Sunday, April 06, 2008

Standing on the shoulders of giants

The new Head of Steam preserves the best of the old displays, with lots of new features.

Friday was an incredibly long day - the press launch of Head of Steam - Darlington Railway Museum, rounded off by a return trip to see a client on the west coast.

It started formally at 7.30am, with a live Radio Tees interview from Head of Steam, together with Mike Crawshaw, the Council's Head of Cultural Services. Mike and his team have done a near-superhuman job in getting the premises ready on time for the launch date, and staff were hard at work into the night all last week putting the final touches to the displays, and clearing up.

Then an interview for the BBC local news, as we began to meet and greet the guests. Amongst those coming were our partners without whom the work on Head of Steam couldn't have been completed - the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, MLA North East, the Railway Heritage Trust and the Northern Rock foundation.

Then onto the speeches - I spoke last, and tried to stress how fortunate we are that we have this facility in Darlington. Of course, that is down to the foresight of the Stockton and Darlington founders, and the architect of North Road station John Harris. They established Darlington as the birthplace of passenger rail. There was also a time in the 1960's, however, when North Road station was semi-derelict and the Bishop Auckland line was post-Beeching drifting to closure.

As Chris Lloyd pointed out in this week's excellent Echo Memories column, it was only the vision of local businessman Herbert Wolfe and the Borough Councillors of the time which saved the buidling in 1969. It became the Railway Museum in 1975. We owe them a great deal.

Time moves on, and the museum urgently needed a refit - not least because the roof was in a parlous state and threatened the whole project with closure once more. It's important that the museum appeals not just to the committed railway enthusiast, but people of all ages. Hence the new HoS is chock-full of things for children of all ages to do. The initial response from our partners at the launch was universally positive.


Anonymous said...

It is a disgrace the way this Authority has treated these wonderful people.

They have worked in the Museum for years,consciencious, friendly and delighted to have a job.

Myself, family and friends enjoyed visiting, foremost to meet the staff,always smiling and friendly.

I was talking to two of the Learning disabled employees only last night.

They are both utterly dejected.

It is akin to refurbishing the Town Hall and sacking all the staff.

You have certainly not heard the last of this. There is a VERY large National Organisation that will take this on as a landmark case. Who knows, possibly targetted picketing at the museum.

The Learning Disability community in Darlington has a very strong support network indeed, from local carers groups to National MENCAP support.

A society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable..enough said. Be warned Nick.This could be HUGH......I urge you to Think again

Darlington Councillor said...

I have deleted one post which mentioned 2 officers that was libellous, spiteful and (of course) cowardly, insofar as it was made anonymously. Typical of the person who left it there, I'd say.

As for the second comment - it is the case that people with learning disabilities were not employed at the old Railway Museum cafe, but rather were receiving training.

The Council continues to provide training for people with learning disbilities at Lowson Street, and there are ongoing discussions with seervice users and their families about how this can be developed.
There are no formal complaints as far as I'm concerned from anyone at the moment.

How the usual overblown talk of "landmark cases" is supposed to assist these discussion, lord only knows. Officers will continue to approach this issue in a constructive fashion.

Darlington Councillor said...

Just for information, the Council provides training opportunities at the following locations for people with a learning disability;

Grass Roots 18 people (5 attend also another service in employment/training)

Mayflower Court/ Rosemary Court 16people. (6 of whom also attend another service in employment/training).

Techworx 27 people. (5 of whom also attend another service in employment/training).

Nubeck Nursery 14 people. (4 of whom also attend another service).

These figures make the point that the Council is a strong and active supporter of providing training opportunities across the town.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Nick.

I am well aware of the Training opportunities that this council gives to people with Learning Disabilities,they are very important in their own way.

(Valuing People, White Paper, legal responsibility

Now answer me this.

How many people with a Learning Disability, in Darlington, who have been on one of these schemes are now in paid employment? I'm not talking about £10.00 per day!!!

How long does someone with a Learning Disability have to take part in "training opportunities", before this council, or, indeed a private company, offers them paid employment.

I'll answer it for you Nick.

Not one "Trainee" from Council run Training Schemes, to my knowledge has secured full time "proper" employment.

An appalling record, don't you think?

There again, as a politician, you will, of course answer with tons of rhetoric.

However,if it was your son, daughter, brother,sister,or friend, you, like me, would have a different view.

vis-a-vis "landmark case". To simply dismiss the above comment, is in my opinion a reputational risk that Darlington may well regret. You have been warned!!!

Rant over.......

Best wishes. Keep up the good work.

George Stephenson said...

It a disgrace, these people have as much right in society as anyone else, I am not 100% sure of the facts but do know this they worked there before and now dont that is FACT!,you can try to cover up this act of discrimination any way you want listing all the other training facilitys etc. but they were under the impression they were to return now apparently they are not. I personally hope DBC is put under the spotlight for this, surely it is disability discrimination if they were Muslim this would never in todays PC climate of been dared thought of let alone implemented. I hope Nick you are fortunate enough to have healthy children as I would hate mine ever to be ill or disabled with this "caring" council. by the way what is the entrance fee to the only charging railway museum in the country?