During this critical time when we are all preoccupied with the pandemic many things have been put on hold. However, some events concerning the LSA Art Collection just before the country went into lockdown are becoming known and I thought it only right to report on what has happened.

I have written the following letter to the Editor of the Lytham St Annes Express, whether it will appear in print remains to be seen:

 

ART COLLECTION RETURNS TO THE CELLAR

“Your readers may wonder why the Art Gallery in Booths suddenly closed last year and why it is still closed. I wish I could give you an answer. In spite of repeated requests for information I was never allowed to know what was being done and what was being discussed.

On 12 March 2020 in the Council Chamber in the Town Hall St Annes, Fylde Borough Council’s Tourism & Leisure committee voted on the recommendations of a recently formed Member Working Group. As a result there will be NO MORE EXHIBITIONS of the LYTHAM ST ANNES ART COLLECTION in our beautiful, purpose built ART GALLERY in BOOTHS, Lytham.

 

Their recommendation:

The Member Working Group unanimously agreed that Fylde Council should not be responsible for the administration of the Fylde Gallery at Booth’s, Lytham and that contact should be made with the management of Booth’s with a view to them exploring alternative bodies or uses for the space.

Unbelievably, they think that a good way to manage the Collection is to spend £50,000 on fantastic racking in the cellar and leave the paintings in there. Since 2007 we, the people of Lytham St Annes, have been able to view our Art Collection in a purpose built Art Gallery provided by Booths specifically to display the Collection. Why they no longer wish to use this space is a mystery to me.

Instead the Member Working Group recommended, and it was voted through, that visitors should be permitted on just 20 days throughout the year and be escorted round the Town Hall to see the odd paintings hanging on the walls in various rooms and corridors!

What a retrograde step after years of being able to enjoy free and easy access to expertly themed, professionally built displays of our fabulous Collection. Any exhibition had at least a 6 week run – 42 days. Many years we had two exhibitions of items from the Collection so visitors had often 80 to 100 days per year when they could enjoy our treasures. Visit the Friends Website and see the list of exhibitions which we have been able to enjoy.

The date, 12 March 2020 will go down in the history of the Collection as a very sad day indeed.

Margaret Race
Chairman of the registered charity Friends of the Lytham St Annes Art Collection.”

 

I can only add to the above that after years of working successfully with officers of Fylde Borough Council and seeing the fortunes of the Collection go from strength to strength, the Friends of the LSA Art Collection have now been left out of any decision making processes.

Way back in 2005, I was invited to serve on the Arts Working Group which was formed and chaired by Fylde Borough Council. It had representatives from all interested parties – Booths, LSA Civic Society, Lancashire Museum Service, a councillor and me as they recognised my years of campaigning to get the Collection in the public eye. Over the years others joined in for example, Veronica McDonnell as she very soon became recognised as an expert on the Collection and a representative of Fylde DFAS when the Tagging the Treasures Project was on, it is now known as the Arts Society, Fylde.

We worked well as a team and as a result our lovely Art Collection gradually emerged from the bowels of the Town Hall. The people of Fylde and visitors to the area had the opportunity and appreciated being able to see our fabulous artworks which had been hidden away for anything up to 80 years!! Not only did the Gallery work for the Collection but also for local artists and art societies who used the space and it served the community.

Last year the Arts Working Group was suddenly disbanded and then the Gallery closed, no explanations given. In spite of repeated requests for information and being Chair of the Friends of the LSA Art Collection I would have thought as a courtesy I should have been told of the changes in the management of the Art Collection.

I was given a document just days before the votes taken on that fateful day in the Council Chamber which gave me the details of what was being recommended and what was being voted on. All decisions made behind closed doors with no consultation with those who know all about the Collection.

The votes were a foregone conclusion, a fait accompli. So much for local democracy!

Margaret Race
20 April 2020