BS Trust and Apprentice Boys ask council to double funding for museums

RADICAL.... This is how the new look Museum of Free Derry will look when it opens to the public.
RADICAL.... This is how the new look Museum of Free Derry will look when it opens to the public.
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The Bloody Sunday Trust and the Apprentice Boys of Derry have asked the Council to double the money it currently supplies for operating the facilities.

Representatives from the Apprentice Boys, which runs the Siege Museum, and Bloody Sunday Trust, which operates the Museum of Free Derry, made the request through a presentation before the Council’s Business & Culture Committee at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The audio visual area  in the  Apprentice Boys of Derry Siege Museum. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 11.03.16

The audio visual area in the Apprentice Boys of Derry Siege Museum. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 11.03.16

During the presentation, delivered by Ciaran McGurk from the Strategic Investment Board, the committee members were told that the new Museum of Free Derry in Glenfada Park is expected to open in October this year, a year after the Siege Museum began operating.

Those making the presentation said that while the projects had secured £6.1m capital funding from external sources, there was a need to source further money to support their “core operations”.

The Council already allocates £20,000 a year to each facility, along with advice on operational issues.

However Mr McGurk told the committee that double this level of support was required for staffing costs, marketing and other overheads, along with ‘in-kind’ museum technician support. Bids are also being made to other potential funders, which, if successful, may reduce the request being made to the council.

In light of this, a joint business case has been developed to support the case for investment from the local council and other funders, which was submitted to the council following the meeting.

“This will be two world class museum facilities by October 2016,” he said.

Mr McGurk, who has been working with the BS Trust and Apprentice Boys for the past 18 months, said benefits that both museums bring, they said, include enhanced tourism and economic activity, job, training and educational opportunities, and improved community relations.

They have estimated that there will be 45,000 visitors a year to the museums within three years of operating, with school visits from across Ireland as well as overseas and local visitors.

Visitors two date at the former Museum of Free Derry and the Siege Museum come from over 100 countries.

The committee was told that the Bloody Sunday Trust and the Apprentice Boys of Derry plan to expand into further education and peace and reconciliation work in future.

In answer questioning from SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner, Mr McGurk said the additional £20,000 was being requested for each of the next four years.

DUP Councillor David Ramsey said: “I welcome the fact you are seeking this for something that is extremely important for tourism.

“The tourism potential is the major thing here. We welcome both museums and what they are going to do for tourism. It is very important for us as a council to be seen to be supporting such a worthwhile cause.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper said that as the owner and operator of a tourism business, he needed no convincing in terms of how important such infrastructure was.

“The two projects are game changers potentially,” he said.

Chairing the meeting, SDLP Councillor John Boyle added; “It’s encouraging that the two projects are progressing very, very postively and no doubt they will be major players in our tourism strategy over the next number of years.”