This video is called William Morris.
An integral part of our heritage
(Monday 07 May 2007)
UNDER THREAT: The William Morris Gallery.
CHRISTINE LINDEY is saddened that the threatened budget cuts for the William Morris Gallery may result in this important museum’s permanent closure.
William Morris once asked: “What business have we with art unless all can share in it?”
To this day, the history of modern design begins with him.
His questioning of the elitist division of “high” art from “low” craft and the value of the handcrafted for providing creative fulfilment to worker as well as viewer are still pertinent debates.
Designer, craftsman, poet, novelist, writer, environmentalist, socialist theoretician and activist, he was one of the greatest Victorians.
He was born into a wealthy family in rural Essex, where he spent his boyhood at the Georgian residence Elm House.
In 1950, it became the William Morris Gallery in what is now Walthamstow and which holds one of Europe’s most important collections of the Arts and Crafts movement.
It is a stunning and unique museum.
Textiles, stained glass, furniture and hand-painted tiles by Morris, Rossetti, Burne-Jones [see also here] and others are displayed imaginatively and accessibly to evoke Morris’s social and aesthetic ideas.
And, to my knowledge, it is the only art museum which includes displays about Morris’s political activism.
But the museum is under threat.
The London Borough of Waltham Forest wants to slash its already tiny staff of four and drastically reduce its opening hours.
This would save £56,000, 16 per cent of this already under-resourced museum’s budget.
In relation to the £10.6 million which the council spent on cultural services last year, this is pocket money.
The council does not mention the series of cuts and restructurings which have already resulted in staff being cut by one-third since 1980.
The real danger is that these are sinister tactics. That the inevitable further impoverishment of the gallery’s attendance figures will provide grounds for future closure. …
Managerialist thinking shows a philistine lack of understanding of the power and value of primary experience and of the scholarship which underlies its provision by a lively museum.
The local public outcry has widened to protests on an international scale from eminent scholars and politicians, including Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone.
Locals say that the gallery is a beacon of culture in Walthamstow, which is now a multicultural, mostly working-class London neighbourhood, sadly lacking in cultural amenities.
Do the councillors realise who Morris was or do they not read the protest letters?
They have even accused him of being a white male imperialist. What a shoddy way to distort progressive cultural theories for reactionary purposes.
Far from reductions, the staffing and budgets should be increased so that the gallery can open seven days a week and a cafeteria can be opened to allow it to expand its stalwart job of providing pleasure, stimulation and enlightenment to the local community and the national and international public.
This gallery must be saved.
If you oppose the slashing of the gallery’s budget, you can write to local MP Neil Gerrard and send a copy to Culture Minister David Lammy MP or Leader of the Council Clyde Loakes, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Arts and Culture Naz Sarkar or Chief Executive Roger Taylor at Waltham Forest Town Hall, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 4JF.
Sign the online petition to keep the William Morris Gallery open at