Friday, 23 March 2007

William Morris Gallery under threat

The borough I grew up in (and have recently moved back to) can't boast enormous amounts in terms of cultural heritage; it's a tatty, non-descript place in many ways, but it has its charms and character. And a couple of good little museums and galleries, the most noted of which is the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, devoted to the works of the pioneering socialist, designer and poet, whose opening hours Waltham Forest council now intends to restrict drastically. This is classic example of creating cultural facts on the ground - reduce opportunities to visit, and you can argue that not many people want to go.

I don't go a bundle on a lot of Morris's designs myself - a tad too twee, to my untutored eye - but as a political figure and socialist he was a big deal and someone an area such as ours should be proud of. It's depressingly unsurprising that a Labour-led council should be enacting such cuts (WF is a hung council with the Lib Dems holding the balance of power), more depressing still that a Labour leader of the council should be reported as dismissing campaigners against the cuts as "a middle-class elite". But an ignorance of history and a contempt for their own movement's heritage have long been badges of New Labour honour. And it's a nasty, sneaky trick to pit spending on culture against spending on schools and social services, especially when the bill for private sector consultants is so high.

The petition can be signed here

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