17 April 2007

The Legacy of William Morris

Todays Guardian features an article on the shortsightedness of the London Borough of Walthamstow who are threatening the William Morris Gallery with closure. Cost cutting is given as the reason for wanting to cut back opening hours and remove the keeper and his team from their jobs. There is an online petition to save the Gallery which already has more than 5700 signatures at http://www.keepourmuseumsopen.org.uk

The main thrust of the Guardian piece is why doesn't the council get how significant a resource this is! Jonathan Glancey does an excellent job of making these elected members in no doubt of the legacy of William Morris and why the saving of the gallery is so important. In particular he highlights how Morris was responsible for resurrecting any number of craft skills. Certainly much of the art & craft education that is available today is part of the legacy of Morris and people such as John Ruskin. I have never visited the William Morris Gallery although it has for some time been on my list of places to visit. I also have friends who live in Walthamstow and a visit to the Gallery would also provide me with an opportunity to catch up with them.

While Local Government in Canada and the USA are recognising the importance of arts provision in regenerating deprived inner city areas (See previous post), our local politicians appear to lack the imagination and the vision. On 3 May 2007, there will be local government elections in England, local government and Scottish Parliamentary elections in Scotland, and National Assembly elections in Wales. We should all be asking what the priorities are for the arts and crafts in particular - placing the issues high on the political agenda.

Morris himself believed that the political arena was one of the key ways of uniting art & society, ensuring that beauty was an everyday part of life and that all men had access to creating beauty through their labour. These values are as relevant today as they were then if not more so. We need politicians who can see the significance of this and provide the investment necessary to build on Morris's legacy.

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