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Saturday, 27 November 2021

SOMAG out in the Town Centre Again Today

 Despite the freezing temperatures and a brief blizzard, the SOMAG, Save Our Museum and Gallery, group were out again today with Superman and the Croc reminding people about the fate of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

Here we are in Regent Street with the banner, and the croc handing out leaflets
Above Superman with the megaphone sharing the information and encouraging people to take a leaflet
Below a posed photo
and below a nifty way of carrying one of our crocs, fastened on with a bungee cord
And a last photo of Superman
Thank you to all of you who offered words of encouragement, and those who took a leaflet.

Latest Cabinet Paper for 1 December

 The next Cabinet meeting is being held next Wednesday 1 December at 6pm at the Civic Offices, we are hoping to have a gathering outside beforehand from about 5.30pm. This is a link to the latest Cabinet paper, if you go down to item 10 and click on that, you will see the latest proposals for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to be located in the whole of the top floor of the Civic Offices, where an estimated cost of the relocation is £400k, compared to £1.86 million in the Cabinet document produced in March 2019, click on the link and go down to item 72 to have a look

The SOMAG group released this statement:

Members of Save our Museum and Art Gallery (SoMAG) are bewildered by the paper going to Cabinet on 1 December.

“The figures just don’t add up,” said a SoMAG spokesperson.

“We have always said we will support the conversion of the first floor of the Civic Offices to a museum and art gallery, as long as it is being properly funded to provide appropriate gallery and exhibition space. The collections, which we Swindon residents collectively own, include internationally significant art, objects and artefacts which need  appropriate conditions and engaging interpretation and displays. SBC still have no budget allocated beyond making the space available, and their plans amount to no more than accessible storage.

“In March 2019 Cabinet were presented with five options for SMAG, and the most expensive one at £1,864,000 was the conversion of PART of the first floor of the Civic Offices. Cabinet rejected that option. But this new paper estimates that it will now magically cost £150,000 to convert THE ENTIRE first floor to a museum/gallery space, and an additional £250,000 to improve the lift so it’s suitable for carrying people, rather than just goods. So the cost of converting a larger space has fallen by £1,464,000 in the past two and a half years, yet there is no explanation of how that could be possible or how this new “estimate” had been arrived at.

“The option that Cabinet actually accepted in 2019 was to do some work on Apsley House (also including ensuring it has a working lift).  Those costs were estimated to be £400,000. This paper’s  current estimate for necessary reparations etc is now £450,000. So while the costs of converting the Civic Offices have plummeted, the cost of converting Apsley House has increased considerably. We can’t reach any other conclusion than that numbers are being plucked out of the air to suit a particular argument, rather than reaching an evidence-based decision.

“Finally, something else doesn’t add up financially. This report says Swindon South Parish Council can’t be allowed to run Apsley House until the new Cultural Quarter can be built, because Swindon Borough Council needs to sell Apsley House quickly and put the funds towards the Cultural Quarter. In fact the parish council has proposed leasing Apsley House from SBC and returning it when the council is in a position to commission construction of the new museum/gallery.

“So to sell Apsley House in the near future, when the Cultural Quarter is years or decades away – and remember, there is no funding in place for this aspirational project yet – seems indefensible. Property values tend to rise far faster than cash in the bank over the longer term, so the real value of the sale will almost inevitably fall, the sooner SBC disposes of it. It just doesn’t add up.”

Save our Museum and Art Gallery group, and on behalf of the 5,000+ signatories to the petition to

reopen Apsley House

26 November 2021

There have been a couple of Swindon Advertiser articles:


Sunday, 21 November 2021

SoMAG out in the Town Centre Today

 Save our Museum and Gallery group, SoMAG, took the banner and crocs into the town centre today to talk to people about the closure of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, and hand out posters. People were almost all very supportive and many knew about the campaign. Others were incredulous that the museum and art gallery remained closed, and yet others had been intending to visit and had not done so.

Here are three photos of the group, including Superman with a croc:

We're hoping to do some more leafletting soon. Please get in touch if you'd like to help.

Visit to Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

 Twelve members of the Friends met at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes last week to have a look at the Ravilious exhibition curated by James Russell. I thought I'd start with a photo of our group since it is such a rare event to get so many of us together in person. On arrival, we were offered a drink and biscuits in this room before going to look at the exhibition, we could also leave belongings in there for a couple of hours, which was very handy.

I'll also include a copy of the poster because there was no permission to take photos of the Ravilious works. 

It is a wonderful exhibition with many paintings and works by Ravilious, it's well worth seeing, not to be missed I would say. The rooms where the works are shown have been upgraded and are really lovely as well. I took a few photos of the wonderful museum artefacts, there are a huge amount of exhibits there.

I took 2 photographs of the Britton 'Celtic' Cabinet which was made in 1824 it's made in the shape of one of the trilithons at Stonehenge with inset watercolours by contemporary artists such as Cotman, it's well worth looking up when you're there.

There are many examples of storage jars, this pear shaped one was particularly lovely, it was found at Crofton.

