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MOSI Closure Updated

Jonathan Schofield on the threat to the region's biggest tourist draw

Written by . Published on June 4th 2013.


MOSI Closure Updated
 

UPDATE: The Latest Development - 6 June 2013

THIS is the latest statement from Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive, Science Museum Group, which controls MOSI. It is extemely worrying. 

"We welcome the Government's commitment to science and engineering and the recognition of its importance for boosting the economy. 

"The Science Museum Group plays a vital role in helping to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to drive the economy,  showcase the best of British research for the British public and help them understand the complexities of modern research.

"However, for this success to be achieved, it is essential that the Government’s science policy is more joined up and that this is reflected in an on-going commitment to funding across the scientific community.  

"In the past four years, we have dealt with a 25 per cent real terms cut in funding when the science base, funded by a different Government Department, has had to cope with a 10 per cent cut.

"We are investigating a range of options but if an additional 10 per cent cut is made when the spending review is announced at the end of this month, there would be little choice other than to close one of our museums, since our structural (year on year) deficit would rise from £2 million to £6 million.

"Cuts at this level will mean that we will again need to make savings across the whole Group, this includes the Science Museum in London and each of our sister museums in the north.

"I would rather have three world class museums than four mediocre museums.  I should add that charging is not on the agenda because Government policy precludes it.”

The key sentence contains the phrase 'there would be little choice other than to close one of our museums', should the Science Museum Group suffer further cuts.

On the latest figures London Science Museum gets 3m visitors a year, MOSI 830,000, National Railway Museum (York) 716,000, National Media Museum (Bradford) 504,000.

So clearly the one that would have to go would be Bradford.

Not necessarily.

If you look at the amount of investment in museums and galleries in the Manchester region since the millennium it dwarfs that of Bradford or York - they might be deemed to need their museums more. If that is factored in then the axe could fall at MOSI, especially given the level of money needed to bring the museum in its entirety up-to-date.

What is clear is that London will be safe.

Despite the fact that all three Northern museums are relatively more important in their regions for both education and tourism than London's is to its region, the high traffic of incidental tourism ("What shall we do today mom it's raining?" "Hey, I have a leaftlet here for that Science Museum place, let's check that out, it looks neat.") in London and its capital city location will ensure survival. 

What is also clear is that Blatchford was caught short by the breaking news earlier this week.

His panicky response hasn't helped matters, just left three superb Northern museums looking at three straws peeping out from a metropolitan mitt, hoping they pick the right one.

Read the words in the yellow box below for further analysis into the issue. 

GOOD work from the Manchester Evening News here.

They found out that the Museum of Science and Industry in Castlefield could be closed down by the Science Museum Group to ensure the London Science Museum remains open.

Maybe in the end this is shock tactics by the Science Museums Group, a call-my-bluff tactic of pure brinkmanship.

This is what Yakub Qureshi wrote:

‘The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) could be shut down under plans being considered by the national Science Museum Group.

‘The announcement also puts in jeopardy the National Media Museum in Bradford and the National Rail Museum in York.

‘The three northern visitor attractions, which are all part of the London-based museum group, have been put on the chopping block because of funding cuts.

‘Town Hall bosses in Manchester and the other northern cities have been engaged in emergency talks today in a bid to resolve the crisis.

MOSI

MOSI

‘The Liverpool Road museum was forced to go into partnership with the London Science Museum after the government cut funding to ‘non-core museums’.

‘But the Science Museum Group now says that the only way it can overcome a huge operating debt is to jettison the three museums.

‘The plans will be put forward to the museum groups’s trustees in the autumn.'

In the official statement Confidential has received the Science Museum Group says.

“When the Museum of Science and Industry became part of the Science Museum Group its Board of Trustees agreed to the merger on the basis that they would transfer existing Grant in Aid on the condition that the site and collections would be preserved for a minimum of 25 years. 

“The Science Museum Group has to address a large projected operating deficit from 2014 onwards and is assessing a range of options to address this situation. Despite making significant cost reductions across the Group, we are still faced with a significant annual deficit in 2014/15 and beyond because of cuts in Grant in Aid. The Group’s finances are expected to come under even greater pressure following the Spending Review on 26 June 2013. 

“We have already undertaken a range of cost saving initiatives since the government cuts announced in October 2010, and we will look at further efficiencies to ensure that we continue to care for our collections and maintain our role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. Our recommendations will go to the Board of Trustees in the Autumn.”

