The William Morris Gallery has been shortlisted for The Arts Fund’s prize of £100,000

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The William Morris Gallery has been shortlisted for The Arts Fund’s prize of £100,000 The William Morris Gallery has been shortlisted for The Arts Fund’s prize of £100,000

There was a time when the future of the William Morris Gallery looked bleak, and was threatened with closure, but the council-run gallery has just been listed in the top ten for The Art Fund’s prize for Museum of the Year 2013.

“The William Morris Gallery is a real labour of love for quite a number of us,“ says Lorna Lee, head of cuture and community services for the council.

“Not only have we had three times as many visitors as we initially predicted, but to have made it to the top ten of the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year – well it’s just the icing on the cake.

Once home to the English textile designer, artist, writer, philosopher and libertarian socialist, the Georgian-style property, which stands in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow, should have been a fitting tribute to the leading light of the Arts and Crafts movement.

But come 2007, rumours were circulating that rising costs and a depleting number of visitors could result in the closure of the space – or at the very least reduced opening hours.  

However, thanks to a £1.5m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, matched by Waltham Forest Council, as well as donations from other trusts and foundations, far from closing, the gallery has been revamped and is now regarded by many as a jewel of Walthamstow.

And since reopening to the public in August 2012, following its extensive £5m renovation, more than 92,000 visitors have passed through its doors, eager to experience the permanent exhibits and contemporary artworks the space has to offer – among them shows by artist Grayson Perry and photographer David Bailey. 

“We had to look at the gallery and consider its strengths – and it’s got many, it has one of the most fantastic collections relating to William Morris in the world, it’s the only gallery dedicated to his life. 

“And the story of William Morris is really interesting, some people don’t know anything about it and that’s the starting point, it used to be that you needed to have a degree in Morrisology to get anything out of the gallery, but this is about telling the story of him as a person as well as what he produced. 

“Also the fact that people who do know Morris, probably know a very small part – the wallpapers, the patterns, but actually he was an incredibly diverse person in what he achieved and did."

The William Morris Gallery will compete against nine other finalists  BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, The Beaney in Canterbury, Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, The Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield, Horniman Museum and Gardens in London, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, Narberth Museum in Pembrokeshire and Preston Park Museum and Grounds in Stockton-on-Tees.

A panel of independent judges will announce the winner on June 4 for the  prize of £100,000. The Art Fund will also give one of the ten finalist museums £10,000 for the Clore Award for learning, which recognises achievements in learning programmes for children.

“If we won, it would be wonderful,” says Lorna, “I’d cry. We want to improve even more, open more in the evenings, create affordable craft workshops for adults, and help people who don’t speak English have a fantastic time at the gallery. There are many things to consider.”

                            

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3:01pm Fri 12 Apr 13

mdj says...

Mrs Lorna Lee must not be allowed to rewrite history in this shameless way.

The Gallery was underfunded and starved for years. Despite this the small and dedicated staff drafted a visionary and ambitious plan to extend and remodel it, much of which has now been implemented in the present scheme.
For their pains, they were bullied out their jobs.

It was not 'rumoured' that there would be severe cutbacks. Mrs Lee drafted a plan to slash the budget, staff and hours. This fast-tracked her promotion four grades without outside advertisement to manage the library service, for which she has no qualifications, three of which have since closed on her watch.
The cutback plan prompted a storm of protest and a worldwide petition that was presented to Downing St. The protesters were marginalised and snubbed by the Council until it was realised how much reputational damage the topic was attracting.
The Council first response was secretly to negotiate a scheme to transfer most of the collection to another museum across London, whose own situation was at that time precarious: this met another storm of outrage.
Through all this Mrs Lee's creative input consisted of various plans to license the Gallery as a wedding venue, with a few decorative Morris relics as scenic backdrop.

Her phrase:' it used to be that you needed to have a degree in Morrisology to get anything out of the gallery..' seems intended to insult the scholarship of the former Keeper, who was awarded an MBE for his years of service shortly after the Council forced him out of his position.

