For and Against: The Riesco Sell-Off

By - Monday 10th June, 2013

In the first of a new head-to-head format, the Citizen asks: should the Croydon council continue with its plans to sell parts of the Riesco collection?

This is a debate where you – the reader – determine the winner. Read the cases for and against the Riesco sell-off, then vote for who convinced you the most in our poll. You can find the poll at the bottom of the page.

The case for

Selling 24 Chinese artefacts stored in the vault enables us to save £1 million every year and upgrade the much-loved Fairfield Halls, says councillor Tim Pollard, Council Deputy Leader.

Back in 1959 a local businessman, Raymond Riesco, bequeathed part of his extensive collection of ancient Chinese porcelain to the borough of Croydon. A partial sale in 1984 was used to part-fund the refurbishment of the Clocktower complex and the creation of the Riesco Gallery, in which some of the remaining collection is displayed. The Riesco family has always taken the view that the purpose of the bequest was to promote and widen Croydon’s cultural offer and they have been supportive of previous sales where the outcome is improved cultural facilities.

I am now proposing to sell 24 of the remaining 230 pieces and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, because these 24 items are of such high value that they cannot be safely displayed – they are simply too tempting for professional thieves. The value of Chinese porcelain has significantly increased in recent years as China has become wealthy and its government and collectors have sought to repatriate their nation’s cultural heritage, so now is a good time to sell.

The second reason is that the Fairfield Halls is in real need of a refurbishment, which will be difficult to afford in the current economic climate. Built sixty years ago, it needs rewiring, re-plumbing, the replacement of lifts and other services, as well as general modernisation. The Conservative council has committed to spending £27 million over a period of years to do this work and up to half of that sum might be able to be funded by the sale of these 24 items. If we do this, it saves tax-payers around £1 million every year in interest and capital sum repayments (because we would otherwise borrow the money) as well as enabling work to be started more quickly and completed sooner.

It is always sad to propose the disposal of something we own and I know that a small number of residents feel passionately that we should retain the whole collection. However, my judgement is that the majority of Croydon’s residents are not particularly interested in ancient ceramics and never visit the Gallery, but many do use the Fairfield Halls. As well as catering for an increasingly diverse population through its touring shows and bands, Fairfield is also used extensively by our schoolchildren as their showcase for performing arts.

And what is the point of owning 24 ceramics which we can’t now safely display? What good will they do our cultural offer if they are gathering dust in the basement? The pieces we can safely display will remain in the Riesco Gallery and will continue to be seen by residents and school parties, as they are now.

So in my view this is a modest sacrifice to make in return for a significant reward and one which I think is well worth making. It’s a responsible use of the borough’s assets to set us up for the future.

The case against

Croydon’s cultural assets should not be sold down the river to make a quick buck. This wilful destruction of Croydon’s heritage has to stop, writes Sarah Jones, former Chair of Croydon Central Labour Party. 

Inside Croydon discovered two weeks ago that the Conservative council is selling off Croydon’s priceless Ming Dynasty Riesco Collection.  This collection was bequeathed to the people of Croydon by local businessman Raymond Riesco, who had spent many years collecting the pieces that the people of Croydon now own.

There was no consultation. There was no announcement. Just a quick, underhand move of our priceless porcelain to Sotheby’s.

Croydon’s cultural vandalism has reached new depths. We have seen the closure of the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon Clocktower, and David Lean Cinema. Now we face selling off these valuable pieces of porcelain so that they are lost to the borough for good. There is no art strategy, no cultural vision.  Just a complete lack of imagination.

So Croydon has begun to stand up to the council and say no. Oliver Lewis, a local campaigner, has set up a petition asking the council to reconsider this decision. Please sign if you haven’t already.  I spoke to the Evening Standard and they ran the story. We started a #SaveOurChina social media campaign – getting celebrity and political  endorsements every day, including Mark Steel and Harriet Harman.  We worked with Labour councillor Timothy Godfrey to brief the Guardian and the Advertiser and we are asking a series of questions under the Freedom of Information Act to get to the bottom of what is actually happening.

There are three questions that the council has to answer;

  • They claim that the sale is to refurb the Fairfield Halls.  But, the money for this refurbishment is already allocated in the council’s approved and official capital budget.  Where has the money from the capital budget gone?  Who spent it?
  • They claim they have the legal right to sell the collection and the endorsement of the Riesco family.  We have information to suggest this is not the case. Can the council show us their legal advice?
  • They claim they have the blessing of the Riesco family.  And yet, Riesco’s great granddaughter has signed our petition, adding her own comment ‘this sale should not be allowed to go ahead’. How can they therefore claim to have the family’s blessing?