Above are inlaid and glazed floor tiles found at Nash Hill tile kiln and Malmesbury Abbey 1275-1325

There was also an exhibition of 6 of David Inshaw's North Wiltshire Landscapes coloured etchings and aquatints which are fabulous, but hard to see on a stair way and difficult to photograph because of reflections. I have found information about them online and therefore have one good photograph:

This one is called 'Silbury Sunset'
Above Marlborough Downs
That one is 'East Kennet'

Above 'Silbury Sunrise;
This is what the Art Fund website says about them:

These vivid coloured aquatints are the first works that he produced in this technique. Those depicting the prehistoric monuments in the Avebury World Heritage Site point to the tradition of British Romanticism, of hallowed ancient monuments depicted in their landscape setting. Inshaw admired the work of Thomas Hardy and, like Hardy, is sensitive to the physical and spiritual idiosyncracies of the region's landscape, whether in association with human figures, with the dramatic prehistoric monuments of the area, or with its native wildlife. No aspect is wholly identifiable but the spirit of the place rings out.'

Fabulous visit, thank you to all who make Wiltshire Museum in Devizes such a brilliant place tfor visitors..

Mark Somerville's Winning Photographic Entry

 The Open Photography exhibition where 35 works, out of a total 70 entries were displayed in the small section of the gallery at Apsley House on 17 March 2020 was never really seen by many people at all. By 18 March, before the opening night, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery was closed because of a Covid lockdown. The Friends' committee had agreed to choose a prize winner and give them £100, but we hadn't chosen the winner before lockdown, three of the Friends' committee were allowed into Apsley House on 26 February 2021 to choose the winner of the FSMAG prize. Here's David Hughes in front of the one we chose as a winner, but looking across at other entries.

I took a few more photos:

which give an idea of what a lovely exhibition it was
I found it very difficult to pick my favourite, and since there were three of us looking round, it was difficult to reach a consensus
Below some information about how wonderful it was to host a photography exhibition, with two photographs of piers by Chris Waddell.
And this one was very clever, I really like it, it's by Richard Maidment, the text with it says: 'A person stands in a gallery facing a monumental artwork. The figures in the painting appear to confront the lone visitor, seeking answers to a question we do not know.
 The Link magazine publicised the exhibition here: on 5 July this year, and we intended to visit Mark Somerville, our winner with his entry entitled 'C2036' seen below since we were unable to give him his prize in person:

 We finally visited Mark Somerville's studio in September to chat about his work, here he is with his winning entry:

Mark's working method produces beautiful images, Rosemary summarised the visit:

'In his garden studio one hot day this September, we met Mark for an interview and to see the photograph that won the 2020 competition at the Swindon Museum & Art Gallery.   The pandemic struck at the very time of the exhibition in the Gallery whereupon the building closed and no further access has been allowed.   However, The Friends of SM&AG had awarded Mark with the first prize of £100 which was delivered to him without the desired ceremony by a member of the Swindon Borough Council museum staff.

We wished to meet Mark to affirm our delight at his win and to see more of his work.   His photography had been landscapes and Wiltshire has no shortage of interest here.  However, with the advent of smartphones and digital cameras available for anyone to capture the images, he turned to ‘applied photographic art’, definitely a unique field.   This starts with a photograph, manipulated, enhanced, created with computerised additions to produce remarkable images.    The results are startling shapes, unexpected angles, infilled with colours and shading. 

Recently he took part in the Marlborough Open Studios weekend for public viewing.  We hope many people will continue to enjoy his splendid works'

I really enjoyed the visit, and was intrigued by many of his pieces, there's so much to see in them, the one above I particularly liked. Below I've included some information from Mark's website:

Conventionally, pressing the shutter is the final act in taking a photo. For Mark it is just the beginning. With his own stylistic route map in mind, this is the starting point of a journey: Images evolve as they are worked up, sometimes arriving at completely different destinations to those first thought of. Such is the nature of abstraction, Mark starts to see the potential as he deconstructs then reassembles the image into its final composition.

Describing his working process, Mark compares it to composing a piece of music. He establishes a melody and then taking inspiration from a variety of sources, adds layers around it, be it an optical illusion, loss of scale or a shift in colour space. Then finally, a suggested narrative i.e. the words that bring the piece to life. These, of course, are his words and it is for others to make their own interpretation.

Finally he lives in a beautiful part of Wiltshire, I loved the stones used to build his house, I'd certainly recommend a visit if he takes part in next year's MOS


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The New Window Poster

I was at the local resident's association Zoom meeting on Monday evening when I was reminded that not everyone knows that we had Swindon Museum and Art Gallery at Apsley House, on the corner of Bath Road and Victoria Hill, which was an absolute gem.  It closed on 18 March 2020 during the first Covid lockdown and has not opened again. The Save our Museum and Gallery group, SoMAG has produced a new poster for people's windows to highlight the fact that we need a museum and art gallery in Swindon. Please either print a copy of the poster, or request one to advertise the demise of SM&AG, and put it in your window.

