Thursday, 24 July 2014

Today Arts Council England decide on Accreditation for Northampton Museum

So Sekhemka has disappeared, possibly forever, into an unaccountable private collection has come within days of a meeting of where Arts Council England will discuss removing Northampton Council's Accreditation as an ethically run Museum.

This news makes it all the more important that Arts Council England (ACE) and the Museums Association demonstrate the consequences of such unethical and damaging actions as selling publicly owned museum objects for short term profit, and punish Northampton Council by removing their Accredited status. 

This will hurt and humiliate our Town in the short term, but at least it will serve as a warning to others who would try to cash in on the museum collections we hold in trust for the future.  It might also prevent the Cllr Mackintosh and his Ruling Group from taking any more Government, Lottery and Charity grants under the false pretenses that they are professionally and ethically equipped to care for our culture and heritage.

Both keeping and losing accreditation are two terrible outcomes of this whole episode - the damage was already done when Sekhemka was sold.

A decision is expected from ACE within the next two weeks. The Museums Association will make a decision in September 2014.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Spinning Sekhemka

 
No amount of political spinning, or dazzling the press and public with the number of zero's at the end of the auction price, can hide the fact that last night's sale of Sekhemka in Christie's was an entirely avoidable, counter productive, day of shame for Northampton.  A shame compounded by the fact that the decision of one man, taken against all professional advice locally, nationally and internationally has led the world and the people of Egypt in particular, to see Britain as a place which sees Egypt's rich and historic culture as a chip to be bet on and cashed in, not a jewel of human creativity to be shared and cherished.

  • We will continue to oppose the turning of Sekhemka into a commodity to be sold on the rich persons equivalent of E-bay, therefore we will oppose the export of the statue from the UK if that is what transpires, whoever the new owner of Sekhemka is.  Particularly if that owner is a private individual who will not put Sekhemka on free public display.  If Sekhemka is not to stay on open display in the UK his only legitimate destination is a public museum in Egypt. 

  • We will also continue to expose the way this unethical, unnecessary and short sighted sale was undertaken, the many legal and financial questions which surround the sale and the conduct in public office of those whose mission it became to rob Northampton of both a cultural jewel and its cultural credibility.  We hope the local and national Media will join us in that quest for information and answers.
  • We hope the media will also ask Cllr Mackintosh why he insisted on undermining confidence in the Conservative party's core policy in Arts and Culture, promoting philanthropy and donation.  As Alan Moore has pointed out, thanks to the sale of Sekhemka, no-one would dream of donating something valuable to a public museum if at some stage it can be taken away and flogged off to the highest bidder in a commercial fire sale


However, we are where we are and we must respond to the fact that Sekhemka was sold at Christie's for £15,762,500.

Cllr Mackintosh and Northampton Borough Council announced last night that "...it will retain around £8million (55 per cent of the proceeds), while the remainder will be remitted to Lord Northampton (around £6million)."

  • What the Council statement did not say was that the auction costs [around 15%] and taxes will be deducted from that figure, and we might also add the over £40,000 of council Tax payers money spent on legal advice to facilitate the sale.  Thus the Council Tax payers of Northampton could see scarcely half of the headline figure spent in the Town, ring fenced or not.


  • Equally, while the statement was open about the fact that the Marquis of Northampton will be receiving a windfall of over £5 million, the statement did not enlighten the Council Tax payers of Northampton why, when NBC allegedly "owned" Sekhemka, they will be adding to the fortune of the multimillionaire Marquis and paying for it by becoming pariahs in the museum and heritage world.  Like the Museums Association, we believe that the ownership of Sekhemka was never legally resolved and we will be consulting with colleagues to see if an investigation can be mounted into whether Councillor Mackintosh and Northampton Borough Council misled the public, the media and Christie's by saying they did own the statue.

In the statement Cllr Mackintosh has also attempted to spin his way out of the almost universal condemnation his actions have caused to be dumped on Northampton's name and in particular the likelihood that Northampton will lose its Museums Association accreditation, along with the credibility in museum matters which it has already lost.
His statement says

"Work has already begun on drawing up detailed plans for the [museum]  extension, which will underpin the growth of Northampton’s Cultural Quarter. The Borough Council is in the process of developing a funding package to take the extension forward, including putting together a bid for support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Council is also continuing to talk to the Arts Council about museum accreditation."
  • We are sure it does.  Councillor Mackintosh was explicitly warned by Arts Council England and the Museums Association Ethics Committee that Museums Association accreditation was in severe danger were Sekhemka to be sold and with it access to many significant funding streams to supply the £7-8 million which will still be required to build the still hypothetical museum extension, even with Sekhemka's cultural equivalent of  blood money.

Cllr Mackintosh also said: "This money will allow us to realise our exciting plans for the future of the Museum Service. Every penny is ring-fenced for the Museum Service and we will now make our museum redevelopment plans a reality."

  • We would point out that without the commitment to display the cream of all the collections and to hold a research archive curated by the  specialist curatorial staff and teachers who have been made redundant or not replaced, the Museum Service has no future.  Museums exist for their collections held in trust for the future and the expertise to display, describe and bring them to life for visitors and researchers. 

