Monday, 21 September 2009

Morwellham might know its fate tomorrow

I had been a little reluctant to blog on the topic of Morwellham. For those who don't know it was a long established port cum village on the east bank of the Tamar a little way downstream of the river's tidal limit of the weir at Gunnislake. It really rose to prominence in the 19th century when the output of the Tamar Valley mines went into the stratosphere, only to drop into a deep slumber in the twentieth century. After considerable site clearance it was reborn as a heritage / tourist attraction. Fine but one problem encountered I felt was that it didn't quite know how to pitch itself and to what audience. Following on from that was the fact that its day to day management wasn't always of the best to be honest. I'm not criticising individual staff who have really done everything they could, its just that over the years they haven't always been led or motivated as well as one would have hoped.

It is difficult with any 'attraction' to keep the crowds coming after the early euphoria has died down. For instance with the 'Eden Project' huge numbers visited in the first few years but it has to keep on thinking of ways to attract new audiences and to get those who came in the early days to revisit. One way of getting more footfall is to promote unrelated events at such sites and Morwellham (which is fortunate in having plenty of space) did this again the other weekend when the Tavistock Food Fair selected the location for this year's venue. All useful income but sadly not enough.

Morwellham has been the recipient of considerable grant aid to carry out improvements and repairs but this money is for capital works only and as its visitor numbers have dropped off it has been dependant on West Devon Borough Council and more particularly Devon County Council to keep 'the show on the road'. In early September came the bombshell - the new administration running the County Council decided to pull the plug on their financial support. Without being party political here I should point out that there has been a change of administration with the Tories taking over from the LibDems as the main party. Anyway without another source of money it seems that the attraction won't be able to continue.

Now I'm privy to slightly more than there is out there in the public domain but not being a trustee do not know the intimate detail. My reluctance to spout about Morwellham to anyone is the fact that I don't want to inadvertently talk about something that is semi confidential and fuel rumours. To give the trustees their due they have tried to keep the public informed to a degree and in fact one can read some of this in the 'latest news' on the Morwellham-Quay website.

There is a crunch meeting in Exeter tomorrow (Tuesday) in which the trustees and stakeholders can sit around a table and try and find a way forward. Personally, and this is a gut feeling not something I've heard, I think that there will be a future at Morwellham. It may not happen immediately but my feeling is that some solution will be found - I just hope that I'm right! We should get some sort of clarity on Wednesday I would think. In the meantime one's thoughts are with those already made redundant or who might find themselves without a job soon.

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