Towner needs town’s support


From: Lady Clara Dale

Westminster, London

I write with reference to the piece on the Towner Gallery penned by Annemarie Field.

I was under the misconception that journalists should be impartial and objective, but on reading this diatribe by Ms Field, I was shocked at her lack of support and understanding for an outstanding and highly regarded local cultural asset.

I live in London but travel down to Eastbourne at least once a month during which time, as an avid gallery visitor, I never miss the interesting and thought-provoking exhibition put on by the Towner. I would also suggest it to be inadvisable to speculate on a “majority view” when she has no evidence to put forward.

All she has done by making her personal feelings known is to make a misinformed and critical attempt to counter the Towner’s fight to keep open a programme of showcase exhibitions and to preserve and continue to make accessible (and keep free of charge) a wonderful public collection of over 5000 works.

I understand that over 30,000 people visited the wonderful Ravilious exhibition during the summer, I myself visited on at least four occasions. What she does not mention of course are the benefits to the community, the sessions for those suffering memory loss, the group supporting mental health through creative work, the lectures, seminars, films and the workshops for small children among many other.

Nor does she make reference to the many awards - not just, as she refers, for the architecture but for the committed education programme. Hundreds of children and school groups visit the Towner as part of their arts education. Gallery staff are knowledgeable and engaging; the building is fully accessible and while the staff has had to deal with a long-running lack of proper signage and nearby building and disruption on a gargantuan scale, visitors - to the tune of around 150,000 a year still come.

The Towner is not the place for another museum of artefacts and archives; Ms Field obviously has little or no knowledge of the problems associated with the storage and display of such material.

The gallery has a wonderful and enviable art collection for the public to view, as Alderman Towner in the 1920s hoped it would be.

A behind the scenes tour is a great way to see those works not currently on show and ask questions as to their storage and care, something I have done several times over the years. No-one expects everyone to understand the meaning behind every exhibition, but it seems clear that Ms Field has not visited the Towner for some time, if the only shows she recalls are from 2011 and 2012.

Does she not know that EBC actually has ownership of the Towner building? Are EBC happy for amazing artworks to begin to deteriorate due to no funds to care for them? The investment in the Devonshire development will allow the Towner to be part of a progressive cultural area which surely is of benefit to all. I know that the Towner will do all that it can to counteract the proposed cuts to its budget, but they need the support of the local population - not diminish its place or undermine and insult the hardworking and committed staff and volunteers.