IT is now nearly five years ago since as a political party leader on the local council, I was summoned by council officers to hear some ‘exciting news’ – the nationally renowned Jerwood Foundation had expressed an interest in building a gallery in Hastings which could, we we were told, prove to be an enormous cultural boost for our town and just might be the desperately needed catalyst for wider economic regeneration.
Who were these Jerwood people we asked and what did they have to offer? We were spun a tale of an entire transformation in respect of our tourism offer and became hooked on the prospect of ‘high-end visitor spend’. Jerwood would offer free access to the ‘arts’ which could be life-changing for disadvantaged youth etc.
So we took the bait and were indeed pleased to see the refurbishment of the particularly special East Hastings Angling Association and we accepted the loss of HGV vehicles in the heart of our precious Old Town in order to give these Jerwood people a chance to prove themselves.
However, before too long, the goalposts were shifting. Having gained planning permission and exemption from any business rates ‘in perpetuity’, Jerwood announced that due to Customs and Excise demands, it would have to charge for admission, even for locals. But they assured us, this would be only nominal.
The Observer article (July 19 edition) now informs us that a local family ticket has almost doubled from £4.50 to £8. and please remember to bring proof of residence on the first Tuesday of the month between 4pm and 8pm.
It is my contention that Jerwood mislead council bosses and our now capitalising upon that deception. Those of us who supported and believed the Jerwood mantra deserve better and to exclude the economically deprived from an opportunity to appreciate the arts is quite frankly unforgiveable.
All Saints Street