Responding to announcement Graham Stringer MP told the paper: “I’m appalled at the idea we will end up with only museums in London. Something like 90 per cent of the funding for art galleries and museums goes into London already. It’s an extraordinary amount.”

Andrew Stokes, chief executive of Marketing Manchester, says: “MOSI is a museum of national significance and its visitor figures speak for themselves. Its location on the site of the world’s first passenger railway station adds to its appeal and provides a real tourism hub for the Castlefield area. Marketing Manchester will support wholeheartedly any campaign to keep the museum’s doors open – not only for the people of Greater Manchester, but also for the million international visitors a year that the city attracts.”

Confidential comment from Jonathan Schofield

LAST year MOSI attracted more than 830,000 visitors. It is at the heart of tourism in the region.

It is also the largest science museum in Europe in terms of size and has one of the most important collections. Those collections are housed in buildings of international importance.

Maybe they want to force the government’s hands in getting more money, or attempt to push the museum onto the city council’s hands. 

Whereas the London Science Museum occupies a fairly typical example of Victorian museum architecture, MOSI includes the oldest station and first passenger railway station in the world, next to the oldest railway warehouse.

Station buildingsStation buildingsThe world changed with these buildings, part of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway of 1830: their significance in terms of transport development and the ability of all sections of society to travel the country, is without parallel in the UK.

Of course much of the museum has been stagnant for many years with dusty exhibits in the farthest areas of the site. A proper use for the 1830 Warehouse mentioned above has never been delivered. The trustees had responsibility for keeping all the museum up-to-date and maybe got lost in finding funding for areas such as Revolution Manchester that opened in 2011.

Manchester Museum has shown what can be done in redeveloping itself and providing an enhanced visitor experience, although MOSI does not have the University of Manchester behind it and is ruled by a very different set of financial considerations.

So when news broke that the Science Museum Group was taking over MOSI in January 2012 it seemed a positive move - the Science Museum Group was then called the National Museums of Science and Industry (NMSI). Maybe the bigger institution could bring extra investment muscle?

These are the quotes Confidential reported at the time.

Douglas Gurr, NMSI Chair said; "MOSI holds exceptional collections housed in a landmark location and NMSI is delighted that such an important resource, both for Manchester and the country, is joining the NMSI group."

Peter Fell, MOSI Interim Chair said; "This move will secure the future of MOSI and allow us to continue to celebrate Manchester’s unique contribution to science and industry with the backing of the NMSI group."

Those words ring very hollow now.

Maybe in the end this news from the MEN is shock tactics by the Science Museum Group; a call-my-bluff tactic of pure brinkmanship. Maybe they want to force the government’s in to giving them more money, or an attempt to push the museum onto the city council’s hands. Since the latter can't even keep open Heaton Hall that is a non- starter.

What is certain is that proposing something as blatantly unfair and desperate as closing all the Science Museum Group’s northern properties while keeping on the equally struggling London one looks shocking.

They must know this, unless they are absolute idiots.

MOSIMOSIPerhaps the next announcement will be a proposal to charge visitors – even £1 per person would bring in almost a £1m to help pay the wages.

The legal ramifications of this might be insurmountable. Such a measure might also be the signal for other museums and galleries to follow suit, and then – bang! – another one of those profound British virtus that binds us together bites the dust.

Another way through for MOSI might involve the use of television. Confidential suggested some years ago that since ITV is leaving its city centre site then MOSI taking over the old Coronation Street set and part of the studios would massively increase revenue. Entrance fees to the Granada area could then be used to keep the other areas free.

It was then and remains now, a no-brainer. A no-brainer that nobody brainy or in authority in MOSI, the City Council or elsewhere seems capable of articulating.

After all is said and done Confidential is in no doubt that MOSI will be saved.

It is too important for this not to happen – in the same way as both National Media Museum in Bradford and the National Rail Museum in York need to have a certain future.

As elections loom the Coalition parties surely wouldn't let that happen. It's not just Labour party supporters who visit these places in their hundreds of thousands.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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31 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyJune 4th 2013.

Shock tactics indeed. And if ever there was valediction for the accusations of misguided priorities viz City Council expenditure (eg Alicia Keys/pursuit of London Road CPO) here is an example. MOSI brings real benefits to the City.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Adam PrinceJune 4th 2013.

Really! LNGCats do you really have to bother with that? Manchester is all promoting MOSI and I'm in contact with the leading petition on this and I am putting this everywhere I can find. www.4manchesterwomen.co.uk/…/… We all want better for Manchester and make our city great. Just because you have a massive grudge with me don't go there with LRFS. For me it's 'Love Manchester - Past, Present & Future'.

