I live in a city where the Industrial Revolution was born, about which Elizabeth Gaskell wrote her “state of England” novels Mary Barton and North and South. A city where Marx and Engels met in the library of Chethams, the oldest free public library in the world, and hammered out ways to change the world. A city where Rutherford split the atom and Turing invented the computer. A city where, in the 1830s, the world’s first passenger steam train ran.
I am proud of being a Mancunian and I’ve every right to be. In America even one of the achievements above would probably merit a major tourist attraction.
The station where that train ran is now part of the Museum of Science and Industry, a wonderful vibrant place where our scientific and industrial heritage is showcased. It is visited all year round by local school parties and families. It is a great place and if it had not been starved of funds it would be greater still.
And now it is threatened with closure, so that the Science Museum in London can stay open.
This is wrong. It is deeply wrong, and here are just a few reasons why:
Regional inequality, and the economic dominance of the South East, is making is an ever more divided nation. In the early days of Manchester’s greatness, Benjamin Disraeli spoke of English society, with its deep social divisions, rapid urbanisation and terrible poverty as “two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.”
That is a picture of our country that many would recognise today.
- Politicians wring their hands as they see far too few schoolchildren taking an enthusiastic interest in science and engineering and a lack of postgraduate and early career opportunities driving our best scientists abroad. How on earth can we aspire to encourage the next generation of scientists if they are ignorant of the achievements that shaped our modern world?
- MOSI, along with our other vibrant museums and attractions (we even have a museum of football!) give Manchester a cultural heritage second to none and bring many tourists, local, national and international, to our great city. We should be celebrating our past, not putting it in mothballs! There’s more to Manchester than the Stone Roses and Manchester United! And it only takes two hours to get here from London by train.
- Most important of all, if we go on closing down places like MOSI, we are further impoverishing the already very limited opportunities of low-income families to have a good day out. It may surprise rich Tories, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet the summer holidays are very long and even finding a few quid for a trip to the park and ice creams can be impossible, let alone a holiday. Do we want more riots? More disaffected, bored, directionless kids? I don’t think so.
I’m sure others can think of many other arguments. In the end, I just love my city and I don’t want this to happen. My father was a student and later a lecturer in Metallurgy at Manchester University. My husband has had a distinguished career as a scientist and is now a Professor there. My children had great fun at MOSI when they were growing up. And I work with children, and I know how important it is to engage them with science, and with their heritage. Manchester is an exciting, diverse, multicultural and vibrant place.
If you agree with me, please sign one or both of the following petitions:
- Shutting MOSI would be ‘disaster for Manchester University’ (manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
- A Petition to save the Museum of Science and Industry (pioneersandpirateships.wordpress.com)