Culture Threatened

I’m fortunate that my local library seems largely to have escaped the effects of the drastic cuts that have led to so many being closed, and our reductions in services have been slight. I go there most weeks, and seldom travel to take pictures without a library book in my camera bag. On a typical working day I spend an hour and a half or more on trains and tube, and usually I read to pass the time.

And sometimes when I’ve the occasional half-hour or hour between events I’m covering, I’ll slip into a museum or gallery – and often I’m around Trafalgar Square and it’s great to be able to go and look at what I call my pictures, those I own with the rest of the nation in our National Gallery. Free entry makes going in for just a few minutes viable, and I can sit or stand in front of some a Cezanne or a Van Gogh.  I’ve very occasionally been in homes where people have such things on their walls, but I’m much happier to have a gallery to look after mine – and show them off to thousands of others.

Candy Udwin, who led a long strike against privatisation at the National Gallery

And I’m pleased too that a little of my own work is actually in a couple of London institutions, stored archivally and so available to future generations – and I hope in time that more will join it.  But cuts to local government funding have led to hundreds of libraries being closed, and hundreds no longer having paid staff but being run by volunteers. Volunteers may be doing a great job – and probably some come from the over 8,000 trained library workers who have lost their jobs, but the future for them is uncertain.

Many museums too depend on local government funding – and again have suffered cuts and reductions in opening hours. Increasingly they are seen as businesses with the emphasis on making money rather than on educating and informing the public, and many trained staff are being replaced by low-paid and often untrained workers as the outsourcing of staffing continues.

It isn’t just in the UK that these things have been happening, and there was a sizeable group of French cultural workers from the CGT on the march .

As well as the trade union banners and placards from various unions there was also a wide range of hand-made posters, not well-represented in the few images here. You can see many more of them in Save Libraries, Museums & Galleries on My London Diary.

The march ended with speeches on the steps of Trafalgar Square with a number of authors, artists, campaigners and politicians speaking.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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