Charity plan for museums ‘will boost visitor experience’

Kirkstall Abbey. Picture from Google Maps (July 2022)

By David Spereall, local democracy reporter

A charitable trust could be set up to raise money and improve the visitor experience at some of Leeds’ best-loved museums and cultural attractions – including Kirkstall Abbey and Armley Mills.

City councillors are expected to approve the foundation of the Leeds Museums and Galleries Development Trust next week.

The move would be geared towards securing more investment for nine venues across the city, as a report published this week said they are missing out on some funding streams because they’re run by the council.

The proposed system would allow for the sites to bid for more cash only available to charities, but the local authority would still retain control over the running of all the attractions.

leeds wool festival armley mills
Venue: Armley Mills

The venues concerned include the art gallery and city museum in the city centre, as well as the discovery museum at Leeds Dock.

Thwaite Watermill in Stourton, the industrial museum in Armley, Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall would also benefit, as would Kirkstall Abbey and its neighbour, the Abbey House Museum.

The report, which will go before the council’s executive board next Wednesday, said: “The proposal will make a material difference to the museum service’s users through increased investment in programmes and infrastructure, enhancing the visitor experience and allowing the service to ‘deepen connections and widen impact’, thereby promoting greater diversity, inclusion and community cohesion.”

Barnsley has been cited as an example where a similar model has been successful.

Fundraising income for Barnsley’s four council-run museums and galleries has risen from £15,000 a year to £500,000 a year since 2015, the report said.

If set up, the trust would not have any elected councillors or council officers sitting on its board, to ensure it’s run independently.


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