Sunday, 2 November 2014

Lottery Grant for Northampton Shoe Exhibition Rejected

So with the Sekhemka sale money in the bank the question now is how long will it last with funding options disappearing one by one.

The consequences of the unethical actions of Northampton Borough Council are now being made clear as this week we learn that a £250k application for money to support our shoe collection has been refused.

The damage is already done - we tried to tell NBC, they wouldn't listen.
According to the articles below, a council spokesman said: “While disappointed, we do understand that organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund have a duty to bring as many projects to fruition as possible and reach the widest possible audience, which means in this round Northampton has missed out. We will continue to expand our collection to provide excellent exhibitions and tell the story of Northampton as we welcome visitors to our town.”
Heritage Lottery Firm have though confirmed the bid was ineligible due to not having Arts Council Accreditation and dismissed the borough council’s suggestion it had not received any money because applicataions for this fund were oversubscribed.
Apparently NBC have replied saying: “We were told that our bid was too much for the size of project and understand also that the fund was oversubscribed. We were not told we were ineligible and as far as we are aware accreditation is not a condition of Heritage Lottery Funding.”

The Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund have rules and ethics requirements clearly laid out for good reason.
NBC have created this situation. Who loses out? The people of Northampton.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Farewell Of The Save Sekhemka Action Group

On 10 July 2014 the Sekhemka Statue was sold to an unknown buyer at Christie’s for a gross sum of £16m.  The Action group still does not know who the buyer is or to which country the statue will go.
This sale took place despite the Action Group’s two year campaign to stop it, a campaign that did attract support from ordinary Northampton people as well as eminent academic and museum professionals.
During our campaign we pointed out time and again the consequences of a sale for Northampton Borough Council (NBC) and its museums.  These warnings were ignored by the NBC Cabinet and its Leader, Cllr David Mackintosh, and by the Chief Executive, David Kennedy, and the Director of Cultural and Customer Services, Julie Seddon.
The Museums have lost their Accreditation and membership of the Museums Association (MA) which means that they will no longer be able to receive outside funding from Arts Council England (ACE) or the Heritage Lottery Fund; this is demoralising for the museum staff and places the possibility of the extension to the Central Museum in jeopardy.
The Action Group has reached the end of the road, there are no further effective actions we can take.  However, as a result of our campaigning ACE and the MA are looking at strengthening the rules on the disposal of museum collections and the ethical responsibilities of Local Authorities who have museums in their care;  the academic world is debating their role in caring for collections.
The Action Group will keep its website and face book page open and UPDATED on ALL developments.  We are also supporting research by various Egyptian institutions regarding the legality of the 2nd Marquess of Northampton’s purchase and export of the statue in 1850; was it in accordance with the then Egyptian laws on antique artefacts since there is, as far as we know, no documentation on this in the UK? If the purchase and export of Sekhemka can be proved to be illegal the Egyptian authorities would like the statue repatriated – an outcome the Action Group would welcome unless a major British museum would act as a custodian on behalf of Egypt.
The members of the Action Group are sad that our two years of work did not have a more positive outcome; we are very grateful for all the support given by the public, the museum world, ACE and the MA and we fervently hope that our disappointment will not result in other action groups holding back in their campaigns – go for it and think positively.
Gunilla Loe
Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group
Northampton 30 October 2014

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Northampton Museums Service barred from Museums Association membership

Northampton Museums Service has been barred from Museum Association membership for at least five years.

David Fleming, chairman of the MA's Ethics Committee, said: “We do appreciate the huge financial pressure that many local authority museums are under at the present time, but the MA's Code of Ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored. At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest. Museums have a duty to hold their collections in trust for society. They should not treat their collections as assets to be monetised for short-term gain."

We wholeheartedly agree and have been saying this for many months. Sadly the worst has happened for Northampton's museums.