The reversal in policy, and the transformation in the Gallery is extremely welcome, and Mrs Lee is no doubt more than competent to manage the new regime. Let us all hope that the WMG wins this prize, to help make up the funds still required.
But let us all look to the future while remembering the true story, not this Orwellian rewrite.
Mrs Lorna Lee must not be allowed to rewrite history in this shameless way. The Gallery was underfunded and starved for years. Despite this the small and dedicated staff drafted a visionary and ambitious plan to extend and remodel it, much of which has now been implemented in the present scheme. For their pains, they were bullied out their jobs. It was not 'rumoured' that there would be severe cutbacks. Mrs Lee drafted a plan to slash the budget, staff and hours. This fast-tracked her promotion four grades without outside advertisement to manage the library service, for which she has no qualifications, three of which have since closed on her watch. The cutback plan prompted a storm of protest and a worldwide petition that was presented to Downing St. The protesters were marginalised and snubbed by the Council until it was realised how much reputational damage the topic was attracting. The Council first response was secretly to negotiate a scheme to transfer most of the collection to another museum across London, whose own situation was at that time precarious: this met another storm of outrage. Through all this Mrs Lee's creative input consisted of various plans to license the Gallery as a wedding venue, with a few decorative Morris relics as scenic backdrop. Her phrase:' it used to be that you needed to have a degree in Morrisology to get anything out of the gallery..' seems intended to insult the scholarship of the former Keeper, who was awarded an MBE for his years of service shortly after the Council forced him out of his position. The reversal in policy, and the transformation in the Gallery is extremely welcome, and Mrs Lee is no doubt more than competent to manage the new regime. Let us all hope that the WMG wins this prize, to help make up the funds still required. But let us all look to the future while remembering the true story, not this Orwellian rewrite. mdj

3:47pm Fri 12 Apr 13

Janet1 says...

OMG, I nearly choked when I read “The William Morris Gallery is a real labour of love for quite a number of us,“ from the mouth of Lorna Lee, Waltham Forest's head of culture and community services.

Is there an award for sheer brazen bare-faced cheek? I nominate Waltham Forest council.

Neither Ms Lee nor anyone else from the council was among the group celebrating William Morris's birthday on a freezing March day in 2007 -- outside the gallery, as the council would not allow us in.

The celebration was organised by the newly formed Antiscrap campaign, set up to try to save the borough's cultural heritage from destruction by Waltham Forest council.

The council wouldn't have thought of celebrating Morris's birthday, as they were busy trying to dismantle his museum and gallery. Later that year they were actually trying to send our priceless art collection out of the borough!

All this was recorded in the press at the time.

The William Morris gallery is magnificent, but that's no thanks to anyone in Waltham Forest council. The gallery survived despite their worst efforts.
OMG, I nearly choked when I read “The William Morris Gallery is a real labour of love for quite a number of us,“ from the mouth of Lorna Lee, Waltham Forest's head of culture and community services. Is there an award for sheer brazen bare-faced cheek? I nominate Waltham Forest council. Neither Ms Lee nor anyone else from the council was among the group celebrating William Morris's birthday on a freezing March day in 2007 -- outside the gallery, as the council would not allow us in. The celebration was organised by the newly formed Antiscrap campaign, set up to try to save the borough's cultural heritage from destruction by Waltham Forest council. The council wouldn't have thought of celebrating Morris's birthday, as they were busy trying to dismantle his museum and gallery. Later that year they were actually trying to send our priceless art collection out of the borough! All this was recorded in the press at the time. The William Morris gallery is magnificent, but that's no thanks to anyone in Waltham Forest council. The gallery survived despite their worst efforts. Janet1

4:10pm Fri 12 Apr 13

Janet1 says...

Sadly, the Guardian deleted all the angry and accurate comments that were posted on the earlier report of the shortlisting, at
http://www.guardian-
series.co.uk/news/wf
news/10329573.Willia
m_Morris_Gallery_cou
ld_win___100_000_art
_prize/?ref=rss

But you'll find plenty more online. The amazing story of a London borough trying to get rid of its most famous cultural attraction attracted a lot of coverage.

From a BBC Online report in March 2007:
http://www.bbc.co.uk
/london/content/arti
cles/2007/03/09/late
st_morris_feature.sh
tml
"Despite fierce public opposition the council has approved £56,000 worth of cuts to the William Morris Gallery and Vestry House Museum. The cuts will dramatically reduce opening hours and bring job losses. Dismayed but not defeated campaigners have launched an online petition which is drawing worldwide support. It's already attracted 1000 signatures this week and the petition includes names from the USA and Australia."

Staff and supporters were already preparing a bid for Lottery funding to upgrade the gallery when the council announced plans to downgrade it.

From the BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk
/london/content/arti
cles/2007/01/25/wmor
ris_feature.shtml
" has also assured the Arts community that the changes will not scupper a major Lottery bid they were hoping to secure. A grant that would see the gallery expand and fully refurbished."

Of course, the cuts did scupper this original bid. But after giving up its plans to downgrade the gallery, the council dusted off the bid, which eventually succeeded, and presented it as a council achievement.

