It is good to see that the local and regional media have been taking an interest in the Motorboat Museum, even if Basildon’s Conservative-controlled Council is no longer bothered what happens to the nation’s foremost collection of motorboats. Interestingly, the Council have confirmed to me that they made no effort to find a private sponsor and set aside no money to promote the museum (the budget for promoting it came out of the general countryside services promotion budget – so I guess it didn’t get very much).
Most of us would not have much time for the excuses made by a company that complained about falling sales having not advertised its products, so it strikes me as a little rich for the Council to complain that visitor numbers were falling when they did nothing to tell people the museum was there!
Before going on, I think I should make it clear that I see this as a matter of political will and prioritisation – and not something that is the responsibility of a countryside services budget already stretched to capacity. To that end I think it appalling that in the coverage I have seen, no administration councillor has seen fit to defend this decision publicly, instead choosing to hide behind officials and spokespersons.
It is probably all too late, at least in terms of saving the collection in Basildon, but this local and regional media coverage has been impressive.
Sophie Edwards had a good piece in the Echo which featured George Sawyer, the former world record holder who lives locally and who is a member of the Friends of the Motorboat Museum. He sums it up very well:
“He said: “If the collection is broken it will be a disaster.
“Basildon has really lost something. This museum was the only one of its kind in the world, which traced the history and evolution of motor boats.
“Hopefully the museum won’t be lost altogether, even though it will be sadly lost to Basildon.””
I was rather less measured, not least of all because I am fed up of tip-toeing around issues which are too easily dismissed as a minority issue or of limited significance:
““I don’t believe the council has invested any serious effort in maintaining the integrity of the collection.
“I have nothing against taking funding from Government for a new green education centre.
“However, if the council was bothered enough, it could have sought to preserve this nationally-significant collection.””
ITV’s London Tonight programme visited Basildon yesterday and spoke to George and Nina Sawyer at the museum. Whilst it is not on their main website, ITN sells clips of its footage and you can see it as a preview on their page.
And today, John Hayes featured the fate of the Motorboat Museum on BBC Essex’s prime-time “Drive Time” programme. The three minute feature on the Motorboat Museum is exactly 43 minutes into the programme.
Until the end of last year, school kids on their curriculum museum visits could see examples such as the Fairey Huntress, the boat that James Bond and Tatiana Romanova use to escape from SPECTRE at the end of From Russia With Love.
That is one of the most iconic chase sequences in any Bond film and I remember it fuelling many a childhood secret agent fantasy.
I am left wondering sadly how on earth Basildon Council can rationalise that the preservation of a nationally-significant collection like this simply doesn’t matter any more.