You can read the decision in full here:

Friday, 1 August 2014

Northampton Museum loses Accreditation due to Sekhemka sale

The members of the Save Sekhemka Action Group are deeply saddened to learn of the Northampton Museums’ Loss of Accreditation.  During our 2 year campaign to halt the sale of the Egyptian funerary statue, Sekhemka, we have time and again warned that the unethical sale would result in loss of this status. 
We regret this because it will mean the certain decline of both the Central and Abington Museum since the loss of this status stops the Museum Service being eligible for outside grants from the Lottery, Arts Council England and other art/cultural grant giving bodies. 
This monetary loss is likely to be greater than the £8m gross NBC received for the statue. 
It also means that NBC is now free to sell whatever else does not fit in with Councillor David Mackintosh’s vision of the town’s museums and collections. 
Nothing in the collections will be safe unless it is shoe related: many of the 92 art items and artefacts donated by the Friends of Northampton Museums & Art Gallery will be sold, likewise many artworks bought with funds from the Art Fund, the V&A and other bodies provided the grants are re-paid.  Nothing is safe. 
The Action Group hopes that this removal of Accreditation will serve as a warning to other museums and Local Authorities: do NOT sell items from public collections – it is unethical and unprofessional and will ultimately mean that the great cultural assets the UK has in its various provincial museums will be a vague and distant memory in the near future.
This is indeed a BLACK and SHAMEFUL day for Northampton’s Culture and Heritage.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Today Arts Council England decide on Accreditation for Northampton Museum

So Sekhemka has disappeared, possibly forever, into an unaccountable private collection has come within days of a meeting of where Arts Council England will discuss removing Northampton Council's Accreditation as an ethically run Museum.

This news makes it all the more important that Arts Council England (ACE) and the Museums Association demonstrate the consequences of such unethical and damaging actions as selling publicly owned museum objects for short term profit, and punish Northampton Council by removing their Accredited status. 

This will hurt and humiliate our Town in the short term, but at least it will serve as a warning to others who would try to cash in on the museum collections we hold in trust for the future.  It might also prevent the Cllr Mackintosh and his Ruling Group from taking any more Government, Lottery and Charity grants under the false pretenses that they are professionally and ethically equipped to care for our culture and heritage.

Both keeping and losing accreditation are two terrible outcomes of this whole episode - the damage was already done when Sekhemka was sold.

A decision is expected from ACE within the next two weeks. The Museums Association will make a decision in September 2014.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Spinning Sekhemka

No amount of political spinning, or dazzling the press and public with the number of zero's at the end of the auction price, can hide the fact that last night's sale of Sekhemka in Christie's was an entirely avoidable, counter productive, day of shame for Northampton.  A shame compounded by the fact that the decision of one man, taken against all professional advice locally, nationally and internationally has led the world and the people of Egypt in particular, to see Britain as a place which sees Egypt's rich and historic culture as a chip to be bet on and cashed in, not a jewel of human creativity to be shared and cherished.

  • We will continue to oppose the turning of Sekhemka into a commodity to be sold on the rich persons equivalent of E-bay, therefore we will oppose the export of the statue from the UK if that is what transpires, whoever the new owner of Sekhemka is.  Particularly if that owner is a private individual who will not put Sekhemka on free public display.  If Sekhemka is not to stay on open display in the UK his only legitimate destination is a public museum in Egypt. 

  • We will also continue to expose the way this unethical, unnecessary and short sighted sale was undertaken, the many legal and financial questions which surround the sale and the conduct in public office of those whose mission it became to rob Northampton of both a cultural jewel and its cultural credibility.  We hope the local and national Media will join us in that quest for information and answers.
  • We hope the media will also ask Cllr Mackintosh why he insisted on undermining confidence in the Conservative party's core policy in Arts and Culture, promoting philanthropy and donation.  As Alan Moore has pointed out, thanks to the sale of Sekhemka, no-one would dream of donating something valuable to a public museum if at some stage it can be taken away and flogged off to the highest bidder in a commercial fire sale

However, we are where we are and we must respond to the fact that Sekhemka was sold at Christie's for £15,762,500.