The council nearly triggered a riot when it announced its plan to send the art collection out of the borough in October 2007:
http://www.guardian-
series.co.uk/news/17
57994.breaking_news_
william_morris_colle
ction_to_leave_walth
am_forest/

When the gallery was reopened this year, the prestigious London Review of Books noted how the council had changed its tune since the uproar of 2007:
http://www.lrb.co.uk
/v34/n17/rosemary-hi
ll/in-walthamstow
Sadly, the Guardian deleted all the angry and accurate comments that were posted on the earlier report of the shortlisting, at http://www.guardian- series.co.uk/news/wf news/10329573.Willia m_Morris_Gallery_cou ld_win___100_000_art _prize/?ref=rss But you'll find plenty more online. The amazing story of a London borough trying to get rid of its most famous cultural attraction attracted a lot of coverage. From a BBC Online report in March 2007: http://www.bbc.co.uk /london/content/arti cles/2007/03/09/late st_morris_feature.sh tml "Despite fierce public opposition the council has approved £56,000 worth of cuts to the William Morris Gallery and Vestry House Museum. The cuts will dramatically reduce opening hours and bring job losses. Dismayed but not defeated campaigners have launched an online petition which is drawing worldwide support. It's already attracted 1000 signatures this week and the petition includes names from the USA and Australia." Staff and supporters were already preparing a bid for Lottery funding to upgrade the gallery when the council announced plans to downgrade it. From the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk /london/content/arti cles/2007/01/25/wmor ris_feature.shtml "[The council] has also assured the Arts community that the changes will not scupper a major Lottery bid they were hoping to secure. A grant that would see the gallery expand and fully refurbished." Of course, the cuts did scupper this original bid. But after giving up its plans to downgrade the gallery, the council dusted off the bid, which eventually succeeded, and presented it as a council achievement. The council nearly triggered a riot when it announced its plan to send the art collection out of the borough in October 2007: http://www.guardian- series.co.uk/news/17 57994.breaking_news_ william_morris_colle ction_to_leave_walth am_forest/ When the gallery was reopened this year, the prestigious London Review of Books noted how the council had changed its tune since the uproar of 2007: http://www.lrb.co.uk /v34/n17/rosemary-hi ll/in-walthamstow Janet1

4:21pm Fri 12 Apr 13

RichieA70 says...

mdj wrote:
Mrs Lorna Lee must not be allowed to rewrite history in this shameless way.

The Gallery was underfunded and starved for years. Despite this the small and dedicated staff drafted a visionary and ambitious plan to extend and remodel it, much of which has now been implemented in the present scheme.
For their pains, they were bullied out their jobs.

It was not 'rumoured' that there would be severe cutbacks. Mrs Lee drafted a plan to slash the budget, staff and hours. This fast-tracked her promotion four grades without outside advertisement to manage the library service, for which she has no qualifications, three of which have since closed on her watch.
The cutback plan prompted a storm of protest and a worldwide petition that was presented to Downing St. The protesters were marginalised and snubbed by the Council until it was realised how much reputational damage the topic was attracting.
The Council first response was secretly to negotiate a scheme to transfer most of the collection to another museum across London, whose own situation was at that time precarious: this met another storm of outrage.
Through all this Mrs Lee's creative input consisted of various plans to license the Gallery as a wedding venue, with a few decorative Morris relics as scenic backdrop.

Her phrase:' it used to be that you needed to have a degree in Morrisology to get anything out of the gallery..' seems intended to insult the scholarship of the former Keeper, who was awarded an MBE for his years of service shortly after the Council forced him out of his position.

The reversal in policy, and the transformation in the Gallery is extremely welcome, and Mrs Lee is no doubt more than competent to manage the new regime. Let us all hope that the WMG wins this prize, to help make up the funds still required.
But let us all look to the future while remembering the true story, not this Orwellian rewrite.
I hope you're making this point directly to Lorna Lee and others in the council.
[quote][p][bold]mdj[/bold] wrote: Mrs Lorna Lee must not be allowed to rewrite history in this shameless way. The Gallery was underfunded and starved for years. Despite this the small and dedicated staff drafted a visionary and ambitious plan to extend and remodel it, much of which has now been implemented in the present scheme. For their pains, they were bullied out their jobs. It was not 'rumoured' that there would be severe cutbacks. Mrs Lee drafted a plan to slash the budget, staff and hours. This fast-tracked her promotion four grades without outside advertisement to manage the library service, for which she has no qualifications, three of which have since closed on her watch. The cutback plan prompted a storm of protest and a worldwide petition that was presented to Downing St. The protesters were marginalised and snubbed by the Council until it was realised how much reputational damage the topic was attracting. The Council first response was secretly to negotiate a scheme to transfer most of the collection to another museum across London, whose own situation was at that time precarious: this met another storm of outrage. Through all this Mrs Lee's creative input consisted of various plans to license the Gallery as a wedding venue, with a few decorative Morris relics as scenic backdrop. Her phrase:' it used to be that you needed to have a degree in Morrisology to get anything out of the gallery..' seems intended to insult the scholarship of the former Keeper, who was awarded an MBE for his years of service shortly after the Council forced him out of his position. The reversal in policy, and the transformation in the Gallery is extremely welcome, and Mrs Lee is no doubt more than competent to manage the new regime. Let us all hope that the WMG wins this prize, to help make up the funds still required. But let us all look to the future while remembering the true story, not this Orwellian rewrite.[/p][/quote]I hope you're making this point directly to Lorna Lee and others in the council. RichieA70

4:29pm Fri 12 Apr 13

mdj says...

