Gone to pots: Protest against Riesco sell-off gathers pace

One of the pieces from the priceless Riesco Collection

One of the pieces from the priceless Riesco Collection

In just two days, 100 people, all angered by the council’s secret plans to flog off the Riesco Collection, have signed a petition to protest this latest piece of cultural vandalism in Croydon.

Inside Croydon last week exposed the deceit and secrecy of Croydon Council’s move to sell 25 pieces from the priceless collection, which was left “in trust for the people of Croydon” by Raymond Riesco more than 40 years ago. Croydon Council now wants to break that trust.

Read the report that broke the news here.

Croydon says that it will discuss the sale at a council meeting next month; the true intentions to sneak the sale through without any debate is betrayed, though, because the items have already been removed from the Town Hall and lodged with auction house Sotheby’s.

The council’s lame excuses include that some of the items being put up for sale have not been on public display (highlighting another failing of our council: why has it not displayed the collection properly? They received generous public grants to enable them to do so after all) and that they cannot afford the insurance premiums (poor budgeting again?). They claim that they have the approval of the Riesco family, tough it is legally questionable whether this is enough to over-rule the strict terms of the bequest.

The sale is being done to raise an estimated £13 million because the council has committed to funding the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, and has somewhat late in the day realised it might not have the cash to do so.

Those who have already signed the petition to call for a halt to the sale have left comments, including:

“These belong to the people of Croydon, not the council.”

“The proposed sale is an act of desperation prompted by a bankrupt local authority in a fit of panic. This collection will have a value long after this shabby administration is gone and rightly forgotten.”

“This is part of the whole community’s heritage; it is not for a few councillors, at this point in time, to decide to let it go.”

“I have enjoyed the collection along with my children and grandchildren. They must not be sold off. If they can sell 20 odd pieces, they will not stop. They have already lost the Warehouse Theatre in favour of the Fairfield Halls. I believe they have already spent/committed £25 million to the Fairfield Halls, when a small fraction of that would have saved the Warehouse Theatre. They closed the David Lean Cinema. When are they going to be satisfied?”

“Councils must not sell off assets which are a benefit to all the residents, to make a quick profit. Why don’t they reduce the salaries of their senior management as a cost-cutting measure instead?”

“Your role is to make Croydon a better place. People need to see and be inspired by beautiful things. Life should be culturally rich, not short-sighted, self-serving and ignorant.”

“It goes against everything in the museum code of ethics and against the spirit of the bequest. Croydon Council have done everything they can to remove culture from the borough and they shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Anyone who considers Fairfield Halls as ‘culture’ clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Stop Dudley Mead and don’t let him set a bad precedent to other local authorities.”

  • Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source that is actually based in the heart of the borough – 267,670 page views Nov 2012-Apr 2013
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Gone to pots: Protest against Riesco sell-off gathers pace

  1. mraemiller says:

    If the Conservative government really wants to sort out spending gaps by flogging off art “the public doesn’t see because it cant afford to display it”, why doesn’t Cameron flog off the Government Art Collection that’s only gawped at by foreign dignatories and civil servants?

    Isn’t that the art that’s really elitist? Doesn’t charity start at home?

    Alternatively if the government wants to plug spending cuts by flogging off art perhaps it would do better to raid a bigger museum like the V&A or the British Museum, who also do not display their entire collection at one time? I’m sure it would find much richer pickings.

    The insurance argument is a red herring. You can always under-insure things. Many of the items are, after all, priceless, so whatever the council got back for their theft or destruction would never really “replace” them. Many museums and galleries dont fully insure their property up to the level its actually worth.

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