Cllr Mackintosh and Northampton Borough Council announced last night that " will retain around £8million (55 per cent of the proceeds), while the remainder will be remitted to Lord Northampton (around £6million)."

  • What the Council statement did not say was that the auction costs [around 15%] and taxes will be deducted from that figure, and we might also add the over £40,000 of council Tax payers money spent on legal advice to facilitate the sale.  Thus the Council Tax payers of Northampton could see scarcely half of the headline figure spent in the Town, ring fenced or not.

  • Equally, while the statement was open about the fact that the Marquis of Northampton will be receiving a windfall of over £5 million, the statement did not enlighten the Council Tax payers of Northampton why, when NBC allegedly "owned" Sekhemka, they will be adding to the fortune of the multimillionaire Marquis and paying for it by becoming pariahs in the museum and heritage world.  Like the Museums Association, we believe that the ownership of Sekhemka was never legally resolved and we will be consulting with colleagues to see if an investigation can be mounted into whether Councillor Mackintosh and Northampton Borough Council misled the public, the media and Christie's by saying they did own the statue.

In the statement Cllr Mackintosh has also attempted to spin his way out of the almost universal condemnation his actions have caused to be dumped on Northampton's name and in particular the likelihood that Northampton will lose its Museums Association accreditation, along with the credibility in museum matters which it has already lost.
His statement says

"Work has already begun on drawing up detailed plans for the [museum]  extension, which will underpin the growth of Northampton’s Cultural Quarter. The Borough Council is in the process of developing a funding package to take the extension forward, including putting together a bid for support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Council is also continuing to talk to the Arts Council about museum accreditation."
  • We are sure it does.  Councillor Mackintosh was explicitly warned by Arts Council England and the Museums Association Ethics Committee that Museums Association accreditation was in severe danger were Sekhemka to be sold and with it access to many significant funding streams to supply the £7-8 million which will still be required to build the still hypothetical museum extension, even with Sekhemka's cultural equivalent of  blood money.

Cllr Mackintosh also said: "This money will allow us to realise our exciting plans for the future of the Museum Service. Every penny is ring-fenced for the Museum Service and we will now make our museum redevelopment plans a reality."

  • We would point out that without the commitment to display the cream of all the collections and to hold a research archive curated by the  specialist curatorial staff and teachers who have been made redundant or not replaced, the Museum Service has no future.  Museums exist for their collections held in trust for the future and the expertise to display, describe and bring them to life for visitors and researchers. 

  • We would also point out there were no "Museum development plans" when Councillor Mackintosh first wanted to sell Sekhemka [such plans were first mentioned when it became clear that the original plan to allegedly give the money to the Delapre Abbey Trust was a non starter as far as the Museums Association Ethics Committee was concerned.  There still are no such detailed, costed, plans.  Unless you count a cafe and shoe shop with a small gallery space.
Today's spinning is not just political.  It might just be the shade of Sekhemka spinning in his grave, although he might be heartened to know that thousands of people all over the world wanted to treat his beautiful artistic, archaeological legacy with the respect it deserves and demands under national and international ethical codes, and not have him hawked around and flogged off as the bauble to adorn a rich individual or institution.
The only way for Northampton to begin to climb out of the reputational mire into which it has been dropped by Councillor Mackintosh's sale of Sekhemka, is for the Museum Service to be handed back to the professionals who know how to run it ethically and for the good of the Town.  Otherwise we fear that this is the future of our Museums Service

Q:  What do you say to a Northampton Egyptologist?

A:  Two Cappuccino's and a Skinny Latte please

Media Contact  

For further comments, additional material including documents or images or to request interviews with members of the Save Our Sekhemka Action Group team please contact

Andy Brockman 
72 Nithdale Road
Telephone:               0208 316 6358                        
Mobile                      07958 543518                              

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sekhemka sells for £14m

Obviously we are heartbroken at what Cllr Mackintosh has caused to happen at Christie's tonight.

