Silves council is to hold an all day public meeting (times below) to discuss the future of the Cork Museum and Fábrica do Inglês with councillors keen to find a solution to the site that has lain derelict and vandalised for over six years.
The session will be held on the 20th of February at the Teatro Mascarenhas Gregório in Silves.
The initiative comes from the Portuguese Association of Industrial Archaeology and the Portuguese Association of Museums, with the support of the Silves council.
The site is owned by Caixa Geral de Depósitos and the exhibits were bought at auction by the Nogueira Group for €36,000.
The property is classified as a municipal monument and is protected by Cultural Heritage laws, something Ratisbona Promoções e Construções Lda, working under a German multinational that builds commercial real estate, found out when working for Caixa Geral de Depósitos which secured the site for €2.23 million at auction in May 2014.
The laws state that any development has to be in the public interest, which a new supermarket was not.
Both associations and Silves council have received plenty of suggestions as to how to resolve this impasse involving Portugal’s industrial heritage - “this was one of the most remarkable industrial museums in the country and in Europe,” according to the preamble.
The two organisations intend to look at any option that could lead to a solution and to give the museum a future, “regardless of the management model that may be adopted.”
The remodelled Fábrica do Inglês was inaugurated in 1999, based on the original 1894 cork factory design and layout.
The museum project within the Fábrica do Inglês walls was internationally recognised and won an award for 'best Industrial Museum of the year' in 2001.
Silves council ploughed millions of euros of ratepayers' money into the museum until the project went bust in 2009. It has been closed ever since and now lies derelict, vandalised and forlorn.
The site was owned by Alisuper/Alicoop which then made a commercial planning application, since which Alisuper/Alicoop went bust and was bought by the Nogueira Group which itself has struggled to make any money, closing stores and complaining about seasonality.
Caixa Geral was owed money by Alisuper/Alicoop and obtained the site in lieu of debt and tried to obtain planning permission to develop the site into a supermarket. This was knocked back by the council which now would love to have another museum on its patch but lacks the money to buy the site.
The government is unlikely to help and already has said that the site and the contents of the museum are in private hands and of no interest.
A public petition was launched in 2014 in an attempt to preserve the Fábrica do Inglês and its cork museum and demanded that the President of the Assembly and the Portuguese Association of Industrial Archaeology does something about it.
The petition noted that when the museum was set up, several prominent local families gave money to ensure the museum was opened and maintained for the benefit of future generations in memory of their ancestors. The government ignored this petition, stating again that the museum and site both are in private hands.
The forthcoming public meeting may develop some sort of solution but the main thing missing will be the money to redevelop the derelict site and turn it back into a local attraction.
The millions thrown at the original idea by Silves council does not engender any optimism that the venue can be run at a profit, even if refurbished.
At the auction of the museum’s contents, a representative from the cork company Corticeira Amorim, SGPS, S.A was spotted.
Old man Amorim happens to be the richest man in Portugal, he also is perhaps the meanest but what better way to change that image than by establishing a foundation to raise the cork museum from the ashes and establish a foundation to guarantee its future?
SESSÃO DA MANHÃ – 9H30-13H00
9h30-10h00 - Receção dos intervenientes e dos participantes
10h00-10h15 – Abertura do Fórum. Apresentação dos moderadores. Enquadramento do funcionamento do Fórum.
10h15-10h45 – Intervenção da DRCA - Direção Regional de Cultura do Algarve
10h45-11h15 – Intervenção da CMS – Câmara Municipal de Silves
11h15-11h30 – Intervenção do ICOM- Portugal
11h30-11h45 - Pausa para Café
11h45-12h15 – Intervenção da CGD – Caixa Geral de Depósitos
12h15-12h45 – Intervenção do Grupo Nogueira, SA
12h45-13h30 – Visita ao recinto da antiga fábrica e Museu da Cortiça da Fábrica do Inglês
SESSÃO DA TARDE – 15h00-18h30
15h30-16h00 – Intervenção especial: Maximo Negri – European Museum Academy
16h00-16h30 – Intervenção da APOM
16h30-17h00 – Intervenção da APAI
17h00-17h15 – Síntese final. Conclusões. Preparação do debate.
17h15-17h30 – Pausa para café
17h30-18h30 – Intervenção dos participantes do Fórum
18h30 – Encerramento do Fórum