Adam PrinceJune 4th 2013.

No-one wants to see MOSI go, so I guess we agree for once Mr Cats. I am certain the outcry if it did would be too huge for London to handle. But before you quip me with your 'witticisms' and usual diatribes expect no reply hereafter. Have a good day. Over and out. Manchester will do the right thing #Positive! #Unite!

MJune 4th 2013.

If they need to save more in their day-to-day running costs the museum could be streamlined. It's massive and there are a few sections around the periphery which are in need of a lot of TLC. These could be closed - to the benefit of the museum as a whole - maintaining a higher standard throughout. Urbis did this to good effect. I agree with the Coronation Street option. It would be a great boost, though the link to the museum's subject matter is a little tenuous. I don't think people will mind though.

tblzebraJune 4th 2013.

While we're at it, let's get Stephenson's Rocket back up to the North West, where it belongs: tinyurl.com/nwcag5… Elgin Marbles anyone?

1 Response: Reply To This...
StephJune 4th 2013.

YES, let's get The Rocket back to Rainhill where it belongs!

DavidJune 4th 2013.

Even Manchester City council prefers to invest our money in London airports rather than in doing anything to develop ours into a world class one.As for Stringer and all the local Labour MPs none of them ever had the guts to resign and stand as an independent,when the same things happened under the last Labour government.We need to more like the Scots and instead of complaining,demand we get our fair share of investment.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 5th 2013.

Correctomundo David...the last labour government proposed regional assemblys. They bottled for this very reason. We would have a platform to demand our fair share. There are more people in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds than the whole of Scotland. We should be able to have our say.

AnonymousJune 4th 2013.

The Corrie idea was a really good one, but got pooh-poohed by certain council wankerati before it could even get off the ground. This links into your very good Original Modern article as the proponents of it generally think Corrie is an embarrassment. Which says more about them than it does about Ena Sharples. Sorry about the anonymous post!

Adam PrinceJune 4th 2013.

4 Manchester Women have started a rapidly rising petition on MOSI! www.4manchesterwomen.co.uk/…/… Protect our heritage and culture, past and present! Somehow I feel Manchester, heritage, history, planning and community groups need to unite.... that would be a great article on a strategy of mutual support! It must be able for a city demanding better!!!!!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidJune 4th 2013.

Maybe YOU would also like to focus your attention on the Labour Councils neglect of Heaton Hall.But that might suggest you were even handed in your concerns.

Adam PrinceJune 4th 2013.

Right this is why I don't post on these rants any more! Learnt my lesson. Who says I/we/you don't support Heaton Hall? Assumptions all round! Right, absolutely not getting into this pointless nonsense. Here to promote a great petition for MOSI that in a few hours has hundreds of signatures!!!!! Because no-one wants to see MOSI go. So no reply hereafter. Have a good day. Over and out.

StephJune 4th 2013.

when 800k plus visitors come to Heaton Hall (wherever that is) then I'll sign a petition.

LukewarmdogJune 4th 2013.

Was always baffled at the coronation street closure, fond memories of going there as a kid. Really does seem a wasted opportunity. Not sure what powers of veto the council has if MOSI was able to reopen it. As for closing 3 museums outside of London to keep 1 inside going.. That doesn't seem to make any kind of sense. Not that sensible seems to be a criteria for anything nowadays

AnonymousJune 4th 2013.

The logical thing to do would be to shut the London science museum and move it north. London needs the tourism income far less than Manchester, York or Bradford, so that's what a responsible national government would do.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 4th 2013.

The logical thing to do would be for London to charge tourists instead of rely on donations. Yes, would like to see this imbalance change. 90% goes to London for galleries and museums! That's made me fill with rage! Disgusting!

AnonymousJune 4th 2013.

Just back from Florida where Disney discount massively for Florida residents and charge full whack for the rest of the world. London Science Museum could easily do this, charge non-uk residents. It's an awesome museum, I grew up visiting it at least once a year and taking my kids now. So is MOSI. Use your creativity (isnt that what they celebrate?) and save them both

MelmanJune 5th 2013.

As a Melbourne resident and frequent visitor to Manchester, it astounds me the huge unbalance between London and the rest of UK with transport, jobs, attractions etc. This has not occurred in Oz although I'm sure Sydney would wish it did and I'm sure the US cities such as LA, Chicago etc would allow the same monopoly of wealth just for New York. It would be great to see Manchester considered like London as it is a wonderful urban city!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 5th 2013.

