Andrew Keener writes…
I cannot remember when I last employed the ‘High Importance’ symbol in an email. Below is a message from my friend Stuart Freed, Chairman of the Elgar Society UK. I think it is self-explanatory.
I urge you, please, as lovers of Elgar’s music, to write to Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust (address within Stuart’s message) to protest against any move that the National Trust seems to have in mind to withdraw its support from the Elgar Birthplace Cottage in Worcestershire.
A pertinent thought: would the powers in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon countenance for a moment similar intentions towards the city’s most famous son? I think not.
Independent Recording Producer and Honorary Life Member of the Elgar Society
This mail, the latest in the series, is somewhat different from the usual in that it does not feature notices of upcoming events. Rather, it is a call to arms on the issue of the future of the Firs, Edward Elgar’s birthplace. I have written in similar terms to our President and to all of the Society’s Vice-Presidents in a similar vein. No doubt you will know that the entire Birthplace site was taken over by the National Trust on a five year trial basis. This period is due to expire in October 2023 and as a result, the NT will be considering whether or not to continue to take responsibility for the site, its buildings and their contents in September of this year.
The Society recognises that the Trust have made many changes at the Firs, including the removal of the archive to the British Library and the provision of additional visitor resources including a coffee shop. Not all of the changes have been universally welcomed, but there can be no doubt that whist under the auspices of the Trust, the house and visitor centre have seen a huge increase in visitor numbers. As would be expected, the covid pandemic had a huge impact upon the number of people able to visit the site and whilst numbers are now beginning to build again, they have not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. At the time of writing it is unclear as to whether or not the Elgar Foundation, the body controlling the site and its buildings prior to NT’s involvement, would be in a position to resume responsibility and even if this were possible, the viability of maintaining the site would seem to be in doubt without the NT’s support.
There can be no question about the value of maintaining the Firs as a museum commemorating the life and work of Edward Elgar to both lovers of his music, musicians and the wider public. Quite apart from the historical aspect, the cultural value of the Firs is inestimable. Losing it is as unthinkable as the closure of Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon. Both are essential components of our cultural landscape. I am therefore asking all members of the Society to lobby the National Trust by writing a letter of support for the Firs, highlighting its value, its national significance and its historical and musical interest to both lovers of Elgar’s music and the general public.
I hope that you feel that the campaign to save the Firs from possible closure is a worthwhile cause and that you will be able to support it by writing to Hilary McGrady, Director-General, The National Trust, Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, SN2 2NA. Should you have any questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact me by email or telephone on 07904 038119.
All best wishes,