Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Kent County Council, The Turner Contemporary, Kent County Councillors and the election.

On the whole I don’t do stuff about the county council or county councillors, I guess mainly because I don’t know much about it, here in Ramsgate I don’t see much evidence of the county council doing any more than the bare minimum, they could get away with.

I also get the feeling that the county council has mostly councillors from West Kent in the powerful positions and I have a perception that the council is focussed there. I have tried putting a few issues to the county council and to county councillors before without much result.

Mostly this has been to do with the state of the drains, road and pavement in the part of Ramsgate where I trade. The roads and pavements have been replaced several times in the 25 years I have been here and I have tried to persuade them that if they are going to spend the money anyway it would be a good idea to change the layout which relates to when this was the main through road in Ramsgate and not the one way street that only leads to a car park that it is now. 

Anyway with the county elections coming I reckon I have some responsibility to blog readers to try and find something about the names we will find on the ballot papers.

The one bit of extra that I am aware of that KCC fund in Thanet is the Turner contemporary, so I have started by emailing all of the KCC Councillors representing Thanet.

I was surprised at my ignorance here, so a few questions for blog readers.

1 Do you now how many KCC Councillors represent Thanet?

2 Can you name any of them?

3 Do you know what the political balance is both among Thanet KCC councillors and in the whole of KCC?

4 Do you know how many of the KCC councillors are also TDC councillors?

5 Do you know how much they get paid for being a councillor?

6 Do you know if any of the KCC Councillors representing Thanet hold positions of responsibility within KCC?

I could name 2 reliably plus some vague ideas and had no idea about the answers to the rest.

Anyway here is the email I sent today, to all of the KCC Councillors representing Thanet, I will publish any responses I get tomorrow.     

I am writing to you as a KCC Thanet KCC councillor about the current exhibitions at The Turner Contemporary, these are the first floor exhibitions of JWM Turner, Carl Andre and Rosa Barba running concurrently at the moment.

Please note that this isn’t an overt criticism of modern or contemporary art or the content of the three exhibitions but is a criticism of the way the exhibits are displayed managed and maintained.

I have visited this exhibition on four occasions now, Sunday February 3rd Sunday February 10th Thursday February 28th and Thursday 7th March and have become increasingly concerned about the way it must be impacting on visitors to Thanet.

When I first visited Sunday February 3rd I believe all of the exhibits were working properly however the Rosa Barba exhibition is very noisy and there are no doors separating it from JWM Turner and Carl Andre exhibitions, both of which need some degree of tranquillity to be properly appreciated, I was disappointed about the way the exhibition was presented because of the intrusive impact of  the noise from this exhibition on the other two.

I discussed this with the gallery attendants who said that reducing the volume had been discussed by the gallery staff and would probably occur, so I returned on Sunday February 10th and although the volume had been reduced it was still intrusive, but I considered much less so and so I decided not to pursue the issue.

However two of the exhibits in the Rosa Barba exhibition had broken down and as they were out of order I felt I hadn’t managed to see the three combined exhibits at their best so I decided to return again.

This I did on Thursday February 28th only to discover that two of the exhibits were out of order, one that which was broken on my previous visit and a different one, I put this down to being an unfortunate coincidence and decided to come back again.      

This I did on Thursday 7th March only to discover that once again two of the exhibits were out of order, one that was the one broken on my previous visits and a different, different one.

So as you see despite visiting this exhibition on four occasions I am yet to see it at its best and am becoming increasingly concerned that visitors to Thanet who have come mainly because of the gallery are having the same unsatisfactory experience.

Obviously as The Turner Contemporary running costs are heavily funded by KCC I see Thanet’s KCC councillors as having some potential for resolving issues there.

You may be aware that I write a local blog and having mentioned these issues there and the county council elections, particularly in terms of the way councillors and potential councillors handle or intend to handle local issues related to KCC.  

So it is my intention to send a series of open letters to Thanet’s KCC councillors and any potential candidates I can contact, asking them what approach they would have to various KCC related issues.

This letter is intended for publication along with any replies. To help with this I will now list a series of specific questions, you may wish to reply to these or to send a more general reply.

1 do you consider this to be a KCC issue?

2 do you consider the gallery to be a key player in the local economy?

3 would you see ensuring its proper running as part of your remit as a councillor?

4 would you see the extent of your remit to request and pass on to me officer advice?

5 would you see your remit to actively pursue the issue and ensure its proper resolution?

6 do you see it as part of your remit as a councillor to keep an eye on KCC funded activities in Thanet?

7 have you visited this exhibition?    

Best regards Michael. 


