Nov 092014
 

Leeds City Council decided to hold Grayson’s tapestry exhibition in Temple Newsam, a venue largely inaccessible to wheelchair users. People protested as a result.

The Council’s Equality Impact Assessment claimed that a primary reason was the unavailability of the venue on the dates set by Grayson’s representatives. Yet correspondence just released shows something different…

From: Douglas, Caroline [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: 30 October 2012 12:38
To: Walsh, Nigel
Subject: RE: Grayson tapestries

However, if we were to go ahead with the notion of a showing at Temple Newsam, would you be able to say when this would be best fitted in to your programme? Loosely?

From: Douglas, Caroline [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: 05 November 2012 14:50

Having now had responses from almost everyone about possible dates for showing the tapestries at your venues, I tentatively suggest a tour that looks something like this:

Sunderland end June – end September 2013
Manchester mid October – late November 2013
Qatar December – January 2013/14 (with British Council)
Birmingham mid February – early May 2014
Liverpool late May – late July 2014
Leeds August – October 20

From: Walsh, Nigel
Sent: 06 November 2012 10:39
To: Douglas, Caroline
Subject: RE: Grayson Perry tapestries tour

Hi Caroline

Is there any reason why Leeds (TN) are at the end of the tour?
We can be flexible about dates as it’s a question of accomodating them in a room display/s. In the meantime I’ll run this date past Bobbie who is Keeper there.

Nigel

Nigel Walsh
Curator; Contemporary Art
Leeds Art Gallery

From: Douglas, Caroline [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: 06 November 2012 12:30
To: Walsh, Nigel
Subject: RE: Grayson Perry tapestries tour

Hi Nigel

The only reason I’ve sketched you in at that point is because, while you indicated the interest in showing the tapestries at Temple Newsam, you didn’t say when you would be able to programme the show.

And I’m afraid your colleagues at our other Collection Partners did.

So it is clear that:

  1. Leeds City Council chose the venue before even attempting to discuss potential dates with Grayson’s representatives.
  2. Grayson’s representatives asked the Council which date they wanted, but the Council didn’t respond to this question.

Yet the Equality Impact Assessment says:

For the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds, The Art Gallery and City Museum were not available or not able to accommodate the specific space / conservation requirements of the works

Hmmm. I smell a rat. Clearly something doesn’t add up?

Leeds City Council: please investigate this as a complaint. The Equality Impact Assessment is misleading at best.

  4 Responses to “The Grayson tapestries at Temple Newsam and Wheelchair Accessibility”

  1. The Council have responded again:

    I write in response to your email of 18th November 2014 where you request that your complaint regarding Temple Newsam and the Grayson Perry exhibition be reviewed under Stage 2 of the council’s complaints procedure. To be of best assistance, I have addressed the individual points made in your further complaint below.

    My concern is that the Equality Impact Assessment says this:

    “For the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds, The Art Gallery and City Museum were not available or not able to accommodate the specific space / conservation requirements of the works”

    Yet the correspondence between the parties clearly indicates that Leeds were asked what period would best suit them to exhibit the tapestries, but neglected to answer.

    Having read the relevant correspondence to which you refer, I accept that the council did not provide the South Bank Centre with a specific preferred date period in which to host the Grayson Perry exhibition, however, this fact did not impact upon the hosting options available to it. Indeed, Nigel Walsh (Curator of Contemporary Art at Leeds Art Gallery) referred to the service’s proposal to host the exhibition at Temple Newsam as early as 26th October 2012, before any dates had been proposed by the South Bank Centre. This was because Temple Newsam was already acknowledged as the only available hosting venue within the time frame of the exhibition tour.

    The complaint response implies that the Art Gallery and City Museum were unavailable for the entire period of the tapestry exhibition’s tour period. I infer this from the statement:

    “the other two have a planned exhibition and display programme up to two years ahead and were not available for consideration.”

    I return to the statement in the Equality Impact Assessment: “For the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds, The Art Gallery and City Museum were not available”. Perhaps this should have read “The Art Gallery and Museum were not available for the entire period of the tour.”

    I agree that the above paragraph you highlight does cause some confusion with respect to the venue options that were available, and that the alternative wording you suggest would have been more appropriate.

    The existing wording of the Equality Impact Assessment gives the strong impression that Leeds were not offered any choice in the dates chosen. This is not true and is unfair on Grayson’s representatives / the tour organisers. It also perhaps suggests a lack of candour in the Equality Impact Assessment. This is the core concern of my complaint. I would have hoped that this would have been totally clear from my original complaint but this has not been dealt with and I wish it to be so, please.

