Could museums alienate visitors if they take part in the ‘festival of Brexit’? - Museums Association

Could museums alienate visitors if they take part in the ‘festival of Brexit’?

Museums will be key stakeholders but many have private concerns
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Plans for to hold a nationwide festival of “national renewal” in 2022 are proceeding, according to a report in this week’s Guardian.
Originally announced by the then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018, the UK-wide event is intended to showcase the UK’s creativity and innovation after leaving the EU, and was immediately dubbed the “festival of Brexit” by critics. The Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it is officially known, will celebrate arts, culture, design and technology in the UK.
Despite calls for May's successor Boris Johnson to shelve the idea, it appears that the project is starting to take shape, with a delivery director and programme board already appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. A delivery body with a budget of £120m is also being established, according to the Guardian.
Museums will be key stakeholders in the festival, which intends to mimic the success of the 1951 Festival of Britain and the 1851 Great Exhibition. But many in the sector have privately expressed concern about being involved an event so closely linked to a divisive political issue such as Brexit.
One museum executive told the Guardian: “A lot of museums are quite wary of the whole thing. There’s also a sense that if it is a festival of Brexit then it turns into an ethical issue. Half of the audiences would be completely hostile to Brexit.”
Another commentator told the newspaper that the festival would have to be carefully branded “to make it a consciously national and non-metropolitan endeavour”.
There are also concerns about the sensitive timing of a festival intended to “strengthen our precious union”, as May put it last year, which will coincide with the centenary of the civil war that followed the partition of Ireland, as well as growing calls for independence in the devolved nations.
It is unlikely that any further progress on the festival will be made until after the general election on 12 December, according to the report.

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