  1. I find myself in the unhappy position of not knowing the answers to any of your questions but I assume google would provide me the details should I be minded to look

  2. 1. do you consider this to be a KCC issue? Michael I think that problems with the exhibition are the responsibility of the Turner Contemporary management team. I will be writing to the Director Victoria Pomeroy about your concerns

    2 do you consider the gallery to be a key player in the local economy? Definitely. I used to work in Margate Old Town and saw at first hand the difference the Turner has made by increasing the number of visitors who are spending money in the Old Town. Add Dreamland to this and things will really begin to take off.

    3 would you see ensuring its proper running as part of your remit as a councillor? Yes if am elected to KCC I will meet with the Turner managers on a regular basis

    4 would you see the extent of your remit to request and pass on to me officer advice? Yes. If you raise issues about the Turner I will contact the the managers and pass on to you their advice

    5 would you see your remit to actively pursue the issue and ensure its proper resolution? Yes

    6 do you see it as part of your remit as a councillor to keep an eye on KCC funded activities in Thanet? Yes if elected it will be an important part of my duties to keep an eye on all KCC funded activities in Thanet. I will of course have conflict of interests with regard to my employment in a KCC funded charity but will declare this and act accordingly

    7 have you visited this exhibition? No I have not visited this exhibition but I did visit the Tracey Emin exhibition

    1. That was quick Ian I have only just finished the fight with “Electoral Division” maps having mistakenly assumed county had wards, and then extrapolated what I hope are all of the Thanet KCC councillors email addresses.

      How I find email addresses for the other candidates who are not already councillors god alone knows and with you being a atheist I think, I guess that excludes help from you.

  3. Michael,

    Maybe one of your questions should be....as a kcc member would you respect the wishes of the council in relation to the confidentiality of pink papers?

    1. Or would you respect the wishes of the people who voted for you, and let them know exactly what's going on?

    2. Well you vote for the clown, chummy, and leave the rest of us to support an honest candidate who sticks with the banner under which he cammpaigns. This guy has a record of switching and ditching parties to suit his own convenience.

    3. Annon 12:39 Which honest did you mean? The Oxford English Dictionary or the Thanet version?

    4. Honest in so far as if they stand as Labour then they remain Labour or, if they don't, at least have the courage to stand for re-election as themselves or such other party they then represent. Honest like you don't claim you have exposed secret papers that were already in the public domain. Honest like you represent the people in the ward where you were elected and do not go chasing around the county looking for any high profile band wagon to jump on. Honest like you don't suddenly, for electoral convenience, decide double hatters are wrong when you have been one yourself until this sudden heart change yet still retain both offices.

  4. Or how would we know you wouldn't join a political party as soon as you are elected?

  5. Perhaps you could ask the candidates, if you changed your allegance after being elected, would you have the courage of your convictions, resign your seat, and fight a by election, representing your TRUE position, or would you dishonestly cling to your seat, won by deception, for as long as possible?

  6. One way to make sure that the exhibits all worked would be to charge an entrance fee. Nobody would pay to see broken exhibits - unless of course you could pretend that they were works of art in this state.

    1. That way the attendance figures couldn't be manipulated, as people won't pay just to use the loos or admire the views either.

    2. They might given the state of Thanet's public conveniences.

  7. Michael you do not seem to have trouble getting in touch with our councilors with Emails and they all read your blog site.I have Emailed thre local councilors on two Email addresses each and have never received an answer is there some secret code or am I being blocked?.

    1. You probably just sent them to the wrong galaxy, Stargazer. If you come down to Earth you might find it relatively easy.

  8. Dear Michael

    I have been concerned about the disappointing break down in some of the exhibits in the Rosa Barba exhibition, which I think is fantastic, but someone told me that the exhibits are quite old and there is a real difficulty in keeping them going. I suppose this is always going to be the case for older kinetic works in galleries. Some of the specific problems of preservation, as opposed to the well-established problems of preservation and conservation in relation to more traditional art media, are only becoming evident as time goes by. I haven't spoken to the gallery themselves though and I'd be interested to know their views. I don't think this is a KCC matter. I'm fairly sure that this is not a simple question of 'broken-ness' as in toilets or facilities. On another note, we loved the Rosa Barba visual/sound installation. We excitedly told people about it, especially commenting on the way in which the soundtrack/soundscape (whatever it's proper name is!) and the film worked together. We were subsequently told by friends, who had been disappointed at how quiet it was, that gallery staff had turned it down because people had complained! Much discussion then about how the artist's original intentions had been compromised, visitor experience of the work spoilt etc. I only say this because it shows how hard it is for any gallery to get it right. Seems like they are always doomed to upset somebody or other. I must say though that having an international gallery of this quality, with the range of changing exhibitions, the diversity of art and artists, on my doorstep has really enriched life in Thanet and is a huge draw for all visiting family and friends. Personally, I love being able to revisit exhibitions time and again, lingering or just popping in quickly and I feel my limited knowledge of contemporary art has been vastly expanded thanks to the real effort they make in explaining and making works accessible.


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