Culture, heritage and unexpected endings in local government. Thanks Robin. (BTW no story next week as I'm off to Japan - another story in 2wks time.)
A Rainy Day - Robin Tuddenham
That sickening ping of an email. “Simon, see me in my office at 11am.” Short and sweet – or short and sour more like.
Simon had been museums manager at the council for seven years. He’d arrived with a suitcase full of ideas, determined to revitalise the service, but once immersed in the role had found a group of dedicated, knowledgeable people. They spent their days talking to visitors, enthused excited children with grizzly stories, spoke at care homes about the impact of the First World War. He realised that the passion and commitment to bring heritage to life was already there.
Hanging on for survival was a state of mind for his team. They were used to cuts and operating in a creaky building, even when the council had money to spend, but the whiff of anxiety was now all-consuming as everyone wondered when the final act would be announced. Simon walked into his boss’ office as the town hall clock chimed eleven. What came next took him a while to process.
“Thanks for coming in at short notice, Simon. I’ve been contacted by the managing director of the company doing the museum repairs. They’ve found a document beneath the floorboards. It contains information about a fund no one knew about. It states that £5 million has been left to redevelop the site by an American who visited when on holiday in the 1980s. He only went in to escape the rain, but the kindness shown by the staff clearly made a big impression.”
Simon’s head was spinning. He had heard rumours that the closure of the building was inevitable. He had walked into the room ready to face the music, but walked out holding a tatty, dusty document with a newly broken seal that he gripped tighter than anything he had ever held before.
One act of kindness on a rainy day over 30 years ago and Simon could rewrite the story for future generations of his town. He stumbled out of the town hall into the sunshine with a new script already forming.
Robin Tuddenham is Director of Communities and Business Change at Calderdale Council.