Gallery plans ‘undermine Usher’s legacy,’ say Lincoln MP and Lord

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Labour MP Karen Lee and Chairman of the Historic Lincoln Trust Lord Patrick Thomas Cormack believe the proposed changes to the Usher Art Gallery undermine its founder’s legacy.

As previously reported, Lincolnshire County Council revealed plans to turn large parts of the Usher Gallery into a wedding venue.

This would see most of the gallery’s artwork moved into a dedicated space in The Collection museum next door.

It caused quite a stir as thousands of residents signed a petition (3,390 at the time of writing) to stop plans and calling for art to be kept “freely accessible in the Usher Gallery”.

Now Karen Lee and Conservative Lord Cormack said in a joint statement that more time is needed for the Historic Lincoln Trust and the Usher Art Gallery to develop a trust or partnership funding model.

They believe the sheer amount of enthusiasm shown by the local people since the changes were proposed is an opportunity to “protect the Usher Gallery in its current form”.

However, the county council says that as long as the city council, which owns the building, is willing to give it to the Historic Lincoln Trust and the Usher Art Gallery, they would consider the handover.

MP and Lord statement in full

The Usher Gallery. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

“We are very concerned with Lincolnshire County Council’s proposed change to the Usher Art Gallery.

“Our great city relies on its enticing tourism offer, and alongside the Cathedral and the Castle, the Usher Art Gallery is an integral part of this.

“For Lincoln to continue its proud cultural heritage, we need the Usher Art Gallery to remain a venue which enriches our city’s appeal by providing space for exciting exhibitions. Without such a significant venue, we cannot expect collections to be lent to Lincoln.

“The Usher Art Gallery was a gift bequeathed to the people of Lincoln, and it must remain so. The collection is intrinsically linked to the Gallery, as James Ward Usher himself had wished. To undermine this great display of affection for our city would most likely deter future benefactors from following suit.

“While we acknowledge the huge financial strain that Lincolnshire County Council is subjected to, we request that the Historic Lincoln Trust and the Usher Art Gallery Trust are given sufficient time to develop a trust or partnership funding model.

“We fully believe that the display of enthusiasm by the people of Lincoln since the changes were proposed presents the opportunity to protect the Usher Gallery in its current form.”

Council willing to consider takeover

Cllr Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We’re confident that our proposals will greatly improve what the city has to offer visitors.

“Currently, The Collection receives five times as many visitors as the Usher each year, and it’s our hope that these changes could mean that more people have the chance to enjoy our fantastic art.

“The improvements we have proposed for The Collection would also give us a much better chance of attracting the major touring exhibitions that Lincolnshire presently misses out on.

“We welcome the interest of the Historic Lincoln Trust and the Usher Art Gallery Trust have shown in taking on the gallery, and that is something we would be willing to consider.

“However, it would ultimately be up to the city council as owner of the Usher building to decide whether that was something they wished to pursue.

“We will, of course, take their letter into account, along with the all other comments from the consultation.”

The City of Lincoln Council previously came out against the plans and said that the Usher Gallery “must not be touched.”

Proposal objections

The plans have sparked protests. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

A campaign group is also inviting Lincoln residents to march against the plans. Protestors will meet in the Cornhill Quarter at 12pm on Saturday, April 13 before walking up to the Usher Gallery for a picnic.

The march is being organised by the Save Lincolnshire’s Usher Gallery (SLUG) campaign.

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