Mike Fisher’s various other excuses for the sale have been thoroughly debunked. He claimed most of the items were too expensive to put on show.  This is not true.  He claimed the council couldn’t afford the insurance.  We believe the collection hasn’t been insured for years.  He claimed that the Chinese might want to buy them back, but no requests have been made.  We are not even sure that the council can sell the items without losing Croydon Museum’s accreditation status.  The whole business is a shambles.

We have to be imaginative, look for new funding sources, and develop an approach to art and culture that all Croydonians can feel proud of. It is not right that the council try to hold us to ransom – we must sell the Riesco or you can’t have the Fairfield Halls. What nonsense. We can have both.

If we join together, we can make the council listen. Please join the Riesco family and sign our petition. 300 people already have. Let’s get the whole town calling for change. This sale is wrong, and the council knows it.

And the Citizens said...
Should parts of the Riesco collection be sold?

The Croydon Citizen

The Croydon Citizen

The Croydon Citizen is a non-profit community news magazine for London's most populous borough.

More Posts

  • Tony Richards

    Whilst it is always slightly sad to see something owned by the borough go, I think the benefits of selling a few pieces of the Riesco Collection far outweigh the cost.

    We’re told that the pieces that are being sold aren’t even available to the public and are locked in the Council vaults because of the cost of insuring and protecting them for ingenious thieves. If that’s the case, isn’t it better to have the money tied up in these items used to refurbish the Fairfield Halls at the Council propose?

    The Council is selling 24 of the 230 pieces with the full blessing of the Riesco family who generously donated the collection to us. The rest of the collection will apparently continue to be available for public viewing with the sale making us £13 million that’ll be used to fund the much needed renovation of Fairfield Halls.

    As well as being used for performances and pantomimes, Fairfield Halls is used by hundreds of community groups each year and seems to me to contribute far more to the borough’s cultural development than a few pieces of hidden Chinese porcelain.

    At a time of tight budgets for us all, I’d rather the Council raises funds from art we’ve never seen and likely never will see than increasing our Council Tax. Wouldn’t you?

    • CD


      The family should probably have sold the whole lot to the V and A or similar and then bequeathed the money to Croydon – sometimes bequests are more trouble than they’re worth which is why the National Trust even with all its wealth insists on a contribution as well as the donation of a stately home (or whatever it is).

      Why the Labour party is getting up in arms about this I don’t know – I would much rather sell this than a school playing field and they’ve sold over 200.

      • Anthony Miller

        Because it undermines the function of the Museum Service. No one like Riesco will donate us anything ever again if we take the wee wee out his wishes. Also the Council has presumably recieved lottery money and other funding to display these items. The selling point of the National Lottery is that the money from it is ringfenced. It seems not that actually it is not and really that this no different from any other form of fungible taxation. Therefore the public have been lied to by someone.

        • Mario Creatura

          Another set of ridiculous assumptions. The Riesco Family have given permission for the items to be invested in Fairfield Halls. You ‘presume’ Lottery funding has been granted and ‘therefore’ the public has been lied to. Conspiracy theories!

          • Anthony Miller

            The Museum had lottery funding the Museum of Croydon could end up costing us nearly £1 million, as the Heritage Lottery fund, which provided a £933,000 25-year grant in 2005 for the museum’s refurbishment, may want its money back.

            If I wanted to be called a conspiracy theorist for pointing out the blatantly obvious I would talk to John Rentoul.

            You clearly haven’t asked the entire Riesco family and it shouldn’t be down to them anyway. Any more than we should go around asking the descendents of Albert Grant if we can flog off Leicester Square. If you want to plug funding gaps by selling off collections why not flog say the Wallace Collection?
            Answer, it’s in Westminster – and for all it’s faults Westminster Council would not flog off its cultural assets for cash … Croydon …well, it doesn’t have any heritage anyway … and we’ll still have Amy’s goggles

  • Liz Sheppard-Jones

    It’s near-impossible to make up your mind when facts one is in no position to verify are contested. I am also conscious that a favoured technique for making something ‘true’ is to keep repeating it. So when were these things actually last insured? Tell us.