We hope you will understand this is a complex issue and we need to take some time to look at the details of the auction. 

We will be issuing a full statement and offering interviews tomorrow (Friday)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Just 24 Hours to Go - Several things you can do

Dear Friends,

There are just twenty four hours left to prevent the "unethical sale" of the statue of Sekhemka at Christie's and the only way we can do that is to help the Egyptian Government's legal moves to prevent the sale of Sekhemka with a show of people power.

The Cabinet of Northampton Borough Council meets tonight to discuss the conservation of the Battlefield of Northampton.  They are only doing this because local people worked together to prevent Council Leader David Mackintosh driving through a plan against all advice to bulid on the site.  Now we need to show Cllr Mackintoish that he has another losing battle on his hands over the "unethical" sale of Sekhemka.

We are going to send this petition to every member of Northampton Council as well as Christies, the Marquis of Northampton and the Media but we need as many names on it as possible.  If you haven't already done so please ask everyone you know or who you can contact to sign and share the link on the Social Media.
  • Remember Councillor Mackintosh has not answered this key question-  if Northampton Borough Council really owns the statue, why are they giving the Marquis of Northampton 45% of the sale price-  that could be well over £2 million pounds?
  • And why are the Council paying this huge amount of money to the Marquis when they have already spent over £40,000  to facilitate the sale and are paying all the legal and auction costs?
What else can you do?

1.  E-mail the Egyptian Embassy in London and thank them for intervening to protect the culture we share.  Ask them to take out an injunction to stop the sale becaue the ownership of the statue is not clear.
2.  E-mail the Culture Minister, Sajid Javid, to say that this sale threatens his own policy of using charitable giving and donations to help supply Arts funding.  The famoous Graphic Novellist Alan Moore, who is from Northampton, has said that the Sekhemka sale is a "gross betrayal of trust"  which will make anyone thinking to donate to a museum think twice.
3.  E-mail the Foreign Office to say that the decision of Cllr Mackintosh to sell Sekhemka has provoked the Egyptian Government into taking legal action and is bringing Britain into disrepute all over the world as the story spreads.
4.  E-mail Councillor Mackintosh directly to ask him to halt the Sale before even more damage is done to his and Northampton's reputation.
5.  E-mail Christie's to tell them that by undertaking what the Museums Association, the Art Fund and Arts Council England all say is an unethical sale which should not take place, they are tarnishing their image all over the world and are in breach of their own mission statement about corporate responsibility which says "Christie’s strives to manage its people and practices responsibly, in order to leave a positive, enduring impact on our communities -- particularly in helping to preserve and promote the world’s collective cultural heritage. "

The sale of Sekhemka is unethical, unecessary and counter productive and no-one in politics or the museums world has defended it except Councillor Mackintosh.  The only person who will gain from the sale is the Marquis of Northampton, one of the richest men in Britain who will get over £2 million at no cost to himself.  Please take this last chance to help defend the culture we share.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Egyptian Government in Late Legal Challenge

Full story:

"Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damati has denounced the sale of the statue and described the museum's actions as incompatible with the values and role of museums worldwide, which he said should "spread culture" and not try to simply earn money."

"He called on the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to stop the sale on the grounds that it goes against the council's ethics."

Please sign and share our petition

Then read the full story here:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Three Days to go until #DayOfShame

Planned sale is at Christies, London on 10th July but there is still time to do something.

The current situation and petition to sign and share is here:

Please also see the statement from Museum's Association on the detrimental impact on the future of the museum should the sale go ahead:

Please contact your councillor and leader of the council, David Mackintosh directly to express your feelings on the sale. Details here:

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share our tweets and posts so we can reach as many people as possible in the short time we have left to stop the sale.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Video showcasing Sekhemka goes online at Christies

A beautiful video, produced in terrible circumstances. If the sale goes ahead, it will be a sad and shameful day for Northampton.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Sekhemka has already left Northampton - Video

It would appear Sekhemka has already left Northampton - in the video below you can see him now on display at Christie's ahead of the auction.

