Dear Friends of the Williamson
There is quite a bit of discussion around at the moment concerning forthcoming cuts to budget for the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum. The current proposal from Wirral Council is to remove £250,000 in financial year 2014-2015 and £150,000 in the following year, this is of a budget of £600,000 for running the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum and Birkenhead Priory, leaving just £200,000. For background information go to
http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/10684815.print/. Just to confirm that there is nothing set in stone at this stage.
We will need to call on your help and support going forward in the immediate future. This support will include practical support like renewing memberships and attracting new members as well as playing a part in the new vision for the gallery and museum.
There will be an interim membership form available soon to reflect the changes in the membership fee agreed at the last AGM of subscription up to a minimum of £10 and £7 concession. We have already been having a drive to increase "likers" on the Facebook page that has proved moderately successful (but could be increased) and now is our time to increase the numbers of paid up members. We are delighted that we have persuaded our former membership secretary, Susan Brown to return and are currently looking for a skilled and connected person to become Treasurer. Naomi Horlock is acting as interim chair at this difficult time.
The Friends of the Williamson Committee is working closely with a small group of people now called Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Action Group that includes
Professor Robert Lee (Chair of Friends of Birkenhead Park and former Professor of Economic and Social History, University of Liverpool and awarded an MBE in the recent New Year’s Honours List),
Rhiannon Evans (former Pro Vice-Chancellor of Edge Hill University; Chair of the Oxton Society ),
Alan Chape (former Deputy CEO, Liverpool City Council; also on the committee for the Oxton Society) ,
Lawrence Holden (former Senior Partner Brabners and former Pro-Chancellor the University of Liverpool, co-opted onto Friends of Williamson Committee, Trustee of The Reader Organisation)
Julian Treuherz (former Keeper of Art Galleries for National Museums Liverpool)
Rev. Greg Epton (Lead Pastor of the Wirral Christian Centre Church and Director of the Wirral Christian Centre Trust)
Robert Fisher (a director of the Wirral Christian Centre Trust)
Joe McGillivray, (Director Arts, Creative and Digital Media, Wirral Metropolitan College)
Sharon Granville (Executive Director of Collections & Estate, has joined the Action Group as a representative of National Museums Liverpool)
and Colin Simpson (Principal Museums Officer, Wirral Museums Service and secretary of the Friends of the Williamson)
The Friends of the Williamson Art Gallery committee are pleased to be kept informed of the progress that the action group are making and understand they are in discussions directly with councillors and council officers. The Friends of WAG will be informed of further progress and any feedback is welcomed. WAG staff will also be involved in this process, as it was recognised that they would have useful ideas to offer have a fundamental part to play .
There have been two meetings called by MP Frank Field with invited stakeholders in the Williamson. At the second meeting chaired by Frank Field MP, the Action Group was given the task of preparing a strategic plan for the future of the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum by the end of January. A positive start was made on 30th of December 2013 with a deep and wide-ranging review of all the issues. It was agreed that the paper ‘creating a strong Vision for WAG&M prepared by Lawrence Holden provided a positive and encouraging perspective for the future (a full copy of this paper will be made available through the blog and Friends of the Williamson Facebook group or by request to FriendsWilliamson@gmail.com). Key elements from the Vision Statement would be incorporated into the budget plan.
The Friends of WAG will be considering new levels of membership for patrons and subscribers, with a possibility of establishing an endowment fund, either for co-funding new community-based activities or for strengthening the current acquisitions policy. This will be presented at the forthcoming AGM.
It was also discussed that there would be a place for creative use of technology and new media drawing on wide diversity of artistic, musical and literacy sources and possibilities within the gallery and museum. A website (separate to the pages currently part of the Council website) to be created with Wirral Met support in addition to the Friends of the Williamson blog. The Williamson Art Gallery and Birkenhead Priory Pages and the Friends of the Williamson Page as means to promote the activities of the gallery and museum.
Detailed discussion took place on many potential aspects of the strategic plan and potential sources of funding but it was recognised that all the major organisations were competing strongly within limited pots and that different approaches would be needed.
The Group remained very clear in its determination that WAG&M should be a key cultural resource for the Wirral making a significant contribution to its social and economic life and to education and health.
We would like to take this opportunity to ask for increased support by all existing Friends to help double membership and raise the profile of WAGM at this crucial time. Please encourage at least one person you know to join the Friends of The Williamson. We will be making available a draft letter for local councillors that you can send to raise the issue throughout Wirral. The Williamson's supporters and visitors do not only live in Oxton and other councillors need to be made aware that the issue affects everyone.
There will be an extraordinary meeting of the Friends of the Williamson (it will be possible to join the Friends prior to the meeting) on the 21st of January at 10.30am with David Ball, Head of Regeneration for Wirral Council and Colin Simpson, Principal Museums officer at The Williamson Art Gallery.
Please attend or give us feedback via FriendsWilliamson@gmail.com.
Alison Bailey SmithPublicity Officer for the Friends of the Williamson