Anger at Kettering heritage quarter rebrand as 'crass' illuminated sign slammed

What do you think of the new name?
How the site could look. Credit: Productive Design LtdHow the site could look. Credit: Productive Design Ltd
How the site could look. Credit: Productive Design Ltd

A row over the new name of Kettering’s heritage quarter has flared up again after plans for its illuminated signage were branded ‘crass’.

The move to call the town’s revamped gallery, library and museum (GLaM) buildings ‘Cornerstone’ was met with anger earlier this year, with community groups furious that the decision was taken privately.

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Pleas to North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) to reverse it fell on deaf ears – and now a bid for an illuminated sign with the new name has incensed stakeholders.

Kerry Purnell - senior responsible officer for Cornerstone - in what will be the new cafeKerry Purnell - senior responsible officer for Cornerstone - in what will be the new cafe
Kerry Purnell - senior responsible officer for Cornerstone - in what will be the new cafe

Kettering Civic Society secretary Monica Ozdemir said the brand has no relevance to the town’s history and that the sign doesn’t reflect or respect surrounding listed buildings. She believes the facsimile of the Kettering mosaic should be put there instead.

She said: "We are really quite angry, to put it lightly.”

Ms Ozdemir said NNC had ‘wasted’ time and money on getting an external firm to come up with the name, adding that they have not met anyone who likes it.

She said: “It does not fit in at all with that historic area of the town. It could easily be for a shopping centre or anything frankly.”

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The over-budget cultural project, which was initially due to cost about £4m, will eventually unite the Alfred East Art Gallery with the Manor House Museum, the town’s Carnegie library and a new cafe.

David Brown, chairman of Friends of Kettering Art Gallery and Museum, said there was no need for the rebrand and that Cornerstone was the name for a firm that sells shaving products, a group of churches and a group of ‘right-wing’ MPs.

He said the council was ‘riding roughshod’ over Kettering heritage and hit out over the ‘crass nature’ of the sign.

He said: "You’re not going to rename The National Gallery and call it Natty or the Tower of London Towie, so why are we having to rebrand the Manor House Museum and Alfred East Art Gallery?”

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Mr Brown added that appeals to the authority to change the name were like ‘trying to attack a tank with a pea shooter’.

And Cllr Clark Mitchell (Lab), who sits on Kettering Town Council, said he was ‘disgusted’ by the Cornerstone name and illuminated sign.

He said: "I find the idea of naming the art gallery the same as a shaving company is an absolute insult to the people of Kettering and the heritage of the town. It has a perfectly good name already.

"What are they going to do next? Change the William Knibb Centre to the Wilkinson Sword Centre? Wicksteed Park to Gillette Park? That’s how ridiculous it is.”

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The GLaM project has faced protests about trees and concerns about the future of the Blitz Cafe, and has twice needed extra money from council coffers to get to its current stage.

NNC has also previously been blasted for its ‘complete lack of transparency’ over the project and the future of the museum remains uncertain because it is structurally unsound. The gallery and library space will be opened fully next year.

Cllr Helen Howell, deputy leader of North Northamptonshire Council and executive member for sport, leisure, culture and tourism, said: “Cornerstone is the name that has been chosen for the collection of venues at this important heritage site in Kettering’s Cultural Quarter.

“However, facilities such as the Alfred East Art Gallery and Manor House Museum will remain and will be referenced on signage by their names that are well known in the local community and beyond.

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“We are really keen to preserve and enhance the heritage of the area – this is one of the main objectives of the project. We are therefore keen to ensure that any signage complements the look and feel of the area.

“We have met with the Civic Society and explained that we would try to accommodate the mosaic within the building, however the Cornerstone branding will be on the new entrance.”