need to make cuts in a difficult year, I would question the short-sighted approach to the provision of the visual arts i
I REFER to Councillor Ashton's letter dated May 1 concerning the possible closure of the Babylon Gallery.
Whilst I can understand the need to make cuts in a difficult year, I would question the short-sighted approach to the provision of the visual arts in this area. Given that the Babylon Gallery must bring a lot of money into the city, at a time when many commercial businesses are struggling, these actions are sending all the wrong messages to the people of Ely and beyond.
Over the years, Ely has become known as a centre for the Arts and it seems a pity to dismantle that now for a short-term gain.
Cllr Ashton says that the final decision about the Babylon Gallery will be made in February but, of course, a lot has happened since then to change matters.
The Ely Masterplan must throw open the whole debate about the Babylon Gallery again as the plan highlights the need for more leisure facilities for an increasing population.
If we are to believe that Cllr Ashton is genuinely listening to what people have to say, then he should desist from the final closure of the Gallery until more discussion has taken place, otherwise the consultation period seems like a hollow sham. How can we believe in all the exciting plans for the future when existing facilities are being closed down now?
Even in the questionnaire, which was the excuse for cuts to ADeC's budget in the first place, people questioned said they wanted more leisure facilities. My argument is that you have a superb leisure and educational facility here, so why wreck it?
Of course, I appreciate that councillors may not be interested in the visual arts, but 26,000 people last year were. Two Tory councillors I spoke to surprised me when they admitted they had not thought of visiting an art gallery as a leisure activity, so maybe this is where the problem lays.
Although Cllr Ashton talks of saving money he makes no mention of the Leisure Fund which, if the report in the local papers is true, was still topped up by £150,000, even in this difficult year. Naturally, one way of saving money is to allow ADeC to take over The Maltings, completely, and many people in the city hope this will happen. I know they have exciting plans for opening an art gallery there.
However, if ADeC is not given this chance, then I would support an opportunity to let them take over the running of the Babylon Gallery in a more profitable way. I understand that the lease on the Babylon Gallery has two years to run, so why not give ADeC a chance of proving they can make a go of it?
Ely is a unique city which has been placed in Cllr Ashton's trust for a very short time. Although refuse collections are necessary (although you could save money and encourage more people to recycle by having it collected fortnightly) designating a place to see and understand the visual arts is also important to people's well being and sanity.