 We loved the previous 'Save our Croc' poster but it relied on people knowing about our love from the 'croc' or gharial, this one seemed more to the point.

I'd also like to include a link to Angela's blog post: where she talks about the importance of keeping ope museums and galleries. 

Monday, 15 November 2021

Swindon Borough Council- Do the Right Thing!

Swindon Borough Council hopes to build a new cultural quarter, complete with museum and art gallery, in the town centre. Save our Museum and Art Gallery (SOMAG) supports this, but it’s not likely to happen for years – maybe decades – because as yet there is no funding for it.

Meanwhile, the council has closed Apsley House – the Bath Road building that’s been home to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery for about 90 years. It says the building, which it owns, has fallen into disrepair and isn’t fully accessible. It plans to repair Apsley House and sell it.

So, what next for our renowned Swindon Collection of Modern British Art and our wonderful objects and artefacts, which include internationally significant archaeology and palaeontology, and the beloved Swindon crocodilian? The council is considering converting part of its own offices in Euclid Street to a new museum and art gallery.

SOMAG welcomes converting the first floor of the council offices to a proper gallery. It will cost several million pounds to do that – there are very clear requirements on how to fit out galleries to 21st century national standards.  However, if Swindon Borough Council want to make that investment, we support it. It would attract local visitors, tourists, and visits by schools, and would provide a welcome boost to Regent Circus and the town centre.

But if they’re not planning to spend the millions required, there is a second option. South Swindon Parish Council are offering to take over running Apsley House once it’s repaired. The Parish Council has plans to make it viable, and when the new cultural quarter is finally built it will hand Apsley House back for Swindon Borough Council to use as it wishes.

We are urging Swindon Borough Council to do the right thing.

·         Convert Euclid Street offices into a 21st century quality museum and art gallery, by investing the several million pounds that will be required, or

·         Agree to hand over the lease of Apsley House to South Swindon Parish Council so the collections can remain on show until they can be moved to the cultural quarter.


·         Sign the petition – Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Ask friends to sign too.

·         Write to councillors David Renard and Robert Jandy – and asking them to agree on one of the two options above

·         Write to your MP – (South Swindon) or (North Swindon)

·         Join the Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Facebook group

·         Put the poster on the next post in your window

·         Join the SOMAG mailing list, by emailing




Sunday, 7 November 2021

The Ingram Collection

 Our September talk was by Jo Baring, Director and Curator of the Ingram Collection. It was richly illustrated and such a treat that it has taken me ages to feel I could write anything to sufficiently convey how magnificently inspiring I found it. Chris Ingram started collecting  Modern British Art a number of years ago, having been passionate about art since the late 1960s, and Jo was a Director at Christie's when she joined Chris Ingram in organising the work he does with the collection. 

Her brief is to organise sharing the art with the widest possible audience; works are loaned widely making them the most significant and publicly accessible collection. There are around 600 works of art in the collection. 

Works from the Ingram Collection are on medium term loan to The Lightbox, a wonderful gallery in Woking, Chris Ingram's home town; 4 exhibitions a year are drawn exclusively from the Ingram Collection. Keeping in mind the aim of making art accessible, The Lightbox has exhibitions where people can touch the sculptures. In 2019 they collaborated with James Russell with 130 works loaned to the Ferens Gallery in Hull, in an exhibition entitled 'Reflection' considering 'Can art help with the national identity crisis in the time of Brexit?' In 2017 100 pieces were lent to the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, I found this article about the exhibition in Home And Garden magazine. Also the Jerwood Gallery is now called Hastings Contemporary.

Jo gave us a slide show to illustrate the variety of works in the collection, starting with one of the Meat Porter sculptures by Ralph Brown RA in the courtyard of the Royal Academy. It's great to see it on public display, because of its size, it would be hard to live with at home.

Highlights of works in the Ingram Collection include 'Lifts' by Cyril Power of the Grosvenor School, and below Sybil Andrews 'Windmill' a lino cut print
I think Jo described Edward Burra as one of the 'pockets of brilliance' in the collection, and this work below 'Ropes and Lorries' 1942-3 is often mentioned.
Chris Ingram is still acquiring works, but bought Burra years ago, apparently he says 'When others zig, I zag'
This painting above 'Sea and Rocks' is by Laura Knight. The biggest Laura Knight exhibition in over 50 years has opened recently at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, definitely one not to miss.
I loved this Nevinson 'La Corniche' painted in 1920 a depiction of a town on the Cote d'Azur
The 'Garden of Eden' by William Roberts above is a beautifully composed painting, had to be removed when it was first displayed. The stag in the background is wonderful. There are 18 works by William Roberts in the Ingram Collection and more works on paper.

The last piece I have included is 'Seated Woman' by Henry Moore 1947-9 and of it Chris Ingram says: 

''I bought this because I liked it, not because it was by Henry Moore. I’ve never been swayed by 'names' or who are considered important artists. I have always bought things I liked and this has always served me well."I feel that summarises a great approach to collecting, and it has really worked.

Thank you once again Jo Baring for introducing us to the Ingram Collection and some of the wonders therein.