‘Bastion of elitism and privilege . . .’

Hastings Borough Council could be forgiven for feeling it has been ‘misled’ over admission charges for the Black Bunker on the Stade.

During the early stages of negotiations when the Jerwood Foundation was begging for the gift of the land on which it now stands, the council got the idea that entry would be free (coun. Richard Stevens, Observer March 9).

Now it seems a charge of a whopping £7 per adult is necessary to establish the gallery’s bona fides as a legitimate business in order to get the VAT back on the building costs. Why not 50p? Or even 1p?

Seven pounds for a provincial modern art gallery is not an admission fee - it is an exclusion charge. This bunker is a bastion of elitism and privilege. And from what one can gather, a jolly comfortable and civilised redoubt it is.

On the top floor, above the windowless south wall, guarded by its black surveillance cameras, and unobserved by the mob below, there is what will doubtless be a most agreeable restaurant provided by local upmarket caterers Webbe (of the Wild Mushroom, Westfield, and don’t forget the final ‘e’). From which it will be possible to admire one of the best seaviews in Hastings and observe the quaint hobbledehoys toiling on the beach below.

However, the local hoi polloi will be relieved to hear that on production of acceptable ID, such as a utility bill and passport, they will be allowed in for only £2 an adult. And on the first Tuesday of the month, for a whole four hours in the evening, presumably on production of the same ID, they will be allowed in for free. Wow. That’s what you call public access.

As it is, Hastings Borough Council and the taxpayers of Hastings have been comprehensively mugged by a very wealthy and shrewd organisation. The Jerwood Foundation is a private concern, untroubled by the need to placate the Arts Council or the Lottery Commissioners, and it’s managed to keep its public assets private by the simple expedient of pricing itself out of the market. This development benefits no-one except the Jerwood Foundation which has been able to establish a presence in Hastings for the very modest sum of £4m on one of the nicest plots on the south coast. It blocks the light, obstructs the view, and leeches the atmosphere.

It would have been more beneficial to Hastings to leave the space as a coach park. Hastings Borough Council should be ashamed of itself.


Rolvenden, Kent