They're fully aware of their own record, Ritchie, and one hopes they read this paper in addition to their own freesheet.

Anyone happy to be quoted on the record in a paper is presumably happy to field the response.
They're fully aware of their own record, Ritchie, and one hopes they read this paper in addition to their own freesheet. Anyone happy to be quoted on the record in a paper is presumably happy to field the response. mdj

4:37pm Fri 12 Apr 13

RichieA70 says...

mdj wrote:
They're fully aware of their own record, Ritchie, and one hopes they read this paper in addition to their own freesheet.

Anyone happy to be quoted on the record in a paper is presumably happy to field the response.
I hope you're right. There are some excellent comments on this site (among the nonsense). The patronising tone of the council on some issues suggests that residents have the memory (and brain power) of goldfish. It needs to be regularly challenged.
[quote][p][bold]mdj[/bold] wrote: They're fully aware of their own record, Ritchie, and one hopes they read this paper in addition to their own freesheet. Anyone happy to be quoted on the record in a paper is presumably happy to field the response.[/p][/quote]I hope you're right. There are some excellent comments on this site (among the nonsense). The patronising tone of the council on some issues suggests that residents have the memory (and brain power) of goldfish. It needs to be regularly challenged. RichieA70

5:48pm Fri 12 Apr 13

Sigi from Walthamstow says...

Can we please get the fact right:

The people saved the William Morris Gallery from people like Lorna Lee.

The council wanted to destroy the gallery.

There was a massive outcry. Over 10,000 signatures were handed into Downing Street - to prevent the closure of the Gallery.

This beautiful Gallery deserves the price because was saved by local people.

see BBC London 2008
'A beautiful petition'
http://tinyurl.com/c
bux7h2
Can we please get the fact right: The people saved the William Morris Gallery from people like Lorna Lee. The council wanted to destroy the gallery. There was a massive outcry. Over 10,000 signatures were handed into Downing Street - to prevent the closure of the Gallery. This beautiful Gallery deserves the price because was saved by local people. see BBC London 2008 'A beautiful petition' http://tinyurl.com/c bux7h2 Sigi from Walthamstow

6:46pm Fri 12 Apr 13

Helen, Walthamstow says...

To be fair, it isn't Lorna Lee who is saying the stuff about rumours of closure. It's the reporter, who may not have been around at the time.

In addition, the gallery in its previous form was rather precious about its collection. It is far more accessible now.
To be fair, it isn't Lorna Lee who is saying the stuff about rumours of closure. It's the reporter, who may not have been around at the time. In addition, the gallery in its previous form was rather precious about its collection. It is far more accessible now. Helen, Walthamstow

11:27pm Fri 12 Apr 13

Walthamster says...

Congratulations to the staff, supporters and protesters who saved the William Morris Gallery. You deserve to win this award. But your greatest achievement has been protecting this national and local treasure from the council.
Congratulations to the staff, supporters and protesters who saved the William Morris Gallery. You deserve to win this award. But your greatest achievement has been protecting this national and local treasure from the council. Walthamster

11:24pm Sun 14 Apr 13

Redbridge person says...

I am shocked that the council has not stocked the museum with halal items in order to be inclusive and diverse..!
I am shocked that the council has not stocked the museum with halal items in order to be inclusive and diverse..! Redbridge person

6:19pm Mon 15 Apr 13

Sigi from Walthamstow says...

Redbridge person, it's a lovely idea though I would suggest vegetarian food (halal, kosher etc) might be more sustainable.

By the way - the gallery is beautiful, the gardens are an absolute delight and staff is really friendly. So it deserves the price.

Is the petition with the 10 000 signatures still in Downing Street?
It would be great if the petition would come back to the Gallery and be welcomed with a massive William Morris all style party!
Redbridge person, it's a lovely idea though I would suggest vegetarian food (halal, kosher etc) might be more sustainable. By the way - the gallery is beautiful, the gardens are an absolute delight and staff is really friendly. So it deserves the price. Is the petition with the 10 000 signatures still in Downing Street? It would be great if the petition would come back to the Gallery and be welcomed with a massive William Morris all style party! Sigi from Walthamstow

9:47am Tue 16 Apr 13

myopinioncounts says...

I have been told by a friend that the WIlliam Morris exhibition is good but the prices in the museum cafe are high - the cafe in the park is cheaper!
I have been told by a friend that the WIlliam Morris exhibition is good but the prices in the museum cafe are high - the cafe in the park is cheaper! myopinioncounts

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