    I oppose the Riesco sale on principle. I oppose cultural death by a thousand cuts – even though no single stroke is fatal and justification can always be provided at the time, cumulatively the cuts kill. I agree with Sarah Jones that we should not be presented with this choice.

    But I also have some grasp of just how deep a financial hole we are in, and this makes me hesitate. I support public funding for the arts and culture, but that’s just the kind of crazy optimist I am.

  • Mario Creatura

    Sad though it is to admit, the cultural value of the porcelain is precisely what this argument is about. That very few residents in Croydon have even heard of the Riesco collection and that they are incredibly valuable only furthers the case that they deserve to be in a gallery or collection where their historical worth can be appreciated. Sitting in the Council’s basement gathering dust doesn’t help the finances of the arts in Croydon, doesn’t help the Riesco family legacy and doesn’t help the historical significance of the gifts. They deserve to be appreciated and whether or not you support the investment in Fairfield Halls, that facility at least offers immense cultural pleasure and stimulation to many thousands of people. Times are tough, we should invest wisely in our town.

    That’s why Tim is on the winning side of this argument. It’s not political posturing like Sarah’s piece opposing. If the Council could avoid selling the pieces off don’t you think it would? Sarah is running to be the Croydon Central Labour candidate. She has a motive. Tim’s motive is to get the best deal for the town. Selling things he doesn’t have to won’t make him popular. We should not be fooled by partisan rhetoric.

    • Anthony Miller

      That’s because the Council’s never advertised its existence because it had a long term plan to flog it off. Are we now going to start judging art history on the basis of what the public know? Dear God… And why is the inventory of items no longer on the Council website? It is the council’s responsibility to display and promote the items. Funny you can fill the town with posters telling us how wonderful you are and what to do any think. But put a poster up telling people there is something they own and they could look at – never. It is a circular argument. Why was the collection moved from Riesco’s house to the Fairfield Halls and then the Fairfield Halls to the Clocktower …? Was it really for “security”? Or was it so more and more of it could be concealed to be later flogged? This is a similar wheze to the one Boulton council used to flog 26 of it’s paintings including two that were on permanant display. Reduce the amount of storage space, then claim you haven’t got enough storage space, then say … oh we need a bigger building so we can have more storage space – hey presto your old paintings become fungible and you walk through a loophole in the Museum Associations rules.

      • Mario Creatura

        This is ridiculous – full of unsubstantiated assumptions leading to irrational conspiracy theories.

        The foundation of a good conspiracy theory is that those accused only care about their self-preservation. If that’s the case then why would they be proceeding with this? If the sale of part of Riesco was going to be even mildly controversial, why on earth would a political administration do it? Why risk being booted out of office if it can be avoided?

        • Anthony Miller

          We’re broke. I’m sorry if I sound paranoid about local government but I have had many years of dealing with the like of Colin Barrow – a conservative council leader so insane he was booted out not by the electorate but by his own party. If politicians cared about being booted out of power more than they cared about power for its own sake Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair would not have been disposed of by their own comrades. Also it may well be someone just didn’t think this would be controversial at all because they hadn’t really thought it out…

          • Mario Creatura

            ‘It may well be…’ = no evidence = conspiracy theory.

            We are broke, we do need the money. Fairfield Halls needs to be repaired and needs substantial investment to meet the incredible use that it has for the town. Thousands use it for entertainment. It generates cultural and financial income for the borough. It should be supported.

          • Anthony Miller

            Load of old rubbish at the Fairfield Halls sometimes – even I’ve been on there.

          • Anne Giles

            I have never seen rubbish on at the Fairfield Halls. It’s a great place.

          • Anthony Miller

            Well, seriously you do have a point there – lots of our towns have completely lost their arts centres in the cuts. We are lucky to still have one open and working – whatever it puts on …even me.

          • Anne Giles

            What is your line of entertainment? You might be good at what you do.

          • Anthony Miller

            Comedy. I’m not

  • juanincognito

    I should like to know more about Sarah’s first point (see below) before voting.

    “They claim that the sale is to refurb the Fairfield Halls. But, the money for this refurbishment is already allocated in the council’s approved and official capital budget. Where has the money from the capital budget gone? Who spent it?”

    • Tim Pollard

      As per my post above, I’m afraid Sarah completely misunderstands what ‘allocated in the capital budget’ means. it doesn’t mean we have the cash sitting around waiting to be spent. It does mean we are prepared to borrow on the public’s behalf to enable the spend. When we borrow, we pay interest and have to repay the sum owed, so that’s a cost of around £1m per year we can save the taxpayer if we sell porcelain instead of borrowing.

