Museums and galleries may become more commercial to keep them open.

Plans have been proposed to generate more income from Kirklees Council’s arts and heritage with ideas ranging from conscience charging for entry, selling prints of top artwork and holding more weddings at the venues.

Ruth Redfern, Kirklees director for communities, says they must be “brave, bold in taking risks, be quirky and be allowed to try and fail.”

She ruled out selling artefacts, saying the council should instead put more of them on show.

“I believe we have a duty to protect our arts and heritage for the future,” she said. “If you destroy your heritage you can never get it back. I think lots of local authorities will pay the price for that and I want us to be different.

“Much of our collection is not hugely valuable, but it is important. I don’t want the collections to be dependent on buildings, but for them to be on display.

“We’re asking for enthusiasm to do things differently. Give us space to fail and when we do we’ll learn.

Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery.
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery.
 

“I don’t want to say ‘we’ll be left with two or three museums and galleries if we don’t change’ because people will want the names of them. I want to be able to be transformational in how we operate.”

Ideas already implemented has seen income boosted from £160,000 to £200,000. The £265,000 target for this year is on track to be met.

Prints of the Kirklees-owned Lowry pieces are being sold at Huddersfield Art Gallery with sales of 1,000 adding to the pot and they are licensing other iconic pieces to sell as prints and on merchandise.

Scene of Huddersfield by L S Lowry
Scene of Huddersfield by L S Lowry
 

Other ideas being explored include attracting more school groups to venues, renting or loaning Kirklees’ collection and putting more on display in communities and in the private sector.

Assistant Director Kimiyo Rickett added: “Conscience charging is something done at many museums and galleries in Britain with much success. We are using that as a starting point, so it will generate some income without putting off the people who want to visit but don’t want to pay.”

During the cross-party councillors debate, all agreed that a West Yorkshire-wide focus on tourism to promote museums and galleries was the best way forward than Kirklees acting alone.

Clr Andrew Cooper, Newsome Green, suggested potential small weddings at the Victoria Tower on Castle Hill and the idea of a Bronte trail.

 

Clr Nicola Turner, Colne Valley Lib Dem, urged them to tap into potential linked visits from the Peak District.

Clr Peter McBride, Dalton Labour, said they should work with Leeds and Wakefield, who own Lowry pieces, and show them together and create a book of all prints for sale. He also said they should look at Greater Manchester where one web page promotes what’s on offer at theatres across the district.

Clr Andrew Palfreeman, Birstall and Birkenshaw Conservative, said the popular attractions such as Oakwell Hall need to open on Bank Holidays.

Clr David Sheard, council leader, said of using the venues for weddings: “Guests at a wedding at Red House will appreciate it a lot more than people quickly passing through.

“I think we’ve got to accept that mixed uses are a way forward.”

Mrs Redfern noted the ideas and was given the backing of the Policy Committee to progress them with museums and galleries staff.