  • We would also point out there were no "Museum development plans" when Councillor Mackintosh first wanted to sell Sekhemka [such plans were first mentioned when it became clear that the original plan to allegedly give the money to the Delapre Abbey Trust was a non starter as far as the Museums Association Ethics Committee was concerned.  There still are no such detailed, costed, plans.  Unless you count a cafe and shoe shop with a small gallery space.
Today's spinning is not just political.  It might just be the shade of Sekhemka spinning in his grave, although he might be heartened to know that thousands of people all over the world wanted to treat his beautiful artistic, archaeological legacy with the respect it deserves and demands under national and international ethical codes, and not have him hawked around and flogged off as the bauble to adorn a rich individual or institution.
The only way for Northampton to begin to climb out of the reputational mire into which it has been dropped by Councillor Mackintosh's sale of Sekhemka, is for the Museum Service to be handed back to the professionals who know how to run it ethically and for the good of the Town.  Otherwise we fear that this is the future of our Museums Service

Q:  What do you say to a Northampton Egyptologist?

A:  Two Cappuccino's and a Skinny Latte please




Media Contact  

For further comments, additional material including documents or images or to request interviews with members of the Save Our Sekhemka Action Group team please contact

Andy Brockman 
72 Nithdale Road
LONDON SE18 3PD
 
Telephone:               0208 316 6358                        
Mobile                      07958 543518                              

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sekhemka sells for £14m

Obviously we are heartbroken at what Cllr Mackintosh has caused to happen at Christie's tonight.

We hope you will understand this is a complex issue and we need to take some time to look at the details of the auction. 

We will be issuing a full statement and offering interviews tomorrow (Friday)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Just 24 Hours to Go - Several things you can do

Dear Friends,

There are just twenty four hours left to prevent the "unethical sale" of the statue of Sekhemka at Christie's and the only way we can do that is to help the Egyptian Government's legal moves to prevent the sale of Sekhemka with a show of people power.

The Cabinet of Northampton Borough Council meets tonight to discuss the conservation of the Battlefield of Northampton.  They are only doing this because local people worked together to prevent Council Leader David Mackintosh driving through a plan against all advice to bulid on the site.  Now we need to show Cllr Mackintoish that he has another losing battle on his hands over the "unethical" sale of Sekhemka.

We are going to send this petition to every member of Northampton Council as well as Christies, the Marquis of Northampton and the Media but we need as many names on it as possible.  If you haven't already done so please ask everyone you know or who you can contact to sign and share the link on the Social Media.
  • Remember Councillor Mackintosh has not answered this key question-  if Northampton Borough Council really owns the statue, why are they giving the Marquis of Northampton 45% of the sale price-  that could be well over £2 million pounds?
     
  • And why are the Council paying this huge amount of money to the Marquis when they have already spent over £40,000  to facilitate the sale and are paying all the legal and auction costs?
 
What else can you do?

1.  E-mail the Egyptian Embassy in London and thank them for intervening to protect the culture we share.  Ask them to take out an injunction to stop the sale becaue the ownership of the statue is not clear.
 
2.  E-mail the Culture Minister, Sajid Javid, to say that this sale threatens his own policy of using charitable giving and donations to help supply Arts funding.  The famoous Graphic Novellist Alan Moore, who is from Northampton, has said that the Sekhemka sale is a "gross betrayal of trust"  which will make anyone thinking to donate to a museum think twice.
 
3.  E-mail the Foreign Office to say that the decision of Cllr Mackintosh to sell Sekhemka has provoked the Egyptian Government into taking legal action and is bringing Britain into disrepute all over the world as the story spreads.
 
4.  E-mail Councillor Mackintosh directly to ask him to halt the Sale before even more damage is done to his and Northampton's reputation.
 
5.  E-mail Christie's to tell them that by undertaking what the Museums Association, the Art Fund and Arts Council England all say is an unethical sale which should not take place, they are tarnishing their image all over the world and are in breach of their own mission statement about corporate responsibility which says "Christie’s strives to manage its people and practices responsibly, in order to leave a positive, enduring impact on our communities -- particularly in helping to preserve and promote the world’s collective cultural heritage. "

The sale of Sekhemka is unethical, unecessary and counter productive and no-one in politics or the museums world has defended it except Councillor Mackintosh.  The only person who will gain from the sale is the Marquis of Northampton, one of the richest men in Britain who will get over £2 million at no cost to himself.  Please take this last chance to help defend the culture we share.
 
Thanks

Monday, 7 July 2014

Egyptian Government in Late Legal Challenge

From: Ahram.org.eg
Full story: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/105605.aspx

"Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damati has denounced the sale of the statue and described the museum's actions as incompatible with the values and role of museums worldwide, which he said should "spread culture" and not try to simply earn money."

"He called on the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to stop the sale on the grounds that it goes against the council's ethics."

Please sign and share our petition https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-sale-of-sekhemka-by-northampton-council

Then read the full story here:

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/105605.aspx

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Three Days to go until #DayOfShame

Planned sale is at Christies, London on 10th July but there is still time to do something.

The current situation and petition to sign and share is here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-sale-of-sekhemka-by-northampton-council

Please also see the statement from Museum's Association on the detrimental impact on the future of the museum should the sale go ahead: http://www.museumsassociation.org/news/01072014-ma-urges-northampton-to-rethink-statue-sale#.U7SZk_ldWSo

Please contact your councillor and leader of the council, David Mackintosh directly to express your feelings on the sale. Details here: http://www.northamptonboroughcouncil.com/councillors/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share our tweets and posts so we can reach as many people as possible in the short time we have left to stop the sale.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Video showcasing Sekhemka goes online at Christies


A beautiful video, produced in terrible circumstances. If the sale goes ahead, it will be a sad and shameful day for Northampton.