And the shocking news of the sale has now reached Australia... click here to read the article

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Presentation (on behalf of Sue Edwards) by Judith Hodgkinson to Full (Northampton Borough) Council re Proposed Sale of Sekhemka 2nd June 2014

Judith Hodgkinson, Lecturer, previously employed in Northampton’s Museum Service for 32 years.

The Chair of the Save Sekhemka Action Group, Gunilla Loe, is not absent because of the undue intimidation which has been directed at her, but because she is unavailable tonight.
You are all aware of the background to the proposed sale of Sekhemka on 10th July at Christie’s Auction House in London.

Making a legal case for the sale came after the decision to sell.

Every major museum and arts body opposes the sale on the grounds that it is unethical.  

Should the sale go through, it is almost certain that our Museum will lose Accreditation – the professional equivalent of being struck off – and will not be entitled to any future grants from which it has benefited to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of pounds in the past.

So far NBC has spent over £40,000 to override the 4th Marquis of Northampton’s apparently       watertight deed drawn up for the benefit of local people. 

Councillor Mackintosh says this sale is legal but refuses to show any member of the public the new documentation or agreement drawn up between NBC and the Marquis.  Christie’s response is quote ‘Northampton Borough Council believe they have full title, however, following legal discussions with Lord Northampton an agreement has been reached’ end of quote.  When did the word ‘believe’ become a legal term to use with regard to ownership, and if ownership were clear, why would it need to be a joint agreement?    

The Action Group has asked for the documents to be scrutinized by a qualified legal expert but Councillor Mackintosh refuses.  He also refuses to answer many of our legitimate questions and refers us to Freedom of Information, which still results in unanswered questions or answers extensively redacted. If the new documentation is legal, why all the secrecy?

The sale should be stopped or at the very least postponed for further enquiries as to legality.  Is it appropriate morally and ethically for a public body, charged with proper guardianship of the public purse, to act in this manner?  

The recent announcement in the Chronicle and Echo shows plans for a museum extension costing £14 million.  Even if the sale were to go ahead, if the Council is no longer eligible for grants, where will the rest of the money come from?   

Presentation by Ruth Thomas at Full (Northampton Borough) Council re Proposed Sale of Sekhemka

Ruth Thomas (Chair of Northamptonshire Ancient Egyptian Society)
 Much has been said about the proposed sale of Sekhemka; I would like to spend a few minutes outlining some consequences:

If moral and ethical considerations mean nothing to Councillor Mackintosh then I ask you to consider this. The sale of Sekhemka will yield only a portion of the cost of the proposed new museum. The recent announcement in the Chronicle and Echo showed plans for the extended museum, costing £14,000,000.

Our group has received an email this weekend from the National Art Fund which reads as follows: QUOTE  "Regardless of the final sale amount, due to the nature of the split with Lord Northampton and the need to pay a buyer’s premium, the Museum would only gain less than half of the total amount [raised] towards its planned works. Even without the ethical considerations, this sale therefore seems an ineffective route to pursue for long-term financial gain." UNQUOTE

The bulk of the finance needed for the museum would normally come from grants through government organisations which support heritage and museums. However, since the Museums Association and Arts Council have made it clear in the national press that Northampton Museum will lose its accreditation if the sale takes place, there will be no possibility of applying for a grant. Northampton Museum will simply not get the funding.

The proposed sale of Sekhemka is a bad move for Northampton Museum and not only because it makes Northampton Museum a pariah in the professional world of museums and heritage. It doesn’t even make financial sense ! The money raised from the proposed sale will be heavily outweighed by the loss of grants and financial support from government organisations. 

The Arts Council acknowledge the seriousness of the situation QUOTE: “We recognise through their actions that Northampton Borough Council does not care about losing accreditation” and that as a result of the proposed sale they say “grants and placements will not be possible in the future.” QUOTE

I would like to place on record this clear statement that the development of the museum and its collections are now under serious threat.