Museum says pacifist exhibit on First World War led to funding cut

Now the People’s History Museum in Manchester faces a £200,000 crisis next year

Ian Burrell
Monday 29 September 2014 20:33
The People’s History Museum in Manchester faces a £200,000 funding crisis next year
The People’s History Museum in Manchester faces a £200,000 funding crisis next year

One of Britain’s leading museums claims it is being cut off from Government funding for political reasons after taking a “pacifist” approach to the First World War.

The People’s History Museum in Manchester, which is dedicated to telling the story of democracy in Britain, faces a £200,000 funding crisis next year after being excluded from the list of museums that receive public support.

Cath Birchall, the museum’s deputy director, said she believed the institution was being punished for its treatment of the war in “A Land Fit for Heroes”, an exhibition showing how the social conditions of working people were transformed by the war. It included a live theatre performance contrasting a soldier with his brother, a conscientious objector.

“They don’t see the importance of a national museum that shows the effects of the war on ordinary people and the cut in our funding would seem to be the only explanation,” she said.

The trustees asked for a meeting with the Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, but were told he was “too busy”.

The museum has strong ties to Labour and houses some of the party’s archive. Helen Goodman, the shadow Culture minister, claimed that the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, needed to explain why the museum was losing funding. “Is it because their World War One exhibition has a pacifist slant?” she asked.

Shortly after the 2010 election the Coalition announced that about 20 museums would lose up to 80 per cent of their funding. The Manchester museum faces a 20 per cent hole in its budget.

The Department of Culture, Media & Sport said its “streamlining” policy was designed to “achieve better value for taxpayers” by encouraging museums to find new sources of funding.

“We have had a number of discussions [with the museum] on this issue since then in order to help the museum find alternative funding sources and new partners,” a spokesman said. “We hope that a sustainable solution for the museum will be found after current DCMS funding ends.”

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