    Whilst as stated above, the wording used in the Equality Impact Assessment could have been better phrased, I disagree that this suggests a lack of candour in the writing of the assessment. I believe the choice of wording to be an honest mistake, but I do apologise for any confusion caused by this.

    There remains a residual question.

    All the other host cities were able to select dates and venues from a more proximal time-frame than Leeds; that is, they were apparently not disadvantaged by similarly inflexible venue diaries for the next two years as posited by Leeds. Additionally, to the best of my knowledge, all other host cities were able to offer wheelchair accessible venues. Why were Leeds unable to provide the same flexibility of times and venues? What is so different about Leeds that it is not able to accommodate the same flexibility all the other venues were patently able to offer?

    As I trust you will appreciate, I am unable to advise as to the booking policies and venues in other cities that hosted the Grayson Perry exhibition. My investigation of your complaint can only reasonably relate to the concerns you raise regarding the hosting of the exhibition in Leeds, and it is these matters which I have sought to address. With respect to these, concerns, as stated previously, the other two venues in Leeds which were suitable to exhibit the tapestries were unavailable during the timeframe of the exhibition tour, and it was against this background that the decision was taken for Temple Newsam to host the works.

    As the response to my complaint at first instance did not clearly address my core concern, I should be grateful if you could please investigate the handling of my original complaint, in addition to responding to the concern itself.

    I am of the view that Mr. Roles’ response did attempt to address your complaint and note that it does state the reasons why Temple Newsam was the only available venue for the exhibition. I appreciate, however, that your specific concerns regarding the wording of the Equality Impact Assessment could have been addressed in further detail, and I trust that my response provides clarification on this matter.

  2. Hello

    Today I received the attached response to my complaint. I put my original complaint online at https://www.kingqueen.org.uk/?p=149 .

    Whilst the complaint provides a wealth of related information not directly relevant to my complaint, it doesn’t answer the core concern.

    My concern is that the Equality Impact Assessment says this:

    “For the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds, The Art Gallery and City Museum were not available or not able to accommodate the specific space / conservation requirements of the works”

    Yet the correspondence between the parties clearly indicates that Leeds were asked what period would best suit them to exhibit the tapestries, but neglected to answer.

    The complaint response implies that the Art Gallery and City Museum were unavailable for the entire period of the tapestry exhibition’s tour period. I infer this from the statement:

    “the other two have a planned exhibition and display programme up to two years ahead and were not available for consideration.”

    I return to the statement in the Equality Impact Assessment: “For the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds, The Art Gallery and City Museum were not available”. Perhaps this should have read “The Art
    Gallery and Museum were not available for the entire period of the tour.”

    The existing wording of the Equality Impact Assessment gives the strong impression that Leeds were not offered any choice in the dates chosen. This is not true and is unfair on Grayson’s representatives /
    the tour organisers. It also perhaps suggests a lack of candour in the Equality Impact Assessment.

    This is the core concern of my complaint. I would have hoped that this would have been totally clear from my original complaint but this has not been dealt with and I wish it to be so, please.

    There remains a residual question.

    All the other host cities were able to select dates and venues from a more proximal time-frame than Leeds; that is, they were apparently not disadvantaged by similarly inflexible venue diaries for the next two years as posited by Leeds.

    Additionally, to the best of my knowledge, all other host cities were able to offer wheelchair accessible venues.

    Why were Leeds unable to provide the same flexibility of times and venues? What is so different about Leeds that it is not able to accommodate the same flexibility all the other venues were patently able to offer?

    As the response to my complaint at first instance did not clearly address my core concern, I should be grateful if you could please investigate the handling of my original complaint, in addition to responding to the concern itself.

    Thank you

    Doug Paulley

  3. I’ve had a response from John Roles, Head of Museums and Galleries. I quote it below. I think it misses the point: it goes on about all sorts of related and interesting but ultimately irrelevant issues, and doesn’t fully address that I think it’s at best disingenuous that the equality impact assessment said that Temple Newsam wasn’t available “for the only exhibition slot made available to Leeds”. So I will be appealing.

    Thank you for your complaint regarding the Grayson Perry exhibition at Temple Newsam. You say that Temple Newsam is ‘largely inaccessible’. Temple Newsam has c 45 areas open to the public and all except 11 areas are fully accessible by lift with the remaining eleven accessed by stair climber. The house is, in fact, one of the most accessible grade one country houses in the UK.

