Friday, June 07, 2013

Why Downtown says: "Save MOSI"

There’s a danger that once any regional business ties its fortunes to a London centre – its chances of survival diminish. That’s why a campaign to save Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) has so taken root in the city and has fuelled a strong sense of injustice.

MOSI isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ attraction in the city centre, it’s an integral part of what Manchester is all about. The start of the world’s first passenger railway service and a valuable educational resource for our children.

Downtown Manchester in Business has had no hesitation in taking a leading role in the “Save MOSI” campaign and have already begun the process of lobbying and voicing our view on this issue. I was on BBC Radio Manchester with Graham Stringer MP drawing a line in the sand on this issue and we have sat down with a number of other businesses in the city to kick off a campaign and agree its scope.

We must from the outset applaud Yakub Qureshi from the Manchester Evening News in bringing this story to the public’s attention and for Downtown members in expressing their outrage on social media sites.

The threat to MOSI comes as the national Science Museum Group is considering shutting it and the National Media Museum in Bradford and the National Rail Museum in York.

The Manchester Evening News reported: “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.”

The last thing any of us in Manchester want to do is engage in a tawdry competition with Bradford and York about who deserves to survive more. Frankly it should never have got to this. It may suit the trustees of MOSI and the Science Museums Group for everyone to target the collation government and the ‘cuts to the arts” agenda. But that’s not the point either. What is the issue here is how important institutions are run and how they are supported and for who.

This campaign is only at the beginning, but it will also throw to the fore some important questions about MOSI and what it is for and how it can be improved too. That’s why we call on businesses and members of the public to start from the premise that MOSI is vital to future scientists and engineers and for the curiosity of Manchester and its visitors.

We also need to remind The Science Museum Group that they have a commitment to transfer all existing Grant in Aid on the condition that the site and collections would be preserved for a minimum of 25 years.

While we appreciate the trustees have a difficult job to balance their budget in the teeth of cuts to their budget, it is not acceptable that MOSI can be sacrificed, or that it can be even considered for closure.

As Graham Stringer MP told the Manchester Evening News: “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.”

Jonathan Schofield, tour guide, and Manchester Confidential editor, says: “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.”

So, stay posted, stay close and above all, Save MOSI.

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