World-renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky backs campaign against St David’s Hall takeover
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
World-renowned philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky is among those who have recently come out in defence of St David’s Hall and some of Cardiff’s other cultural assets as the council looks to cut costs.
Prof Chomsky, who gave a talk at St David’s Hall in 2011, expressed sympathy for the campaign opposing a proposed takeover of the classical music venue’s operation by multimillion-pound events company Academy Music Group (AMG).
Cardiff Council said the move, along with a proposal to move the Museum of Cardiff out of its home at the Old Library on the Hayes and plans to change library opening hours, could save it a significant amount of money as it faces a £23.5m budget gap.
The latest round of support for the opposition campaign comes ahead of a march, planned to take place in the city centre on Saturday, February 18, in defiance of the council’s budget plans.
In a letter to campaigners, Prof Chomsky wrote: “I had the great privilege of speaking at St David’s Hall a decade ago, the kind of public space that is of great value for a live and functioning democratic community.
“It would be a great shame to see it lost to private hands.”
British classical music singer, Elizabeth Atherton, said the potential takeover of St David’s Hall was extremely concerning.
She added: “I would urge councillors to reconsider this ill-advised plan and start to listen to the communities that they are meant to represent before it is too late and St David’s Hall is lost to the people of Wales forever for the purpose for which it was intended.”
An offer by AMG to take on St David’s Hall via a long-term lease was approved in principle by Cardiff Council’s cabinet in December.
Once a draft contract is drawn up for the deal, the council will publish what is known as VEAT notice, which is used to publish a commercial intention to the wider market.
This allows competitors to come forward with a challenge to the proposal, which would lead to a procurement process.
A VEAT notice will normally stand for about 10 to 20 days.
If no challenge is presented once the VEAT period is up, a final report will be presented to the council’s cabinet for a decision. This is expected to take place in March.
Roath Local History Society recently called on the council to reconsider its proposal for the Museum of Cardiff.
As part of its budget consultation, the council proposed turning the museum into a mobile attraction.
In a letter to the leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, chairman of the society, Dr Gareth Brown, wrote: “We cannot see how this proposal would improve the profile and visibility of the museum for tourists.
“Indeed, it would be a rather shameful exercise to explain to visitors that the museum is not in the centre of Cardiff but is instead at a moveable location outside of the centre, potentially even inaccessible altogether for periods of the year.
“By closing the museum, Cardiff hinders its ability to promote its museums for
the purposes of tourism. This is in stark contrast to other cities, such as Liverpool, which use museums prominently to provide interesting experiences for visitors.”
Speaking when the budget consultation was launched in December, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for finance, performance and modernisation, Cllr Chris Weaver said: “Just as every household budget across Wales has been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis so too has every service the council provides.
“It means that everything we do, every service we offer now costs significantly more to deliver.”
Referencing the £23.5m budget gap, Cllr Weaver added: “This is still a huge amount of money to find, especially after cutting around a quarter of a billion from our budget over the past 10 years.”
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