  • Tim Pollard

    Having now seen Ms Jones’ article on the reasons she is opposed to the sale of a small part of the remaining Riesco Collection, I felt I should just comment on the factual accuracy (or not) of some of Labour’s allegations.

    Firstly Ms Jones wants to know what happened to the money which is earmarked in future years for Fairfield Halls refurbishment and who spent it. She seems to think that there is a big pot of money under the bed in Taberner House from which we take capital investments. Sadly, that’s not how it works. Whenever it wants to invest in something the council always has to borrow – there’s no magic money tree anywhere except in Labour Cloudcuckooland. It borrows, mostly from the Public Works Loans Board and repays over a period of many years, paying both interest and capital repayments. The only way to invest without borrowing is to sell something else, which is what I propose to do. If we halve the borrowing for Fairfield, we halve the annual repayments and this could save up to £1m per year, every year.

    I also want to comment on the suggestion, made by both Ms Jones and her fellow All-Women Shortlist for Croydon Central member, Hamida Ali, that we don’t have any right to dispose of the collection or that it was gifted on the condition it was never split up. On both points they are just plain wrong. The borough wasn’t ever given the entire collection, and it has been partially sold both in 1970 and 1984. There were no conditions of this sort applied to the gift, of this the council’s legal advisers are certain.

    Finally, on the subject of the family’s viewpoint on the sale, I am sorry that Mr Riesco’s Great-Grand-daughter is not happy with it, although I wonder whether she is in possession of all the facts about the terms of the bequest? I hope her source of information is not just Croydon Labour and its acolytes, as they are unlikely to have laid out an unbiased appraisal of the facts. Our contact has been with older members of the family who would have known Mr Riesco personally and are very definitely in possession of the relevant information: they are entirely comfortable with the proposal I am making.

    Interestingly, Southampton Council’s Labour Leader, Simon Letts, was quoted in his local paper just last week, proposing to sell off Southampton’s £150m art collection to help fund city improvements. He has been so impressed by what Croydon is doing in this area that he has indicated that he wishes to meet with us to discuss what he can learn from our plans! You can read about this here. We will be very happy to meet with him and exchange ideas.

    Finally Ms Jones gives a good plug to their petition above. For anybody who disagrees with Labour and agrees with the sale of a small proportion of the Riesco Collection to fund the refurbishment of Fairfield, another resident has set up an alternative petition supporting that, which you can find here.

    • bieneosa

      Tim, it’s great to see you engaging on this topic here. I do hope that you’ll accept my invitation to join Cllr Timothy Godfrey to debate this issue, along with others, live on Croydon Radio this Sunday.

    • Anthony Miller

      Maybe if you’d not been so underhand in the first place there wouldn’t have been so many hilarious misunderstandings. Surely you risk being thrown out the Museums Association for doing this? It is ironic that the money is being used to prop up the Fairfield Halls where the collection was originally displayed. Although the council plays it’s violin for the Concert Hall of the Fairfield Halls one supsects there is an element of fungibility here and really the primary objective of selling the assets is simply to lower Concil Tax to keep Tory voters happy. The fact that other Councils are selling off collections is not an argument for us to do it. This is how local government works for those who haven’t had to delve into its cesspit before – local councils think up devious stupid schemes to pull a fast one on the public then copy each other. If there is a plan to raid the museum service budgets to plug holes in national public spending why isn’t there a national strategy and a national plan for this? The answer is that if you want to do a nasty job in politics you devolve it to local government where spivs like Mr Pollard will hapily soak up the unpopularity in order to try to climb the greasy career poll. But really there should be a National Strategy. Not let’s bully the weakest councils like Croydon where the chavs dont know any better

      In answer to the point about the bequest stating that the collection should not be split up Mr Pollard looks a right turnip given that his own council’s website states “In 1958, Riesco made another agreement with the Corporation under which
      he would make a gift of his collection of Oriental China, complete with
      15 showcases and a collection of etchings – mezzotints and watercolours,
      to the Corporation on the condition that they were not split up.” Awkward.

      I also found some amusement in the fact that the original flyer for the the original exhibition of the collection at the Fairfield Halls
      states it is not to be reproduced without permission

    • Anthony Miller

      This is what the Art Fund have to say on the controversial Southampton sale Tim Pollard references Still what are a few Rodins when you can have a lifesize model of the Titanic

    • Susan Oliver

      We all would like to have an unbiased opinion of the facts – so please release the legal documents that established the terms of the bequest.

