Baldrick Beats Council Cuts

| 09 March 2001

When Southampton City Council planned to axe funds for the local branch of the Young Archaeologists Club, they reckoned without a last minute intervention by Time Team presenter Tony Robinson, national President of the Y.A.C.

Robinson wrote a stinging letter of protest to the City Council the day before the meeting and created a storm of publicity in the local press around the Council's plans.

By the time the Council meeting to set the budget opened on February 21, protesters (including many young archaeologists) were packing the public areas both outside and inside the Council building.

After an angry meeting lasting until 5 am in the morning, plans to cut the Y.A.C. were thrown out - but other cuts will close the cities' Museum of Archaeology and community archaeology service.

Speaking to the Southampton Evening Echo Robinson said: "The Young Archaeology Club has been instrumental in making children all over the country aware of their local heritage.In years to come this will mean that local citizens will be in a position to nurture and protect their own history."

But other Time Team members were angry about the cuts: "To be quite honest I'm getting utterly sick and tired of fighting these same funding battles every year," said Professor Mick Aston, speaking to the 24 Hour Museum. "We at the Council for British Archaeology wrote to the City Council protesting very strongly about this affair."

"It is ludicrous that cuts should be threatened at a time when public interest in archaeology is greater than it has ever been," said Alison Bodley, National Co-ordinator of the Young Archaeologists Club.

"Nationally, many other branches of the Young Archaeologists Club are threatened too, just as record numbers of youngsters are joining up encouraged by TV programmes like 'Time Team' and 'Meet the Ancestors,"

Others in the archaeology community agree with this point of view: "Working in partnership with the voluntary sector, Southampton has been a flagship of good practice in helping people to discover their own heritage. It is an achievement that should be heralded, not ditched," said Francis Pryor, President of the Council for British Archaeology.

"Cutting these services flies in the face of what people want. Without them local people will be unable to access their own heritage. The past will fall silent for them and their children," said George Lambrick, Director of the C.B.A.

Now protesters are shifting effort to the House of Lords, where legislation is being scrutinised to put publicly-funded archaeology on a sturdier footing: "At present there is no obligation on local authorities to provide these services and they are easy targets when savings must be found," said George Lambrick.

"We support current initiatives to put these services on a statutory footing alongside public libraries. This is fundamentally important if we are to end the year-on-year erosion of local heritage services." Find out more about the threatened museum

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