Museums unite for funding bid

Funding bid: Harris Museum is part of a consortium which has submitted a bid for funding
Funding bid: Harris Museum is part of a consortium which has submitted a bid for funding
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Preston’s museums will pull together in a bid to raise almost £300,000 for a year to remember.

A consortium made up of the Harris, Museum of Lancashire, Lancashire Infantry Museum, Ribble Steam Railway Museum, and South Ribble Museum, have submitted a bid for funding from the Arts Council England’s Renaissance Fund.

If the museums succeed, it will mean nine year-long posts are created, and they can press ahead with plans including increased activities and projects to tie in with Preston Remembers – in the run up to the centenary of the First World War.

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery was forced to make 10 staff redundant last year after it lost £220,000 in funding from the Arts Council.

Preston Council submitted an expression of interest in October last year for the cash and was invited to submit a full application at the end of November.

Coun Tom Burns, the council’s cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “I think we have got a good chance.

“This funding is about 
access for people who don’t normally use museums. The museums in Preston have got the consortium and are good at working together.”

If given the go-ahead, the project will be led by the Harris Museum, working with a steering group of managers from each of the partner museums, with co-opted members from UCLan and In Certain Places, who organise events and develop public art in the city.

It will mean joint traineeships, support in fund-raising, and a feasibility study on whether the mezzanine gallery at the Harris can be transformed for community projects and performances.

Coun Burns said bosses at the Harris were particularly pleased with a recent study by Visit England, which rated the museum as matching bigger museums such as those in Liverpool and Manchester on the quality of what they offer.

A report due to go before Preston Council’s cabinet on Wednesday, which lays out the plan, said: “The programme seeks to place museums at the heart of Preston life through work with the Preston Museums Group.”

Coun Burns said the authority was continuing to look at ways the Grade I listed Harris could be used as a resource to bring in cash and help with running costs.

He said: “We are looking at all sorts of different things at the Harris, like holding dinner parties for businesses, to help with the costs.

“We are using the building as an asset and a resource.”