  • Gareth Davies

    The poll needs an ‘undecided’ option.

    • Anne Giles

      Well – that’s tough. There is no-one who is undecided. Most of our residents did not know that this collection existed and would not have been particularly interested anyway. I have no interest in Chinese ceramics, as it happens. The Labour people are fighting this – not because they want us to keep the collection – but because they want an excuse to attack our Council. As far as the other cuts mentioned – the Grants Vue cinema shows many more films than the David Lean ever did and the seats are far more comfortable, and the Warehouse Theatre tended to show rather obscure plays which I had no interest in.

      • Anthony Miller

        My mum knew it existed. You just didn’t know cus you got no class. It’s only been in the clocktower 10 years – are you all blind or just ignant and terminally lacking in curiousity?

        • Anne Giles

          Cus? Curiousity? Ignant? You can’t spell and you have class????

          • Anthony Miller

            Well, if you want a serious answer. If you gave me £13million and said fill the Croydon Museum I doubt I would come back with a load of Ming dynasty ceramics. However, that doesn’t mean the ceramics have no value. They can be loaned to other instituions by the museum in return for other items. Or they could all be sold to restock the museum with different display items and the Museums Association would not object to this. However, flogging them off in order to plug general spending gaps is a bit pathetic and the Fairfield Halls fig leaf does not cover this up. If you follow this policy to its logical conclusion we’d be left keeping a museum open because the lottery has funded it and wont let us close it while having nothing to actually display there – which is a bit stupid

        • PolarDog

          difficult to convincingly call somebody ignorant when you can’t even spell it.

          (also Anne Giles has class and then some!)

      • ArfurTowcrate

        Some people would defend Auschwitz to the hilt if it was run by Croydon Conservatives.

        Decisions about our town’s cultural heritage and future should be made on better criteria than a short-term shortage of cash (why can’t the apparently brilliant CCURV deal bridge the gap – or Lottery funding for that matter) or irrelevant, subjective, individual views concerning the appeal of plays or the comfort of seats.

  • Jake Thurston

    Given the nature of contemporary political discourse (and the obvious fact that this vote, and therefore the arguments provided so graciously by Tim and Sarah, concerns a plan already in action), it is perhaps necessarily the case that a discussion such as this would be framed as a zero-sum game along party political lines. See: ‘Labour stole my cash’, and the more… we’ll say “colourful” renderings of ‘Conservative Cuts’ at nationwide anti-austerity demonstrations. Even expecting that this would be the case, as both a natural-born Croydonian and long-term academic of Chinese history and politics/previous resident of China, I must express my disappointment at how very unconcerned this debate appears to be with the cultural and historical value (beyond their conversion into pound signs) of the porcelain pieces in question, regardless of the matter of personal interest. Mario touches on this issue, as was raised in an earlier Facebook exchange regarding this poll, although I am uninterested with the personal legacy of the Riesco family and am instead affected by the international heritage of the pieces subject to sale.

    This Jingdezhen pottery (highly prized, with surviving historical examples from the Song, Yuan and Ming often occupying permanent exhibits in the Americas and China) was commissioned in the Ming dynasty by Zhu Zhanji (or the Xuande Emperor) during his short 1425-35 reign.The Ming dynasty, which lived beyond him, eventually succumbed to the invading Mongolian Qing unifiers of the north in 1644, and so the last ruling ethnic Han Chinese dynasty went gentle into that good night. The purpose of this tedious monologue is not simply intellectual masturbation but rather to demonstrate that the porcelain pieces are soaked in history, whether they capture your personal attention or not. Furthermore, given the dominance of the Han Nationalist historiographical tendencies in Chinese politics today, as well as the fact that the pottery left China with Riesco during the economic collapse of the Qing in a wider period that the Chinese refer to as 百年国耻, or ‘The Century of National Humiliation’, I would wager that this pottery has a value to the Chinese themselves far beyond [x]-amount of pounds sterling – which is precisely why I am so troubled at the lack of attention paid to the heritage issue as well as the short-term fix nature of the plan in action.

