The policy column

Alistair Brown, Issue 118/07, p17, 01.07.2018
We need a voice in Brexit debate
“Adored abroad but diminished at home is not a good look” was how Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum, described the predicament of the UK’s museums at the recent Museums At Westminster advocacy event.

His words struck a chord with the audience of museum leaders and parliamentarians. British museums still have a global reputation for excellence, yet our sector has become fragile after years of cuts. The message at the event was simple – yes, museums can do amazing work, but don’t take them for granted.

But the bigger picture gives little cause for hope. As we held Museums At Westminster, elsewhere in parliament the EU withdrawal bill was being debated, and the government machine was starting work on its next Comprehensive Spending Review.

The implications for museums of both events are coming into sharper focus. It is clear that there will be no Brexit dividend to spend. In fact, the government has the opposite problem. After a decade of austerity, we face more constraints on public spending due to the vote in June 2016, and we have a chancellor less inclined to support the cultural sector than his predecessor.

Our event in parliament proved that there is plenty of goodwill towards our sector from politicians of all stripes. But over the coming months, we need to build on that support to ensure that our sector is taken seriously in the Brexit negotiations and has a clear voice in the spending debates. Otherwise, we’ll be diminished at home and abroad.