|The presentation at the Friends’ AGM yesterday|
Please see below in response to the enquiry that you made. During this process we had consultation with Staff, trade unions, Mills Observatory Advisory Group and Dundee Astronomical Society. Further discussion with Friends of Balgay and other interested parties took place.
a) Dates of the closure – The Mills Observatory will not be closing per se. During our summer opening period from 1 April to 30 September the Observatory will be open to the public on selected targeted dates with a variety of events and activities. This is published on the Mills Observatory website and is notified through Facebook postings also.
b) Where are staff redeployed to? – As part of Cultural Services, Visitor Assistant Team staff work throughout the year at the following venues: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum, Broughty Castle Museum, and Mills Observatory. The staff who are generally based at Mills Observatory will work between The McManus and Broughty Castle Museum during the summer opening period, but will be based at the Mills Observatory on the selected dates as published above.
c) Can groups still book the venue (eg Friends of Balgay) for meetings? – Access to the Observatory can be arranged and dates have been confirmed with the Friends of Balgay following a meeting I had with (them). They have scheduled meetings taking place on 26 April, 26 July and 18 October. They have also requested their annual litter pick have access to Mills for practical reasons and once this date is confirmed we can make final arrangements.
Dundee Astronomical Society have also scheduled their series of meetings over this summer period. The Mills Observatory remains as a wedding venue for the city and we will continue to take bookings as required.
d) What events were run in 2013 during the equivalent period and will any similar ones be run at the same period this year? – A total of 26 events, including summer planetarium shows, Dundee Astronomical meetings and children’s activities, were delivered April to September 2013 with a total of 30 similar events taking place for this period in 2014.
e) What were visitor numbers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in the period that is now to be a closure period? – The visitor numbers are as follows:
April to September 2011 – 3,976
April to September 2012 – 3,647
April to September 2013 – 3,895
The focus on our targeting of events during this period will be for specific activities and events indicated in response to question d. I am hopeful that our targeted programming will be at least on par with previous years.
In addition to the questions you have asked, it would be useful to note that the Mills Observatory is undergoing a number of upgrades to the fabric of the building and some repairs to the dome itself and we are keen to have a refreshed venue ready for the new season starting 1 October when we carry out 80% of our engagement in the winter period.
|The Dundee Weaver Craft|
Following my update yesterday about concerns over the future of the Mills Observatory, I was interviewed by Radio Tay today (click here to listen) and the issue has been covered in the Courier, the Press and Journal, the Sun, and various other newspapers.
Judging by the number of people contacting me regarding the issue today, it is of considerable concern and it is vital that the City Council is transparent and ends the secrecy over this important matter.
Today’s “Scotland on Sunday” newspaper reports my concerns – and those of Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland – over the future of Mills Observatory in the West End Ward, the only full-time public observatory in the UK.
Following concerns expressed to me about the future of the observatory, I contacted the City Council’s Chief Executive, who advised :
“… the officers are examining a variety of options. I can give you an assurance that within the options being considered the ownership of the Mills Observatory remains with the City Council, and in my opinion will be beneficial in securing the long term future of the facility.”
Whilst the assurance that the observatory remains in the City Council’s ownership gives a measure of reassurance, it is high time that the council SNP administration is a whole lot more open and transparent about any proposals for the future of Mills Observatory. The “secret cabal” of SNP councillors meeting at the so-called Changing for the Future Board and deciding possible changes to council services is exactly the wrong way to approach the council’s budget challenges – secretive and wholly lacking in transparency.
It is about time that the council administration brought any proposals to the City Council’s Policy & Resources Committee where these can be discussed openly and publicly. Secretive boards are simply not the right way forward and simply lead to speculation and concern. I think the people of Dundee are entitled to know exactly what the council administration is planning in relation to the future of Mills Observatory – and other facilities and services. It is time for all this ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff to come to an end and the matter being publicly discussed at the Policy and Resources Committee.