    My belief that the pieces should be repatriated is self-evident, but I think that the way the council is attempting to go about this is altogether wrong, and very short-sighted. If raising money must be the primary justification for returning the heritage items, then could this not be played to the cultural benefit of Croydon? I know first-hand that the National Museum of China in Beijing is *somewhat* lacking in exhibitions of pottery due to the devastating damage suffered to artefacts during the Cultural Revolution, and for the reasons outlined above I believe they, or other museums in the Mainland, would be very interested in acquiring the pottery. Is there any reason why it could not be loaned out to a Chinese museum (for a ‘pretty penny’, if you must) rather than sold to a collector as a short-term solution, and displayed there as ‘The Croydon Riesco Collection’?

    • bieneosa

      Jake, you make some interesting and refreshing points, particularly in relation to loaning rather than selling the items. I am hosting show about the Riesco Collection this Sunday on Croydon Radio, and keen to include diverse perspectives. If you are interested in taking part, please email me at bieneosa (@)

    • David White

      I think Jake’s ideas have a lot of merit. Perhaps if the collection was loaned to Beijing, some of the items could form part of a “blockbuster” exhibition on, say, the Ming Dynasty which could travel to different cities round the world. I can see this having huge appeal if it was shown at the British Museum.

      First. however, Croydon Council must show us the documents which set out the basis on which Raymond Riesco left the collection to Croydon and there should be full public consultation.

      • CNHSS

        Perhaps the British Museum could have a Ming exhibition when Pompei finishes. They could borrow a couple of Riesco Pieces. Wait! They are having a Ming exhibition in the autumn, I can’t wait to see it!

    • CNHSS

      Whilst there is merit in repatriating works of art, each country returning and also having items returned to them, does it not make art collections and museums less interesting?
      Diversity in Museum collections is an important cultural asset. We will all be the poorer for not being able to see, with ease, beautiful ceramics, paintings and sculpture from different eras and civilisations. This diversity is what makes any museum culturally rich. These colections are used for inspiration for the next generation of Artists and Designers. They always have been a source of inspiration and will continue to be.
      These ceramics inspire school parties and students for Croydons own Art College. Ceramics such as these have inspired ceramic artists since Josiah Wedgwood began to make beautiful pots 200 years ago, right up to the present day they are a wonderful source for inspiration.
      These ceramics have not been in store, pop along ans you will see how thin it has become. If you have never been, please take the opportunity to visit, it is free!

  • Michael Oliver

    The views of the present members of the Riesco family may be interesting but are irrelevant. The property was left to the people of Croydon and therefore passed out of the Riesco estate. The cajoling of a woman in her late 90s to sign a note of approval was also irrelevant as well as being despicable. The Council does not own the collection, they are custodians on behalf of the people of Croydon and disposing of other people’s property without their consent is probably an offence under the Theft Act of 1968.
    I hope steps will be taken to apply for an injunction to have the items returned from the auction house pending judicial review of this underhand course of action which seems to have only come to light accidentally – so much for transparent government. I would like all relevant documents to be made available for public scrutiny. If there is nothing to hide, why can this not be done? Let us have a public debate so that the public can be given a chance to vote on the issue with all the facts before them.
    I also strongly disapprove in principle of the proceeds being poured down the drain by supporting the ailing Fairfield Halls. Don’t support this sneaky, horrible plan.

  • David White

    Croydon’s record in dealing with heritage items it owns is not a good one. I’m reminded of the Coombe Cliff Conservatory, which stood in the grounds of tea merchant Horniman at Park Hill. Croydon Council allowed the conservatory, which was a listed building, to fall into disrepair and it was only rescued when Lewisham Council agreed to transport it to its borough, where it now stands in the grounds of the Horniman Museum.

    Surely Croydon can find some way to ensure the Riesco porcelain is seen by a large number of people, while still retaining the ownership as Raymond Riesco wished.

    I have been trying for the last 8 days to obtain from the Council copies of documents which show the precise basis on which Mr Riesco bequeathed the items to the Council and/or the people of Croydon. As Mr A.E.Miller has pointed out, the Council’s own website says there is a condition that the collection should not be split up. However the Democratic and Legal Services Department of the Council have so far failed to release these. So much for open government!

    • Anthony Miller

      It is standard practice according to the Museums
      Association rules that no works acquired by public donation, bequest or using any form of grant money should be sold. This was not a problem with previous sales of the collection as it was not in a “museum” at the time but it is now. If the Council sold the items for £13 million and had to give the lottery back £1million it’d still be £12 million up

    • Anne Giles

      But why would let you in particular have copies of their documents? What makes you different from everybody else?

