Creditors allow the troubled Museum of Pop Music to live now and pay back later

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Britain's most troubled lottery-funded projects was spared the humiliation of being closed down yesterday within just eight months of opening.

Creditors of Sheffield's pounds 15m National Centre for Popular Music accepted part-payment of debts, giving a new management team time to improve visitor numbers. Meanwhile, the Lowry art centre - the pounds 100m Millennium Commission project in Salford, Greater Manchester - revealed an opening programme that it believes will bring in 770,000 visitors a year.

In Sheffield, at a meeting of the pop music centre's creditors, 90 per cent of those present accepted 10p in the pound, with the possibility of more later. The centre anticipated 400,000 visitors a year but in its first six months achieved 104,000; the forecast will probably now be pared back to 150,000 a year.

The creditors were owed pounds 1.1m by the centre, which opened in March with an pounds 11m Arts Council lottery cash grant, and the accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers was called in two weeks ago. Their rescue package will allow the new managing director, Martin King, a former Madame Tussaud's marketing manager, to introduce new initiatives, which could include more traditional museum artefacts alongside interactive exhibits. Admission prices - a peak adult ticket costs pounds 7.25 - will also be cut.

"We have to be realistic and say there are no quick solutions," said Mr King. "I am... reviewing all aspects of the attraction from the minute people walk into the building."

The Lowry's headline attraction when it opens in April on Salford Quays will be the first performance of the Paris Opera Ballet in Britain for 15 years. But a reappraisal of the work of the painter L S Lowry is most fundamental to the centre. "Our opening exhibitions are intended to test the received views of L S Lowry and make people look again," the centre's galleries director, David Alston, said.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam has been appointed to the Millennium Commission, following Jack Cunningham whom she replaced as Minister for the Cabinet Office in last month's government reshuffle. She will join Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the commission's chairman, on the body which distributes National Lottery money to good causes.

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