The Courier

Angus and Mearns Matters: Winter hours opening cut is harsh reality of museums’ plight

Kirriemuir camera obscura

If you’ve never been, a visit to Kirremuir’s Camera Obscura is a must.

It’s a gem on your Angus doorstep and proof positive that in the shoot-em-up virtual reality world kids inhabit from an early age these days, inquiring young minds can still be fascinated by the historic technology which Peter Pan creator Sir J M Barrie installed in the roofspace of the pavilion on The Hill.

While Peter and Wendy took flight in Barrie’s writings, drones of remarkable capability which cost relatively little today were a long way off when the author brought the science to the town which allows visitors to climb the steps into the darkened space below the eaves and – on a concave table four and a half feet in diameter – enjoy a spectacular real-time panoramic projection on offer at only four camera sites in Scotland.

Kirrie’s camera was facing the prospect of the shutters coming down until the town’s regeneration group stepped in to keep it running in 2015, and the dedicated crew have since welcomed thousands of visitors.

It enhances Kirrie’s tourism offering and the prospect of a spin-off for local businesses who might pick up custom from the influx of visitors making their way to the Peter Pan, or Bon Scott burgh, depending on who they most associate with the wee red town.

However, it has to shut down during the winter months, and off-season economic prospects for businesses not just in Kirrie but across the county took a further dent last week with the announcement of an operating hours cull at museums run by the Angus Alive charity.

From November to March, council museums now run by the authority’s arms-length culture and leisure trust will only open three days a week, down from five.

Trust bosses say the move – alongside earlier closing at a number of Angus sports centres, but increased library hours – will provide a more “tailored” customer service.

That tailoring brought a local reaction which was, understandably, one of disappointment that in a move to cut their cloth, the cost-saving sights had been turned on what was described as an “easy target”.

Angus towns and tourism businesses already find it hard to draw folk in and open their wallets, so putting up the closed signs more often is unlikely to be welcomed.