Update on y Gaer – Opening date and Future operation

This update confirms the date for the public opening of y Gaer. It also states our understanding and position on the future use, operational funding, partnering and operation of y Gaer after representatives of the Society and the Brecknock Art Trust met with Powys County Council executives on 7 October. This follows on from our News item on ‘Ongoing discussions over y Gaer future’ posted on 2 September.  

Public opening

Powys County Council has announced that y Gaer will be open to the public from Thursday 5 December.  In one of a series of public statements and news releases this October by Powys CC (click here), Cabinet Members Cllr Rachel Powell and Cllr Phyl Davies said ‘We know that y Gaer will play an important part in the county’s future economic and cultural well-being.  We are confident that as soon as the impressive building opens its doors, residents will see it was well worth waiting for.’

John Gibbs, Chair of Brecknock Society and Museum Friends, writes ‘This has been a long and complex project in challenging times for cultural services in the public sector.  The renovated Museum & Art Gallery will connect our community with its heritage and provide an exciting new attraction to visitors to the area.  A wonderful range of artefacts and artwork associated with Breconshire will be exhibited in the refurbished Shire Hall – many have not been displayed for years.  As local funding partners, our members are working hard alongside Powys CC staff and other local volunteers to get ready for the opening.’

A formal opening ceremony for y Gaer is expected to take place in 2020. In the meantime, once the galleries are ready, the Society will be arranging some special meetings and visits for its members and to thank donors who responded to its Conservation and Display appeal.

Some images to interest you

Clockwise from top left – Draft digital screen on touchscreen terminal (being produced under our Interpretation Project); New display case in Brycheiniog Gallery (purchased via our Conservation & Display appeal); Installation of renovated Victorian pillar box (carried out via our Conservation & Display appeal); Worcester porcelain plate showing Brecon-born actress Sarah Siddons (recent acquisition via Brecknock Art Trust); Breconshire coat-of-arms saved from demolished New County Hall; Installation of Roman monument in Brycheiniog Gallery; Renovation of Courtroom frieze.

Future use of spaces in y Gaer

Powys CC’s recent public statements follow further consideration of the future operational funding for y Gaer and the use of space within it.

With the Museum & Art Gallery spaces in the Shire Hall part of y Gaer, Powys CC has confirmed that the Sir John Lloyd Gallery will remain a key feature for temporary exhibitions and related activities (click here).  Other galleries and public spaces within the Shire Hall part will remain as originally planned under the National Lottery Heritage Fund award for the renovation of the Museum & Art Gallery in which we are local funding partners.

Within the new build part of y Gaer, Powys CC is reconfiguring the library layout to make the originally-planned zones for children and young adults available for flexible and income-generating uses (click here).  It has invited expressions of interest from further potential partners for the flexible use of these spaces and the Community Room(s).  Such uses must be compatible with y Gaer’s cultural theme and consistent with the agreed Vision Statement for y Gaer published in November 2018.

Operational funding and future partners

Powys CC’s stated aim in inviting further partners is to secure a sustainable future for y Gaer, compatible with the cultural theme of the Vision Statement and recognising Powys CC’s diminishing revenue budget for operational funding.  The purpose is to maximise the use of y Gaer, including longer opening hours for the community’s benefit.

The Society has issued a Statement to Powys CC (click here) as an existing local partner in response to Powys CC’s invitation for expressions of interest.   We expect to expect to assist Powys CC with both contributions in kind and with income in securing a sustainable future for y Gaer.   This includes helping to run a Patrons’ Scheme to support the operation of Museum and Art Gallery activities.  We will not lease any space in y Gaer, but expect to use appropriate rooms for the Society’s meetings and expect to pay for such room hire.  We believe that future operational funding for y Gaer must be drawn from several different sources to achieve a comprehensive operational budget.

Contributions in kind

Our members form a significant part of the y Gaer Volunteer cohort that will help to run the Museum & Art Gallery.  Our regular programme of events (lectures etc) and our journal Brycheiniog will form a key part of y Gaer’s cultural service to the community.

Stakeholder Group

As y Gaer moves into its operational mode, we support a review and reconfiguration of the existing Stakeholder Group and related advisory groups to provide for better interaction with Powys CC in planning and co-ordinating the future use and operation of y Gaer.  This is important to enable partners, expert advisors and community representatives to work alongside Powys CC for planning activities, revenue funding and staffing.  Better engagement between us all will help to achieve consensus.  We expect this change to be progressed through continued discussion between Powys CC and its operational partners and the existing y Gaer Stakeholder Group.