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£25,000 grant for Torfaen Museum

A MUSEUM is set to receive a £25,000 cash injection to help it make changes intended to ensure its future including attracting more visitors.

Torfaen Museum, which is based in the former stable block at Pontypool Park House, received a core funding grant of £50,000 for the current 2023/24 financial year from Torfaen County Borough Council, but has requested the additional sum to help it make a number of changes including boosting the number of hours its curator can work and improving its displays.

As well as approving the museum’s request for the additional funding, the council is also set to use the same amount from its economy and environment service reserves to commission an independent review of the future funding requirement of all five cultural organisations and venues it supports.

The council cut the amount it provided the Torfaen Museum Trust from £70,025, in 2019, to £50,000 in 2022/23, and froze its funding at the same amount again this year.

But that has meant the charity has struggled to keep up with rising costs and inflation and make changes intended to improve its sustainability.

Open to general public for two days a week

Changes made since April have included reducing its opening days to twice a week, with the attraction only open to the general public between 10am to 4pm on Wednesdays and from 1pm to 4pm on Saturdays – but admission is now free in a bid to attract more casual visitors.

It is also intended to attract more bookings on Tuesdays and Thursdays from school groups and researchers and for the venue to be available for hire to boost income.

Staff will also use the reduced opening hours to hold more outreach events, across the borough, to raise awareness of the venue and there will also be a cost saving from reduced energy bills.

A report for Torfaen council’s cabinet member for the economy, Joanne Gauden, said the extra funding would allow the curator’s hours and wage to be increased from 32 hours a week to 37 to better reflect their workload and provide adequate hours to complete all tasks, while the assistant curator’s hours would increase from 24 to 35. That would allow a full review of its collections to better understand what resource it has and how they can be displayed.

Other changes will include rewriting and the design of text panels, including Welsh translation to improve the visitor experience in line with the trust’s already-agreed plan and recommendations of a consultant’s report, and the development of a Torfaen County interactive map.

That would be housed within a new Torfaen gallery which will also feature a ‘People of Torfaen’ panel, with the intention of helping visitors understand the borough and boosting a “sense of belonging” among locals.

It is also intended to hold more outdoor events within the museum’s courtyard, including an LGBTQ+ Pride event and potentially world food markets to attract those who haven’t previously visited. Other initiatives include boosting the number of volunteers and hosting events such as play sessions and becoming a warm hub.

The report said if the museum was able to use the funding and other changes at the museum trust including the recent appointment of a new treasurer to increase opening hours in 2024, it may ask the council to increase its core funding. Changes to the council’s funding agreement could also be agreed as a result of the additional financial support.

The other organisations supported to provide cultural services in Torfaen are Cwmbran’s Congress Theatre, Blaenavon Workmen’s Hall Board, Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre and Blaenavon Heritage Group.

The council says a review will help its decision making around the requirement and future financial and other support for them as well as the best form of legal agreements with each group and what they should be expected to provide in return. Any recommendations will be made in advance of the 2024/25 budget setting process.

The additional funding for Torfaen Museum and the use of reserves to commission a review was set to be approved by Cllr Gauden in a decision taken on Monday, July 17.

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£25,000 grant for Torfaen Museum