Council and pressure group working together towards solution for museum and art gallery

By Nick Batten on 26 August, 2021

Swindon Borough Council has confirmed that the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery’s current home, Apsley House on Bath Road, which is currently closed, is being reconsidered as an option to house the art and museum collections until a suitable alternative venue can be identified and secured.

Apsley House houses Swindon’s historic artefacts and its renowned collection of modern British art. Like other museums and galleries, this council-owned Grade II listed building closed at the beginning of lockdown, in line with Government regulations. When lockdown restrictions were lifted, the council proposed that Apsley House should not reopen because the cost of repairs and alterations were believed to be considerable. The council has plans to build a ‘Cultural Quarter’ at Kimmerfields in the town centre in the future, which will include an art pavilion and museum space. 

A group of people who are concerned that it could be some considerable time until the collections have a new home formed Save our Museum and Art Gallery (SoMAG) and started a petition to have the building reopened as soon as possible. SoMAG also wants the collections to remain at Apsley House until a new home can be found that makes them at least as accessible to the public as they were before the museum and art gallery closed.

SoMAG has been working closely with Swindon Borough Council officers and with Councillor Robert Jandy, who recently took over the portfolio for culture, heritage, leisure and the town centre, to try to agree a way forward that is best for the people of Swindon and the collections themselves.

Councillor Jandy and a spokesperson for SoMAG, Linda Kasmaty, have now announced that Apsley House will be included in the options being considered for the museum and art gallery collections.

Linda Kasmaty said, “Many of our group, including some heritage professionals and Friends of the Museum and Art Gallery, were very concerned that Swindon residents, who collectively own the art and artefacts, would not have access to the larger part of our collections for years.

“We made our feelings plain to the council, and we are very pleased and appreciative that Councillor Jandy has spent a lot of his time meeting with us and listening, and has now responded swiftly. We look forward to continuing to work with him and his officers towards getting Apsley House back open as soon as is feasible, so that as many people as possible can go back through its doors and the very popular workshops for children in the school holidays can resume.”

Councillor Robert Jandy, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said, “Coming from a strong arts and culture background, I know how important the sector is to people’s health and wellbeing and, with what has happened over the last 18 months, it is needed now more than ever. 

“To this end, it has been gratifying to meet and work with individuals who are both passionate and knowledgeable on the subject. Our aim has always been to ensure that the museum and art collection is not kept in storage and, whatever solution we come up with, we must do all we can to build on the work that has already taken place so we share it with as wide an audience as possible.

“We want all our residents to have the chance to see our wonderful collection. It is a collection to be proud of – let’s share it far and wide!”