Attempts to close the London Fire Brigade Museum

A few days ago I was approached on Twitter to sign a petition protesting against plans to close the London Fire Brigade Museum.

I demurred from the request mainly as the petition presented no independent evidence that such a plan exists. I rarely sign petitions anyway, but never unless an independent source of the claim being made is available.

There was an incident a few years ago when a petition protesting at plans to ban outdoor drinking in Westminster garnered tens of thousands of signatures, but it seemed that only a handful of people actually checked the facts – which were totally opposite to what was being claimed.

Anyway – the SE1 website has reported that the plans to close the museum are legitimate and will be discussed at a forthcoming meeting.

I am however still uncomfortable with signing the petition as presented though – as I fundamentally disagree with how the museum is run at the moment.

This is a really good museum – damn good actually.

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But it is too all intents, impossible for the average person to visit it! The place is only open Mon-Fri and only to pre-booked visitors, which is hardly welcoming to the average family.

Now, if the museum presented plans to change that – and open, for example Tue-Sat and drop the need for pre-booking, then I would be delighted to support the campaign.

The museum is currently £5 per adult to visit and that also gets a personalised guided tour.

Opening it on Saturdays (or all weekend!) and pulling in considerably larger numbers of visitors would make them less reliant on their current annual £81,000 taxpayer subsidy.

To wipe out the subsidy and avoid closure would need 310 visitors each Saturday at £5 per person – which does not sound that onerous for a venue that is just a few minutes walk from the tourist hub of Borough Market and Bankside.

In fact, I think they could easily get away with opening it up to visitors for a lesser fee (£3?) to just wander around and charge an additional £5 for the personal guided tour, which would probably bring in even more revenue.

Sadly, it seems that only two options are being considered – keep the museum as it is, or close it down.

How about a third option, open it at weekends and let the general public in at last.

That’s a petition I’ll happily sign.

If you want to sign the current petition though – here it is.

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6 Comments

  1. Kit Green

    This closure proposal has all the hallmarks of narrow accountancy. Does the current subsidy come from the fire service budget or from heritage and educational funding?

    1) This is not our core business so we don’t want to run it.
    2) Look at those premises, surely we can leverage some benefits from the site.

    The answer to both problems is to transfer the operation of the museum to another organisation, perhaps the Science Museum or The Museum of London.

  2. M@

    Any ideas why they don’t already open at weekends, though? It’s such an obvious idea that they must have thought long and hard about it.

    • IanVisits

      I have tried to ask them – but never got a reply to my email the past (a trait many museums share) so am very confused by it.

      Many other small museums seem to manage with a working week that includes weekends and closed on Mondays that the principle seems sound enough.

  3. Cynthia

    I completely I agree with you. I had never even heard of the museum until I visited during the Open Day. And I only knew about that thanks to your blog. If I may add that I am actually a London guide, that shows that their marketing leaves something to be desired. I also don’t understand why you can’t just come in the weekend and wander around, it’s perfectly suitable for it. I did ask about group visits, but even those can only happen on the fixed times that all general tours take place (I thought it could be interesting for foreign visitors, but they seem to cater mainly to school groups).

  4. Bryan Jones

    Tried to take my Dad, a retired fireman, but all the places where booked up for the couple of days he was down. I have only been round the engine bay when I was at Southwark Fire Station/Training School on a fire warden course. Never got to see the rest of the collection. They seem to have a big historical archive as well. If they open at weekends I’ll be there on the first Saturday with my kids.

    Come on – a museum full of fire engines with real fire kit to try on – how could they possibly not get hoards of children to come along to that? They have the content for a grade A London attraction.

    If the news story about the fire fighter training being outsourced turns out to happen then there might be a whole load more space on the museum’s Southwark site, hopefully for an expanded collection rather than a block of flats – or is that just my cynical head thinking out loud?

  5. Bryan Jones

    The words news story on the previous link are not highlighted but click on them to go to the training news story.
    http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/news/LatestNewsReleases_PR1620.asp

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