Article - Life goes on

At Westminster and in the national media, all the talk is of the prospects for Brexit. Each “historic vote” in the House of Commons, each phase of discussion with Brussels, and each strand in the complex fabric of Brexit politics is analysed and dramatised. 

For those of us who are condemned to live much of our waking lives at present in this particular hothouse atmosphere, there is a severe danger of getting things significantly out of proportion. It can come to seem as if there is little going on in the world (or at least in Britain) other than the latest twist or turn in this remarkable saga. 

But of course the reality is that life goes on much as normal outside Westminster. Our future is being formed as much by the quiet actions of those who are laying the cultural and aesthetic foundations for the coming generations as it is by those of us involved in finding a sensible way to leave the EU. 

These quiet efforts to build for the future are all too often hidden in plain sight. The information is there but it goes largely unremarked. 

A case in point is the complete renovation of the fine old museum in Dorchester. 

Because the museum is closed until 2020 for these works to be carried out, this very substantial project has attracted little attention. But it will change the whole nature of the museum, and give it at least another century as a thriving centre of both natural and human history - linking Dorchester with its past, and enabling all those who come to our County town to have access to many of the finest exhibitions mounted by Britain’s astonishing national museums and galleries, which are the equal of anything in the world. 

It was therefore with great delight that I saw recently the award of another notable sum of money from the Wolfson fund to help complete this splendid project; a timely reminder of the multitude of patient and constructive contributions that are being made from day to day many miles away from Westminster. 

Of course, Dorchester is not the only place in Britain (or even in West Dorset) where things have been going on. 

I have mentioned on several occasions in this column the wonderful revival of the Literary and Scientific Institute in Bridport - now a glistening tribute to the skill of those who have found a way of combining the new with the old to produce something better than either (as we have also seen in the renovation of the old Court House where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried. And we shouldn’t forget, either, the marvellous new Mary Anning Wing which has given a new lease of life to the charming and distinguished little museum in Lyme Regis. 

All of these, too, are examples of the way in which our heritage has been patiently enhanced for the sake of future generations. 

In Sherborne, as well, the same spirit is producing the same sorts of results. I see that the planning application for the new Arts Centre has now been made - and, subject to it being approved, this is due to be the next milestone in West Dorset’s cultural renaissance. It has been long in the making, and has gone through many evolutions. But it is now being carried forward in a thoroughly professional way, and I have the highest hopes for it, not only as an adornment of this glorious and ancient town for those who live in and around it, but also as a magnet for visitors from further afield and hence as a boost to the tourism and hospitality industry which (we should always remember) is our largest employer.