It's so nice to hear that! Wish you were in power then! The blue blood isn't fond of the North!

AnonymousJune 6th 2013.

And because of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, Londoners now even have more democratic voting rights than other English people do. Pathetically though, our MPs say nothing, our local councillors are happy with their perpetual "little empires" and 80% of the people are small c conservatives who are totally apathetic. Yep, we're the most centralist, state controlled people outside of North Korea!

AnonymousJune 5th 2013.

I always thought the takover of MOSI by the SMG was a bad idea. If they want to save money they should start at the top. Too many chiefs and well paid ones at that. An over reliance on corporate entertaining and losing £900K in the Icelandic Banking fiasco havn't helped either.

AnonymousJune 6th 2013.

This is the result of buying too readily into the centralist / Londoncentric PR and also with the poor leadership shown by the then interim chair. Under the leadership of Professor Laurie Wood (the previous chair) and her commitment to maintaining a NW led institution this situation would have been possibly avoided. Perhaps that was one leading factor as to why Professor Wood's tenure was so abruptly ended by a London based central government ?

DavidJune 6th 2013.

Where are the bodies that fund the arts based?.In London pof course.Where do the great and the good who sit in them live?.In London of course.Which arts companies do they tend to have connection with,previous and future jobs.London of course.The whole thing has been a stitch up for decades.You only had to witness how much money the lottery has given to London compared to the rest of the country. ANobody was more biased to London than the last Labour government despite it being in power due to northern voters.

Chris BurkeJune 9th 2013.

I think the London bias in this country is disgraceful. But rather than just moan, is anyone prepared to start some serious organisation? We need a plan. Some ideas: 1. Ask all northern MPs what they are doing about ensuring that national expenditure is regionally equitable. 2. Ask the Office for National Statistics for a regional breakdown of all government expenditure. 3. Start targeting bodies like the Arts Council, demanding that they truly represent the whole country not just London. 4. Set up a campaigning website or use existing ones like 38 Degrees to raise various issues of pro-London bias. 5. Ask the so-called national collections how they satisfy their supposedly national remit. What surveys do they conduct to check non-London UK footfall? How do they spread their collections across the country? 6. Should we focus on culture or on the whole of national expenditure? 7. How do we get noticed when the media is so London-biased and based? If anyone is interested in discussing this, let's call a meeting and get thinking and doing. We can't rely on regional politicians or officials since they are fearful of tackling decision-makers in London. Who's up for it?

Pedro1874June 10th 2013.

Another petition with 9,000 signatures to date from change.org www.change.org/…/science-museum-group-save-the-museum-of-science-and-industry-mosi…

AnonymousJune 11th 2013.

I am all for preserving MOSI, alas I feel it is a bit hypocritical for Manchester to be going on about London having all the museums, only to have recently took the National Football Museum from Preston against the wishes of Preston. Arguing that Manchester is the bigger draw. The same argument can be used for London.

Ghostly TomJune 12th 2013.

MOSI, and the other two northern museums, needs to be got out of this toxic relationship with a London institution. They will always put their own interests first. MOSI needs to be the master of its own destiny.

AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

XFM mentioned thie morning that this was now going to Parliamentary review.....it this the latest development?....

espoirJune 12th 2013.

We pay about £10bn to the EU after receipts, the same in foreign aid so those guys from Unesco can drive round Paris in Mercedes, so that's £20bn/52= £400m a week, not counting NATO and other talking shops we pay for. Staff all on tax free salaries in the EU, NATO etc. Meanwhile Remploy that just asked for £50m one-off subsidy gets turned down and MOSI is under threat and reduced to talk of a £1 admission to raise £1m to scrape by. So we lose MOSI and Remploy and pay for nice roads and stations in Poland and high speed train network in Spain for which we don't get any thanks. I guess people are starting to notice.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 12th 2013.

The EU isnt the probelm. If we quit the EU or stopped giving foreign aid it would still be London based MPs and civil servants that would decide how any savings would be spent. You seriously think MOSI would be in any better position? Besides £10bn in the context of the UKs total annual public expenditure is chicken feed. The problem is not the EU or foreign policy. The problem is Westminster party politics.

espoirJune 17th 2013.

the increase in payment to the EU was 1.9% last year or £455m, enough to save Remploy 9 times over and MOSI 75 times, just the increase and not mentioning foreign aid. We're not worth chicken feed to these internationalist politicians, only thing that works if you get a celebrity, like the Olympics feast of celebrities, they pay for that, like the Paralympics whilst shutting Remploy at the same time.

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