Coun Peter Price, commenting about the 1858 set of Sheffield football rules, said: “If this were a sculpture, an ancient artefact or a work of art, there’d be a national campaign to keep it in the country.”
Sheffield politicians spent £200 million on sports facilities in 1991, burdening the city with a load of debts and starving the city of essential funds to benefit facilities such as the Central Library and, dare I say it, the Graves Art Gallery.
Since the inauguration of the Graves in 1935 it had a purchase grant for every decade until Margaret Thatcher squeezed the city’s budget.
As cost-cutting measures, galleries and museums were farmed out to a trust so the cultural facilities could be run on a shoestring. Until the 80s worthwhile and enterprising exhibitions by leading 20th century artists were held but as these shows became discontinued there has been an inevitable decline in visitors. The open exhibition held annually brought artists and visitors alike from afar.
Viewing this in a historical perspective, Mary Walton in her book, Sheffield - Its Story and its Achievements, remarks that Ruskin’s dream remains a dream. While the people of Ranmoor had wealth they were not particularly endowed with taste.
Sheffield’s benefactors did less for the city than the corresponding citizens of other places. This explains the lack of buildings of merit and chapel life did not help people counterbalance their own narrow scale of values.
In the 1960s people from the city had their eyes opened by what was happening elsewhere and referred to Sheffield as the ‘biggest village in the country’. But at least there was a sense of optimism then.
Hence, Coun Peter Price’s philistine views.
If people are interested in my own contribution to the city’s arts legacy - my grandfather was a silversmith in the city - I will be displaying six oil paintings at the Great Sheffield Art Show at the Octagon on July 8, 9 and 10.
Robert Machin, Gainsborough