The Friends’ campaigning, combined with the very effective impact of messages from wider afield, persuaded the City Council to withdraw ALL its proposed cuts to its support for Birmingham Museums for the year 2017-18. This is great news – though it promises nothing about council support for future years.
For the record, this is the message the Friends sent to the City Council:-
“We urge you to reconsider your proposal to reduce greatly the service charge you pay to Birmingham Museums Trust.
The Friends of Birmingham Museums is an independent charity with approximately 1,000 members, most of whom live in and around Birmingham and pay their Council tax to Birmingham City Council.
Over the 85 years since its formation, the Friends have demonstrated the active support of Birmingham citizens for Birmingham Museums. Members’ funds have financed acquisitions and bequests of over 2000 objects of all kinds adding to the city’s collections. It is our proud boast that we have enabled additions to the collections in every year since our formation, a claim no other independent supporter can make. Our members have also contributed their time and enthusiasm as volunteers in a wide range of roles.
Three recent examples of the range of support:-
In 2011 we commissioned an original installation, now suspended in the oculus beneath the Birmingham History galleries, in part to commemorate our 80th anniversary.
In 2015 the Friends were delighted to be one of four funders of the successful Mini Museum, specially designed to provide an attractive place for children under-5 to experience the city’s collections. Many of our members are grandparents and appreciate having such an engaging space to both entertain and educate our grandchildren.
In 2016 the Friends committed to donating a three-year annual grant of £15,000 as vital match funding to support the high profile Arts Council Collection National Partners programme of eight exhibitions to be held across Birmingham’s museums. The first exhibition Night in the Museum, an exhibition curated by leading British artist Ryan Gander at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s Gas Hall, was recently launched by Councillor Ian Ward and is proving very popular with a wide range of visitors including schools.
With this proud record of support, we do not wish to see our many decades of investment undermined at such a critical point in Birmingham Museums Trust’s development as a relatively new charity.
We recognise that this is a difficult time for Birmingham City Council, when your expenditure is constrained by the decisions of central government. But your proposed treatment of Birmingham Museums Trust is illogical and uncaring.
It is illogical since care of our city’s internationally important museum collections is a City responsibility. Since it was formed in 2012, Birmingham Museums Trust has cared for them effectively and responsibly. Visitor numbers have risen every year under the Trust’s stewardship reaching over 1 million to all museum sites. It is vital for Birmingham’s museums that you continue to pay the proper cost of meeting your obligation. Without a proper level of support the Trust will not be able to survive and thrive.
It is uncaring since you threaten to undermine the Trust’s conscientious adaption to the proposed £250,000 reduction to its budget in 2017/18 which you had requested. By suddenly tripling this reduction, by adding another £500,000, you are demonstrating a lack of care for the organisation which you had contracted to manage these world class collections.
Birmingham Museums Trust is an integral part of the city’s cultural offer. As well as visitors to the city and residents, there are nearly 1,400 school visits (which equated to 110,000 school children in 2016). Maintaining Birmingham Museums will enhance both the life of the local population and support tourism.
We urge you to restore the service charge you commit to pay to Birmingham Museums Trust in 2017/18 to the previously agreed level.
The Friends of Birmingham Museums”