‘Don’t destroy museum’ plea by friends

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
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The ‘destruction’ of museum facilities as part of a proposed library move will hinder Sunderland’s City of Culture bid, a heritage group fears.

As reported in yesterday’s Echo, Sunderland City Council has confirmed that the City Library is to relocate from its base in Fawcett Street into Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

TV presenter John Grundy.

TV presenter John Grundy.

The Northern Gallery for Contemporary art, currently based in the same building, is also looking for a new home – rumoured to be in The National Glass Centre.

The Friends of Sunderland Museums (FOSUMS) have been left horrified by the revelations, which its says jeopardises the bid to make Sunderland City of Culture in 2021.

FOSUMS are concerned that the move will lead to the scrapping of museum facilities, paid for by Heritage Lottery grants and the group’s own fundraising activities.

A statement signed my senior group members, including North East TV personality John Grundy, said: “Does anyone believe Sunderland can win the City of Culture title when it is removing its cultural facilities?”

Does anyone believe Sunderland can win the City of Culture title when it is removing its cultural facilities?

Friends of Sunderland Museums

Mr Grundy, along with fellow vice-president Neil Sinclair, chairman Ashley Sutherland and vice-chairman Elsie Ronald, is now urging people to contact their ward councillors as well as the City of Culture organisation, with their concerns.

The council has not confirmed what the vacant City Library building will be used for, lthough it has been rumoured that it could house the authority’s new Children’s Services Company.

FOSUMS’ statement read: “We have become aware in recent weeks of suggestions from several different quarters that the Rowland Burdon and Jack Crawford Rooms are to be removed from the museum’s use and stripped of most of the purpose-built facilities that make them suitable for talks and for activities for children.

“These include the moveable partition to divide the space into two, sinks for art activities and social events, sound, loop and screen systems.

Elsie Ronald  and Ashley Sutherland.

Elsie Ronald and Ashley Sutherland.

“The council has now confirmed that they intend to move the Library into the Museum by the end of the year.

“The rooms are evidently to be handed over to be the new Lending Library as the existing space in the City Library and Arts Centre is to be used for the new Children’s Services organisation.

“People in Sunderland will have strong views on the reduction of the Library Service, but the Friends of Sunderland Museums are particularly concerned by the destruction of facilities that were funded by the public through the Heritage Lottery Fund and by the fund raising of FOSUMS,

While we are of course very disappointed by the loss of our space for meetings, we feel especially strongly that it will no longer be available for use by school parties, children taking part in holiday activities, community groups and City events such as the One World Party. The rooms are in use almost every weekday, sometimes by two groups.

South Tyneside Pride Awards 2010.

John Grundy

South Tyneside Pride Awards 2010. John Grundy

“The council will doubtless say that this move is a result of financial pressures. Ironically, however, the Rowland Burdon and Jack Crawford Rooms are the ones that can be hired out.

“The security system for the Museum has been arranged so that the two rooms and the cafe can be opened at night for functions to raise income.”

Sunderland City Council has announced a number of drop-in events, where people can fill in a questionnaire about the future of library services as a whole.

They are at:

* City Library, from 3.30pm to 5pm, on September 20;

* Sandhill Library, from 10am to 11.30am, on September 22;

* Bunny Hill Library, from 3pm to 4.30pm, on September 23;

* Houghton Library, from 11am to 12.30am, on September 26;

* Washington Town Centre Library, from 9.30am to 11am, on September 29.

People can also email library.consultation@sunderland.gov.uk