Communities Mobilise: To try and reverse effects of Budget Cuts

8.16news - 08:2011 Edition

Pumphouse interior
The Pumphouse – Photo credit: Michael A Reardon & ewmages for bottom middle two.

The Pumphouse

Pumphouse PlaqueAnother victim of the cuts is the award-winning Pumphouse Educational Centre in Rotherhithe which closed ironically on the day it unveiled a Southwark Blue Plaque from the council, which was voted for by the public, recognising “outstanding services to schools, older and young people from 1989”.

This was to the fact that on the 16th of March 2011, the trustees of the Pumphouse Educational Trust were told that the Pumphouse was going to lose all of the funding that came from Southwark Council.

Caroline Marais, manager – and sole salaried member of staff – said “The Pumphouse was expecting cuts of 28 per cent but Southwark Council decided to slash the grant entirely.”

Without this ‘Core’ funding, the Pumphouse would not be able to pay the manager who happens to be a qualified teacher and fundraiser.  The core fund also pays for the lighting, heating and other utilities.

The Pumphouse Educational Centre was established in 1989 in the derelict Pumphouse from the docks situated in the Lavender Pond Nature Reserve. It was made available by the London Docklands Development Corporation to the community for educational purposes and to house the Rotherhithe Heritage Museum.

It was handed over to Southwark Council.  Then the building was refurbished, a fully equipped classroom and a library were added. Then the Reminiscence Museum was assembled and later the Peek Frean’s Biscuit Factory and F. A. Albin Funeral Directors Exhibition were added.

From these beginnings, the Pumphouse Educational Centre as it is known today, has developed into a vibrant centre to which over 5,000 children a year from schools in Southwark come for lessons in local history, local geography and natural history using the equipment in the centre and the Lavender Pond environment, including the pond and the wildlife that inhabits it.

Groups from care homes with Dementia related conditions such as Alzheimer’s come to benefit from the Reminiscence Experience.  Additionally grant funding is obtained from other trusts or sources to finance specific educational projects like the family Pre-School Eco Club, Family Environmental clubs, Young Archaeologists Club and had a Peek Frean’s Ex-employee club which was held once a month in 2002.

With Southwark Council blaming the decision on the cuts in funding from central government which are forcing it to make savings – Cabinet member Cllr Barrie Hargrove said: “It was extremely important that the remaining grants represented the best possible value for money for taxpayers, and it was felt that the Pumphouse Museum did not provide as good value for money as the other projects whose funding has been sustained.”

Yet the Pumphouse has received a civic award for its services and the value that the community places on these services was demonstrated by the popularly voted Southwark Blue Plaque the Centre received.

The Pumphouse previously considered by the council as an education service is now under the auspices of ecology. Caroline disputes the claim the venues do not offer good value.

Though Arts bodies give money to museums for exhibitions or education, none provide core funding, to maintain the building or pay the electricity bill.

Many who have heard of the plight of the Pumphouse have been very vocal in their protestation and offer to help in any way they can.

For this reason, a “Friends of the Pumphouse” organisation is being set up to help in saving the Pumphouse being closed down, the more members that join the stronger the group can be.

If anyone would like to join Friends of the Pumphouse then they can email their name and email address to michael.a.reardon@hotmail.co.uk and they will be added to the members list free of charge.

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