Theatre in Wales

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Culture & What the Election Campaign Missed Out On

Arts Policy Report

Museum of Military Medicine , Cardiff Bay Waterfront , May 21, 2021
Arts Policy Report by Museum of Military Medicine The article of last week, May 13th, reported the cultural commitments that the new government will be enacting. Chapter 8 of the Manifesto declared the establishment of a Football Museum, a National Contemporary Art Gallery and plans for a Museum of North Wales. In addition the government is pledged to “tell the full story of our country by ensuring that Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority histories are properly reflected throughout our cultural and heritage sectors including in our National Museums.”

May the story tell of 2021 whereby the governors of Wales have sought out a museum that is unwanted in the Home Counties. It is being imported to a prime site in the Bay, concreting over a part of a public space in the process.

The scheme was discussed at an enlivening, Zoom-enabled session of the Privilege Cafe in February. Convenor and founder Mymuna Soleman held the discussion together that continued for hours. A contributor, Jason B, evoked some of the riches of the area's riveting history. The credibility of the business plan was questioned. The financial black hole of the Doctor Who visitor attraction was recalled. A contributor asked if the Future Generations Commissioner should be consulted as to her view.

An issue persisted: who does the area belong to? A City Council holds all the legal power. But then so too did the Corporation of Liverpool sixty-five years ago. But moral authority of ownership is more multi-dimensional.

The importing of the Museum, devoted to military medicine, has been rumbling for years. While Cardiff's media has small interest Nation Cymru has been a dogged follower of the twists and turns.

“Fifty figures from various parts of Welsh public life have put their name to a letter opposing the development of a military medicine museum in Cardiff Bay. Cardiff Council is set to approve the highly contested plans for the construction of the five-storey museum, which will also house the Museum of Army Music, on the green space of Britannia Park. Organisers of the letter which has been signed by experts and practitioners from the sciences, arts, religious community and politics said it demonstrated that opposition was “vociferous and wide-ranging”.

“The museum would build over the only green space in Cardiff Bay, lacks a sustainable financial plan and is “a monument to the British Empire and its armed forces in the historic neighbourhood of Tiger Bay and the Docks, and at the doorstep of our Senedd,” the letter states. Campaigners say that at a time where Cardiff Council have established a BAME Taskforce to give prominence to the voice of minorities, there should instead be a museum for the minority communities of Cardiff and Wales. The letter says that “Tiger Bay and the Docks deserve a museum, but it is not this one.”

“Plainly the Council do not appreciate the importance of Britannia and Waterfront Parks to local residents as well as visitors in providing the only small green spaces left in the main part of the Bay.

“The significance of the Park is only going to increase in the face of the redevelopment of County Hall and the Red Dragon Centre – which covers 30 acres!

“Green space matters. To put a 70 foot high industrial block on the Park is a blot on the landscape and an attack on the ambience of the whole Bay. Nirushan Sudarsan and Elbashir Idriss, speaking on behalf of the local group Butetown Matters, said that the Butetown community should have an active role in the decision-making process. “A Military Medicine Museum which was offered to other cities and refused by those cities shouldn’t simply then be dumped in Butetown,” he said.

“Huw Williams, who helped to organise the letter and has been organising with the recently formed group, Reclaim Cardiff, said that the council were not listening to people’s concerns.

“It is clear that there is little welcome for this project in Cardiff and that everyone, from local concerned residents, to the wider community of Cardiff, and Wales as a whole, is dismayed that Cardiff Council should push ahead with this despite the environmental and economic issues and the fundamental objections about placing this museum on this site,” he said.

Full story at:

"Thirteen of the business plan’s 32 pages have been redacted, but the document marked “confidential” does offer some insight into how the Museum expects to fund its move and running costs. The Museum has already announced it expects to attract 225,000 paying visitors by its second year, which would make it the sixth most visited paid attraction in Wales.

"The business plan shows they expect to maintain those visitor numbers for at least another four years afterwards, bringing in between £1.5 million to £2 million through ticket sales annually.

"Those projections have been described as “wild” by Sara Huws, the co-founder of London’s East End Women’s Museum and former National Museum of Wales curator. “I have spent a long time looking at footfall/museum visitor numbers for the same purpose and it just doesn’t seem to be based in reality for me,” she wrote."

Full story at:

Picture credit: Museum by Scott Brownrigg

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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