    The decision where to show the Vanity of Small Differences was not taken lightly. The exhibition was offered to Leeds City Council’s Museums and Galleries, as an Arts Council Collection partner as part of a national tour. The possibility of a tour of the tapestries was first mooted at a meeting between the Arts Council Collection (which had just acquired the tapestries as an unprecedented joint acquisition with the British Council) as a special arrangement with its four partner organisations — Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds (as well as Sunderland where the associated TV show was in part-located) before the British Council took them on a world tour. The series of six large tapestries have to be displayed to meet the Arts Council Collection’s criteria and due to the scale of the works (each measures c 8 feet by 14 feet) and the security and conservation requirements the only options were the Art Gallery, the City Museum or Temple Newsam House.

    Only Temple Newsam was available to host the exhibition, the other two have a planned exhibition and display programme up to two years ahead and were not available for consideration. Temple Newsam has a small space allocated for temporary exhibitions but the tapestries were far too large to be exhibited there, so displaying them in the house would require clearing and redisplaying historic interiors. This meant there was some flexibility as to when the show could appear at Temple Newsam within the limitations of the Arts Council Collection tour dates.

    Some of the other venues had clear requirements for the show to tie in with other activity e.g. the Walker Gallery wanted them to tie in with the Liverpool Biennial. Neither the Gallery nor the City Museum could offer slots during the available tour times. The tapestries will leave Temple Newsam and go abroad on tour with the British Council.
    The opportunity excited the Temple Newsam team as they immediately recognised that by hosting the tapestries in a Country House, they were offering a unique dimension to the exhibition as the final venue on the tour of preceding Art Galleries. The scale of the tapestries and the requirement for them to be hung consecutively (for the narrative to follow through) restricted the number of available locations in which they could be hung. The Picture Gallery was explored but the intervention of windows, fireplaces, wall sconces and doors made the wall spaces impossible and false walls were not an option. The suite of State Rooms in the South Wing was identified as the only location.

    Before deciding to proceed we consulted with the Arts Council Collection, our wider Museums and Galleries team, volunteers and a disability access consultant. We concluded that it was indeed better to try and find solutions to our on-going physical access problem than turn down the opportunity for Leeds to host the show completely.

    As soon as the South Wing was identified as a location and before the final decision was made, we met with a wheelchair user who is a disability consultant and has assisted in a number of Museum and Galleries venues. His preference was, naturally, that another location be found but failing that he suggested we offer a virtual tour film of the tapestries in situ, provide interpretation through an interactive app, hang a tapestry in the accessible exhibition space, also to announce the restricted access to the wing as soon as possible and to signpost that there are other venues to see the tapestries in, to at least let people know well in advance. All of these recommendations were put into place.

    A small correction, but Caroline was not acting as an agent or ‘representative’ for or of the artist — she was the executive representing the body who owned this set of tapestries though she consulted the artist about all the venues Temple Newsam is a Grade 1 listed Tudor-Jacobean mansion and therefore has limitations but there is level access into the House and a lift giving access to the majority of the House installed as part of a lottery refurbishment. The stair climber was purchased to give most wheelchair users and those with mobility difficulties the chance to visit that wing for the first time in 500 years. It is a well proven and very capable means of access providing a safe and dignified method of getting people up and down stairs where no alternative method is possible. People do need to transfer on and off of it and we know that isn’t possible or preferable for everyone. The manual wheelchair at the top of the stairs is for visitors to use and staff offer to push it or assist if required. We have found that the climber has been very well received and have had very positive feedback from users.

    We are restricted by the Fire Regulations for Health and Safety reasons to be able to evacuate the building in the case of an emergency, swiftly. Therefore, we are only allowed to accommodate one wheelchair on any of the upper floors at any time to be certain of this. We welcome many wheelchair users to Temple Newsam House but possibly due to the size of the House, the variety of rooms and the outstanding collections within them we rarely encounter a problem with wheelchair users waiting to proceed to the next floor.

    Access for everyone was part of our planning for the exhibition and with regard to the admission charge the exhibition was offered free with what many consider an extremely reasonable charge to view over 40 restored rooms containing collections designated of national or international importance. Our visitor comments book frequently contains visitor’s responses that particularly compared to other local Historic Houses we are excellent value. This year we increased the level of discount for Leeds card/Breeze card holders in order to assist new audiences attracted to see the exhibition. We negotiated with Metro and First to provide a bus service to Temple Newsam for the life of the exhibition, providing public transport users direct access to the House during public holidays and weekends.

    I hope my response here goes some way to increasing your understanding of why we decided to take the show at Temple Newsam, and how we have tried to consider the needs of the many audiences that we are hoping will access this exciting and unique exhibition.
    If you are dissatisfied with my stage 1 response you may request a review at stage 2 of the Council’s complaints procedure. If you wish to do so please write to Jayne Conboy, Departmental Customer Relations Officer, at the above address or by telephone on (0113) 247
    XXXX or email XXXX

  4. Leeds City Council are now investigating this as a complaint

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