DH Lawrence centre closure is ‘devastating’ say campaigners

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Eastwood’s DH Lawrence Heritage Centre will close, it has been confirmed by Broxtowe Borough Council – with many describing the news as “devastating”.

The decision was taken during a behind-closed-doors section of a council cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

MP Gloria De Piero

MP Gloria De Piero

Anyone not a member of the cabinet was asked to leave when the controversial proposals were up for discussion.

And, despite mounting opposition to the centre’s closure, the cabinet members rubber-stamped the decision, which would save an estimated £110,000 a year.

The centre was launched in 1991 and was opened to celebrate the work of the world-renowned novelist.

However, with the council looking to cut costs, they have taken the decision to look at other “potential uses’”

In a statement, the council proposed a “consolidation of services at the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum to preserve Broxtowe’s connections with DH Lawrence and provide one high-quality visitor attraction”.

The council said this would entail “marketing the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre building for other potential uses and a further report will be brought back to cabinet with options”.

However, Gloria De Piero, Eastwood MP, said she was “devastated” by the decision to sever a link to a man who helped put Eastwood on the map.

She has been busy campaigning to have a statue of the Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley author built in the town, but says the closure of the centre is a bombshell for the area.

She said: “It’s so short-sighted and if they continue to press ahead with the plans it will be a hammer blow to Eastwood and the wider area – both in cultural and economic terms.

“I can’t believe they’ve chosen to ignore the hundreds of people who signed my petition opposing the plans, as well as widely respected members of the DH Lawrence Society who are, not surprisingly, up in arms about the decision.

“Those of us who love Lawrence and are proud of our heritage aren’t going to give up just yet and take this lying down until we’ve exhausted every avenue possible.”

She said she will be appealing to John Whittingdale, Culture Secretary, for assistance.

She also says she will approach the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to save what she described as “our biggest assets”.

Mrs De Piero said: “I’d be amazed if they were happy to see our area lose a building which has such strong links and does so much to promote the work of a true giant of the literary world.”

Malcolm Gray, chairman of the DH Lawrence Society, said: “We are disgusted and amazed, but not entirely surprised.

“It’s completely short-sighted, and in a sense, the attitude of some councillors seems to be of what is of value in terms of heritage and culture, can easily be cast aside.”

The centre is housed in Durban House on Mansfield Road, and was built for The Barber Walker mining company in 1896.

It was where Lawrence, as a child, would collect his father’s mining wages.

Councillor Richard Jackson, council leader, said: “The council needs to save more than £3 million over the next three years and we clearly have to make some difficult decisions to balance our budget.

“The council has already reduced its spending over the past few years by reducing spending on employees, sharing services, re-tendering contracts, re-designing services so they can be delivered online and raising money by becoming more commercially minded.

“However, we need to continue to look for new and improved ways of doing things to tackle the budget challenge and as far as we can, we will consult with people as we do this to find the best options for the community. The council has confirmed the centre will close on March 31 next year, and that options are being looked at to redeploy the staff members.

But while money may be the motivation behind the closure, there are others who say they would happily give up their time to ensure the centre continues.

David Brock, a local DH Lawrence fanatic and member of the society, said: “Perhaps there could be some means by which it could be run on a volunteer basis.

“I think they have struggled to make the place pay for itself, and it’s no surprising, it’s been threatened with closure previously, and we played a part to help keep it open.

“I can see something good coming out of this, but I suppose that depends on the attitude of the council.

“I would like to personally volunteer an in unpaid capacity to help keep it open.

“If they are going to make Eastwood the equivalent to what Shakespeare is to Stratford-Upon-Avon, then we can’t keep letting these places be sold off.

“I know the council is in a difficult position, so maybe there’s another way round it.”