Palin blasts Graves closure plans as ‘city has a duty to keep its galleries open’

Michael Palin
Michael Palin
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MONTY Python legend Michael Palin, political grandee Roy Hattersley, and Sheffield-born author Simon Beckett have all joined the chorus of calls to save one of the city’s oldest art galleries.

Sheffield-born comedian, actor, writer and television presenter Michael Palin said the city had “a duty” to keep its galleries open, particularly in times of austerity, to bring “a little magic” into people’s lives.

City born and bred former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, said the Graves is an “essential part of Sheffield’s cultural life”.

And crime novelist Simon Beckett said closure of the Graves would be “a travesty”.

He said: “Once these things are gone they are gone for good and you can’t bring them back. Some things deserve to stay.”

Baron Hattersley told The Star: “Its closure would be a tragedy which would do immense damage to the city’s reputation.

“It was there, as a little boy, I first saw real painting. It would be a disgrace if the little Sheffield boys of the future were denied the same privilege and pleasure.”

The Star revealed on Wednesday Graves Art Gallery could be closed as part of Sheffield Council’s plans to make £84 million in savings over the next three years.

Museums Sheffield, which runs the gallery on Surrey Street above the Central Library, is facing a £328,000 cut in its £2.3 million annual council funding.

Speaking exclusively to The Star Michael Palin, who is currently writing a novel and is also about to film a new travel series in South America, revealed: “I always go into the Graves Art Gallery when I’m in Sheffield if I have time. The last time I went was about a year ago.

“I’m a very big supporter of galleries everywhere, particularly the Graves Art Gallery as it’s in my home city above the library.

“It’s all part of a place where people go to read and look at art - and those kinds of places are important.

“That is true particularly in times of cuts and austerity, and people need places like that where they can go and get a little magic into their lives and just be reminded of how people express themselves as painters, writers or whatever.”

Palin said he was unhappy about the closure proposal, adding: “I think there is nothing worse. It’s not as if Sheffield has got a huge number of galleries. It’s quite a distinguished gallery, it’s got a lot of paintings, but it’s not that - it’s the principle.

“Art is very important in people’s lives. I don’t think it’s elitist - art galleries certainly in London are packed all the time.

“I think every city has a duty to keep its galleries open.”

Palin is the latest in a line of celebrities who have voiced their displeasure at the idea the Graves may close.

Brit-award nominated Richard Hawley said: “It’s always the case in hard times - culture is the first area to be deemed unnecessary but the opposite is the actual case.”

City pop artist Pete McKee said he would be “mortified” if the gallery was to shut, adding: “If the Graves Art Gallery hadn’t existed I would never have been influenced to be an artist.”