Tuesday 15 November 2011
Behind the scenes at the museum
Councillor Coleman, AM FRSA, has seen too many helmets and wants to shut the Fire Brigade Museum
... but don't worry: he wants to open another museum full of lovely artefacts like these ...
Three years ago, a proposal to shut the London Fire Brigade Museum by yes, you know who, Himself, Brian Coleman, the Chair of the London fire authority, caused widespread protest and was eventually shelved, despite the best efforts of Coleman, who had announced: "having recently visited the fire brigade museum – we shook the cobwebs off the door as we opened it – I have to say that it is not a museum that is fit for purpose or that in my view contributes anything".
He had also commented that once you've seen one helmet, you've seen them all. Clearly, Brian Coleman has seen more helmets than Mrs Angry, who has led a sheltered life - although this is a statement with which even she would not necessarily agree. Anyway, this subject has, well, raised its head once more, however, and oh dear: here we go again - the museum's closure is back on the agenda.
According to an article this week on the London SE1 community website, the threat of closure was discussed once more at a meeting of LFEPA's finance ansd personnel committee on Monday. It is significant perhaps, that as Mrs Angry suggested, shutting the museum just before the May GLA elections might not be such good timing, and at this meeting it would seem our Brian was trying to push for closure, whilst at the same time appear to be almost reluctant to do so, or at least keen to blame the closure on someone else. The big bad wolf had a lot to say, in fact:
"There's a lot of huffing and puffing about the museum," Brian Coleman told the committee.
He explained that the future of the museum would have to be considered in the context of plans to outsource the training of firefighters which is currently carried out at the Southwark Bridge Road site.
"In the medium term Winchester House and the whole Southwark [training centre] site will go," he said. "It will have to be disposed of. When [the site] goes, there's no space for the museum.
"I wish we had money to invest in the museum. I wish we didn't have to make the various cuts ... but I see no proposals from the Labour group on how we can make up this deficit bearing the mind the cuts target we have been set by the Mayor which is part of his political directive to freeze the precept for Londoners."
Cllr Coleman added: "I would be happy to reverse the proposed savings if Cllr Shah could propose other savings or other sources of revenue."
Turning to the proposal for a combined museum of London's emergency services, Cllr Coleman said: "It was actually my idea, worked up with the late Sir Simon Milton, to have a blue light museum, and [the Mayor's culture advisor] Munira Mirza spent £8,000 of taxpayers' money on getting a consultant in to look at it. I'd have done the exercise for 10 per cent of that fee.
"Sadly it's gone nowhere. Cllr Shah: you are more than welcome to ask questions at City Hall as to why it has gone nowhere.
"I understand that the police wouldn't play ball – as ever – because the key attraction for a blue light museum would be the so-called 'black museum' from Scotland Yard.
"They queue round the block for the London Dungeon and I think they'd queue round the block for the contents of the 'black museum'.
The late Sir Simon Milton, poor man, appears to be turning into something of a City Hall Bunbury: someone to blame for awkward decisions for which no one wishes to take responsibility, or to call as a silent witness in the political games they play. If you recall, Sir Simon was blamed for the security clearance wrongly given to Boris Johnsons's spin doctor Lynton Crosby, and now he is being dragged into the museum debacle.
Mueums and policemen are subjects which seem to irritate Brian Coleman: note the reference to 'the police wouldn't play ball - as ever' and his frankly rather weird, scowling resentment that they will not part with the gory artefacts of the Black Museum.
In a Standard article about the Black Museum plan in May 2009, we were told:
"Police have been allowed to see the relics but public decency has prevented their wider access.
However, Boris Johnson is backing a plan to turn some of the contents into a museum to celebrate London's emergency services. Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Brian Coleman is working with the Mayor on the plan for the new tourist attraction.
He said: "The police are quite jealous of some of the information they are allowed access to."
Jealous: yes, those lucky policemen, lingering lovingly over all those gruesome objects, tokens of some of the most vile acts that human beings have done to each other - but why should they have all the fun?
Coleman resents anyone who asserts their independence, it seems, and the sight of a uniform seems to trigger a rebellious streak in our outspoken Assembly member. Did he have an unfortunate experience in his childhood, perhaps? Told off by a policeman for being cheeky? Oh no, hold on, that was me.
Mrs Angry has previously referred to Coleman's interest in the ghastly Black Museum idea, an a previous post, :
"Coleman's interest in a proposed tourist attraction using exhibits from the Black Museum which he suggested might, in order to 'add spice', display the saucepans Denis Nilson used to dispose of the body parts of his victims. Coleman commented that this would have 'teenage boys queuing around the block'. One would have thought he might realise that any decent person would be revolted by the idea, or that he might just have had some thought for the families of Nilson's victims. Evidently not."
Brian Coleman says he would have done the consultancy work on this hideous scheme for £800. I'll do it for nothing, friend: I'll tell you now that it is a repulsive idea, and says a lot about you that you think it is in anyway appropriate to put such objects on display in a museum, at the same time being quite happy to close down an establishment dedicated to reminding us of the long history of service, dedication and courage of London's firefighters.
Thinking recently about St Paul's, and London burning during the Blitz, and Mrs Angry's father and thousands of firefighters, full time and volunteers, risking their lives to save the lives of fellow Londoners, and protect our city from the firestorm and bombing of the Luftwaffe, one had to wonder what contribution to the common good you would have made, then, Brian? What contribution do you make now, in fact, of any real significance?
Is that why you want to shut the museum down, because it represents a history of real courage, real sacrifice, something admirable, and difficult, and hard won, a legacy you will never have the right to understand? It would be the ultimate act of authority over a service you have have struggled to control over all these years: a denial of their history, and independence: an act of vengeance.
The truth is that the neo brutalist, philistine breed of Tories we produce in Broken Barnet have no sense of history, or heritage, or any real appreciation of culture. Entertainment, for them, is looking at Denis Nilson's saucepans. If something can't be shut down and sold off it is worth nothing: as Barnet leader Richard Cornelius reminded us recently when he declared that the contents of the Church Farmhouse Museum they have closed, and are about to flog to the highest bidder, were of no value.
In all dictatorships, the past is something to be controlled as much as the present: history is rewritten, and heritage abandoned without sentiment. Time starts again at year zero, in Broken Barnet.
Barnet Tories like closing things down and cutting them back, and not just because it brings them lots of easy made cash, from savings or sales. Libraries, children's centres, museums: all fair game. This behaviour, and the culture of bullying which exists even within their own party reinforces their sense of dominance. Just like Jack the Ripper, or any loathsome individual whose relics are kept in the Black Museum, it is the ruthless demonstration of power which makes them feel they are in control, and gives them a sense of identity.
At a council meeting last night, Mr Mustard and Mrs Angry were discussing the amusing thought that by this time next year, Brian Coleman's political career may well effectively be over: after he loses the GLA election, he will only have the outsourced remains of Barnet Council to play with, and if rumours are true, his own colleagues are at last showing signs of wanting to oust him from his cabinet post. Oh dear.
Just imagine: the political demise of Councillor Brian Coleman, AM, FRSA, an event surely to be celebrated, like the gold coffin of Jimmy Savile lying forlornly in a hotel foyer, honoured by the grateful people of Broken Barnet, ah - queueing around the block ... but just to make sure the old b*****d really is dead. Politically speaking, Brian darling, of course. Don't cry.
Look see: Mrs Angry is feeling sorry for you now.
That's a bad sign.