‘Overwhelming’ response to museum rescue effort

A GROUP set up with the aim of taking over the running of Dewsbury Museum says it has been overwhelmed by the response from the community.

The building in Crow Nest Park closed late last year and since then the Friends of Dewsbury Park Mansion group has been in discussions with Kirklees Council over a community asset transfer.

The Friends group will submit its official expression of interest before Monday’s deadline, after which Kirklees will decide whether the plan is viable.

Co-chair of the group Jax Lovelock said: “Community support for this venture is overwhelming.

“Our ‘Merry Mansion’ event in December received support from around 40 local volunteers, with over 300 visitors, and many shared their ideas on how they would like the mansion to serve the community.

“We have over 850 newsletter subscriptions, almost 500 Facebook page Likes with a reach of over 37,000, not to mention the day-to-day support we receive from folk locally, from various organisations active in the park, and from our councillors.

“This is a strong endorsement of our efforts to secure the community asset transfer of the mansion and manage the building successfully for the benefit of the local community – just as intended when it was gifted to the people of Dewsbury by the Corporation back in 1893.”

There are fears that if the community group’s bid fails, the historic building could be sold to a private bidder.

Fellow co-chair of the group, Jenifer Devlin, said: “The building has been left in a state of disrepair and will need considerable refurbishment to make it fit for purpose.

“We have a very capable team applying for grants and funding and have already been successfully accepted by two schemes to get us started.

“It’s a daunting task because we need major grants to repair the building and an income to run it, for example by letting some space out as commercial offices or by organising income-generating events.

“We’ve visited other projects and researched more online, as a result of which we now have an outline plan to put to Kirklees Council.

“What we want is for the buildings in Crow Nest Park to be a resource for local people, where they can find activities which will help them to be happier, healthier, more creative, more knowledgeable and more empowered.

“We know these are the characteristics of a successful community and that’s our vision for Dewsbury.”

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