      • David White

        A number of people are trying to get the documents. We can’t have an informed debate without them. Are you not in favour of them being released?

        • Anne Giles

          Who are all these people? Labour activists who are wanting to stop the sale?

  • Susan Oliver

    The cultural value has already been established.

    The cultural value was established by Mr Riesco.

    Don’t individuals have the right to establish their own cultural values through their bequests? Isn’t that the idea behind any bequest?

    Mr Riesco had a vision: to give a collection of ceramics, not a gift of money. Mr Riesco did not sell the collection and give the Council the proceeds. That’s because Mr Riesco had a belief in ceramics and their intrinsic value. That was the idea that Mr Riesco was trying to get across: that there’s something more important than money, namely, beauty vis-à-vis ceramics.

    Mr Riesco believed in ceramics and believed in giving this beauty to the people of Croydon. Didn’t Mr Riesco have the right to believe in ceramics over the Fairfield Halls or any other art form? Does anyone have the right to take that belief away?

    Isn’t one of the ideals of the Conservative movement the idea that the rights of the individual take precedent over that of the collective? So why are Mssrs Mead and Pollard acting as if a collective called a government have more rights than an
    individual? Isn’t this action going against the Conservative Party’s own principles? There will ALWAYS be a need for money – should this need give governments the power to throw away bequests and gifts set up by individuals?

    The primary idea of Conservatism is the value of the individual so let’s respect the individual called Mr Riesco. It is the value of his vision that Mssrs Mead and Pollard are now hoping to reap. And lets hope that the Croydon Conservative Party goes back to its philosophical roots.

    • Anne Giles

      But the family have given their permission for the sale to go ahead, which is a must. How many people are that interested in ceramics anyway? I certainly am not. In any case, these items were never going to be on display, as security and insurance would have been too costly. Would you really want our Council Tax increased to pay for this? I would not. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. The other items will always remain on display. In any case, the Fairfield Halls are far more important, as they bring joy to an awful lot of people, whilst a load of ceramics would only bring joy to a select few.

  • Terry Coleman

    It goes against my grain to say this but I do believe the Council has the the balance about right here. It’s nice to be able to display our best china but you need a purpose and to my mind a decent Philharmonic at a refurbished Fairfield complex would be the right and proper setting.
    But then again: ‘And here, poor fool! with all my lore I stand! no wiser than before.’ ( to quote Goethe)

  • PolarDog

    The collection is essentially a recreational feature. It makes no financial contribution and costs money. This does not mean that it is without merit – just that its benefit is intangible.

    If sold, then we understand that proceeds will go to the Fairfield Hall – another ‘recreation’ – also with merit.

    The debate needs to get away from sentimentality and decide which better benefits the citizens of Croydon.

    I am not sure though, that keeping several million pounds worth of (admittedly magnificent) ceramics in a basement is really giving best value.

    • Anne Giles

      My point exactly.

  • Jeremy Morris

    To me the way to look at it is this: assume that the sale has gone ahead and the money spent. What happens next time we find ourselves in a similar situation? If the answer would be to sell off a few more items from the collection (or to look for some other valuable resource that we can arguably do without) then so be it. But if not, then I think we should say no this time too. Either the Fairfield Halls has to look for some other way to fund its refurbishment or, failing that, we must accept that we cannot afford the improvements just now and look to do the minimum possible to keep the venue running in these difficult times.

  • TT

    Those in favour of selling these objects keep referring to them being stored in a dusty basement- simply not true. These 24 pieces have been on public display in the Clocktower’s Riesco Gallery for years, along with the rest of the collection, and were only recently removed by Sotheby’s.

    And the argument that they can no longer afford to be insured or protected is just an excuse to help justify this action. The gallery’s security was recently upgraded so it was suitable to display priceless treasures from the British Museum alongside the Riesco Collection, and was inspected and approved by the museum world’s national security adviser. This decision is all about the money.

  • Terry Coleman

    Over the years I’ve seen some classy performances at Fairfield Halls and this band comes easily to mind. I saw the great Stan Kenton Orchestra in 1973.
    Here is a favourite tune of mine, unfortunately this recording is a bit flaky, however, the dynamics and harmonics still endure, they somehow remind me of a Ming Vase.

    I do hope that the Fairfield Halls will be refurbished and
    bought up to 21st Century standards to play a central part in
    our town of Croydon.