Planetarium plan for Doncaster as museum’s friends group boosts service 

 The say a friend in need is a friend indeed.  

And in an era of funding cuts, Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery has a great pal in the group of volunteers called Friends of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

Margaret Baker, Dave Adgar, Chair, Christine Djezzar and Angela Shoulder, Friends of Doncaster Museum committee members pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-12-01-19-FriendsofMuseum-1

Margaret Baker, Dave Adgar, Chair, Christine Djezzar and Angela Shoulder, Friends of Doncaster Museum committee members pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-12-01-19-FriendsofMuseum-1

Over the years since it was set up, the organisation has raised thousands of pounds for the site, on Chequer Road, and as the museum prepares to move to a new site on Waterdale, they have plans for more in the future.

The group has donated many works of art to the gallery in the past, and is working to make sure that even in times of austerity, that continues.

Helping do that is the current chairman Dave Adgar.

Dave was brought up in the north east of England, where his dad worked as a miner. He trained as a teacher, and spent 20 years teaching in German, teaching children of army families.

After returning to England after his retirement from teaching, he worked for the Churches Conservation Trust, looking after historic churches.

He and wife Donna, who is Doncaster born and bred, moved to Doncaster in 2005, settling in Tickhill.

He got involved in the Friends of Doncaster Museum after attending lunchtime concerts at the museum that they run. He was asked to join the Friends’ committee, and a few years ago became chairman.

The former teacher believes having the museum helps youngsters in the borough.

He said: “I believe it helps educational attainment. London has so much access to culture, compared to Doncaster. We are keen support what is available here.

“It also helps improve mental health and wellbeing. Doncaster may not have any Da Vincis But it has lots of fantastic exhibits and paintings that have direct relevance to people's lives.”

There are already plans to help the museum in the near future.

The Friends are currently looking at bringing back the museum’s membership of the Contemporary Arts Society, which it dropped after austerity cuts.

Membership meant the society donated art to the museum, with around 70 items donated over 50 years' involvement in the organisation.

It included works by famous artists such as Jacob Epstein and Patrick Caulfield.

In the past, the Friends group has provided money to help buy works of art. It has in recent years provided cash which has then been backed by lottery funds to buy work. An example was the famous Terence Cuneo painting Giants Refreshed, depicting steam engines in the Doncaster railway engineering works in Hexthorpe. Other examples are works by one of the most famous English artists of the eighteenth century, Joseph Wright of Derby.

It is also looking to fund events which would be run during British Science Week, with money donated to them by organisations including Tesco Drax Power Station, and the Liz and Terry Bramhall Foundation.

Under their current plans, this will include bringing a mobile planetarium to Doncaster, and animal handling sessions in the town. The idea is to allow youngsters whose families may not have much money to get to do activities in their own town, that they would not usually be able to access.

Mr Adgar says the more donations they get, the more activities they will be able to run.

In addition, they are looking at how they could fund portraits of a generation of Doncaster icons.

Members are aware that in previous generations, portraits were painted of high profile members of the community, often the mayors of the time.

The Friends are looking at how they could do anything similar. One possibility is to find a local painter who can create portraits of the current Freemen of Doncaster – people such as Dennis Rollins, Ben Parkinson, Lesley Garrett and Sarah Stevenson –  but Mr Adgar says they would like to ask the public for their views on whose portraits they should commission.

Mr Adgar is one of many people involved in the friends group.

Christine Djezzar, of Bennetthorpe, got involved in 2017 after retiring from her job as headteacher at North Ridge School in the borough, because she wanted to get involved in activities involving the borough’s heritage.

She said: “I enjoy widening my horizons with the group. We get some really interesting speakers coming to us.”

Retired scientist Angela Shoulder, from Hatfield Woodhouse, also joined the group after finishing work. She said: “We are trying to raise awareness of what we have in Doncaster. Doncaster is a pearl, and we don’t shout about it enough. I love the the art collection the most.”

Helen Stirland, from Doncaster town centre, joined the friends group after taking early retirement from her job at Doncaster Council because of an eye problem. She advises on disability. She is behind a suggestion that tablet computers should be provided at the planned new library at Waterdale do provide visitors with close-up images of exhibits.

She said: “There is much to celebrate about Doncaster’s heritage, and I think it’s important we do so.”