Lancashire youngsters’ pleas to keep cuts threat museum open

APPEAL: Kate Wall and her brother Louis Wall, who have written appeal letters to save the Museum of Lancashire, from closure. Pictured with grandad Kenneth Cook

APPEAL: Kate Wall and her brother Louis Wall, who have written appeal letters to save the Museum of Lancashire, from closure. Pictured with grandad Kenneth Cook

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Two of Lancashire’s youngest museum visitors have made a plea to Lancashire County Council to keep the Museum of Lancashire open.

The Preston museum is one of five earmarked for possible closure, after Lancashire County Council voted to withdraw its funding from April as part of a wide-ranging cuts package, intended to save £65m over the next two years. The cuts also include closing 40 libraries.

Seven-year-old Kate Wall and her brother, Louis, eight, from Walton-le-Dale, have put pen to paper to tell museum staff just how they feel.

Kate wrote directly to the museum, which is housed in the former Quarter Sessions House, saying: “Don’t shut MoL because it’s my favourite place and it will break my heart if you shut it. There are lots of things to do there and if you shut it, I won’t have any fun.

“Please, please can you keep it open. If you don’t, I will be very cross!”

Their grandad, Kenneth Cook, of Samlesbury, who is due to retire from the county library service, said: “They came for a sleep over and were heartbroken at the news about MoL and libraries being closed. So I asked them to write what they thought.”

Louis wrote: “Please don’t shut down MoL, it means almost everything to me and I love to go there. When you shut these things you are taking a part of our community. Many people visit, what about my kids and grandkids?”

He also shared his love of libraries, declaring: “When you go to the library you can sit back, relax, read a book and have some peace. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, it matters what is in the heart and at the moment, you have no heart.”

Meanwhile, the proposed cuts have also caused consternation at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which had previously awarded major grants to MoL and another closure threatened centre – the Helmshore Mills Textile Museum. The grants have strings attached and HLF could ask for the money back if the museums close and collections are mothballed.

It was in December 2009 that the Fund awarded the MoL £914,000 for renovation and restoration work.

An HLF spokesman said the grants came with 25-year contracts, adding: “The Fund (HLF) is concerned to hear that five museums in Lancashire are at risk of closure. These buildings are at the heart of their respective communities, helping people understand more about their heritage and also contributing to the local economy.”

“We are currently in discussion with Lancashire Council in order to assess the situation and the wider risk to our investment.

It is important that recipients of National Lottery funding honour their contractual obligations and recovery of grant money is an option we will consider.”

County Coun Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for cultural services, said: “These are very difficult decisions that have definitely been made with a heavy heart.

“They are unfortunately necessary because of unprecedented financial pressures caused by cuts to funding by central government and rising demand for our services, particularly those that care for the most vulnerable, such as adult social care.We have been in contact with the Heritage Lottery Fund and await further discussions.”

The council has stressed that although it is withdrawing funding it is keen to engage in talks with supporters.