Mummies, toads and sensitive geopolitics on Oxford Road
As you know Joshi, I have been very supportive of the Mill and the Post (and the Post have been very supportive of us).
However, as I have a Hong Kong Chinese mother, a Russian wife and run a debating society in Dnipro, you can imagine I have a different perspective on Lee Kai Hung's funding of this and other projects in Manchester - I'm thinking of the hundred thousand Hong Kong refugees from the NSLs, the Chinese government's tacit backing of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the increasing totalitarianism in China etc.
I think that the Mill, The Post and the Tribune are very, very good newspapers but there needs to be transparency regarding the relationship between a newspaper and its direct and indirect backers. Everyone knows that your previous paper, The Standard, is owned by Lebedev but little has been written about Hamish McKenzie's, Substack's co-founder's, connection with Elon Musk. (Substack recently paid £100,000 to the Mill and Post)
Accountability and trasparency are really important here, particularly if the Mill is going to play an increasing role in Manchester's local politics.
I've written a (Substack) article on the issue, and in relation to another Substack
writer, Matt Taibbi, which can be read here:
The Mill and Post have done numerous really important articles on sources of financial backing, I remember a great one by Jack on Everton recently - re Moshiri and Usmanov. So, in the spirit of this, I was wondering if you would do an interview (the Radio interviews were not really very incisive) with The Critical Friend re the above issues? I would be so grateful if you would consider this because I feel that the Mill and Post have so much to offer Liverpool and Machester, but I sense that it they need to be projects built on a foundation of openess, transparency and accountability
I agree that museums here in the UK are going through many changes, cultural,financial and post pandemic. Manchester Museum was the place that honed my interests in my youth ( OK then ,probably the Egyptian mummies) but i drank it all in.
Museums are still very important to me and my family. My daughter is a curator in one and loves her career.
My closest museum is also going through changes ,Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is closed at present and in the middle of building works and reinterpretation no doubt.
I love Museums .
Super stuff, and very interesting and informative. Need to take my granddaughter who will love it, so thanks for such a great article
Excellent piece. Can’t wait to go
Compelling reading, and as if I wasn’t salivating already at the thought of visiting, this article has made me check just how soon I can get there!
As public-facing attractions, Museums seem to me always to be wearing something of a false smile. The last remodelling at Manchester Museum, completed in 2005, positioned a new entrance on Coupland Street, creating a square at the rear of the Waterhouse extension. That square necessitated the removal of several mature trees, & drew the public past the world renowned laboratory where Ernest Rutherford virtually invented Nuclear Physics. That square is no more. A large two story box now sits on it, housing the museum’s two new galleries (for temporary displays, & the new South Asia Gallery). It is completely blank, but for (rather pleasing) green ceramic-tile cladding. It offers nothing to historic Coupland Street.
The new Museum entrance is on Oxford Road. The necessary access ramp doesn’t do the Waterhouse building any favours, a takes visitors into a shallow corridor that opens into the museum shop. It all feels oddly compromised. This is the building’s fourth attempt at a working entrance I’m aware of. I suspect the next refurbishment (give it a dozen years) will see a fifth entrance configuration on Bridgeford Street, opening the museum out onto University Green.
The South Asia Gallery (created in collaboration with the British Museum) is a timely & polite act of inclusion (though if I had spent my life as a Rickshaw Wala in Kolkata I’m not sure I would be sharing visitor enthusiasm for the central exhibit). At least the Manchester Museum is not guilty of the cultural snub Manchester Art Gallery manages to achieve, where the 2002 extension literally turns its back on Chinatown, & offers its neighbours the tradesman’s entrance.
Manchester Museum’s latest refurbishment has been complicated by the pandemic. It has taken architect Purcell a long time to spend £15m. It isn’t a lot of money in the present climate, & when compared with the £210m spree on Factory International, or the £325m budget that Purcell is currently working with at Manchester Town Hall. The same architect is also busy on London Road Fire Station. Compared with these large scale big budget schemes, Manchester Museum is slight. Joining the crowds yesterday the circulation felt incoherent.
Still the best detail in the modern scheme, & the best detailed piece of design, is the double-height fully glazed bridge that links two floors of two halves of the Waterhouse building, across the opening to Coupland Street. That was achieved in 2003 by Ian Simpson Architects (now SimpsonHaugh), their project architect Charlie MacKeith, & then museum director Tristram Besterman.
I’m not sure the new developments do much to enhance Manchester Museum as a research facility, though I warmly applaud efforts to include an altogether wider visitor demographic. I’m hopeful that the next reconfiguration will open the somewhat patchwork buildings out onto University Green: & that this happens whilst I’m still around to see it.
Looking forward to going, but very aware of the Chinese influence re finance.