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Feliz cumpleaños, el Prado!

Prado Bicentenary logo

Glad I arrived in good time for yesterday’s Prado bicentenary event at the National Gallery: there was not a spare seat in the auditorium to hear the illuminating conversation between the directors of two of the world’s most famous art galleries.

On stage were Miguel Falomir of Madrid’s Prado, and Gabriele Finaldi of London’s National Gallery. Their conversation was a way for London to wish the Prado ‘Feliz cumpleaños’ – Happy Birthday!

It was the start of a programme of events marking the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Museo del Prado. The museum opened back in 1819, set up by King Ferdinand VII of Spain to showcase the Royal Collection.

European masterpieces

And what a collection it is: in addition to the Spanish greats Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo and Goya, the Museo del Prado boasts vast numbers of works by Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Bosch and Botticelli. The condition of these masterpieces is immaculate, noted National Gallery Director Gabriele Finaldi, because they have not suffered the trauma of cleaning or reframing which occurs when works of art change hands.

They were largely commissioned by the Spanish monarchs of the Golden Age and installed in their palaces where they remained until the Prado opened in 1819.

“The worst treatment they have suffered is benign neglect,” said Mr Finaldi.

Those who arrived in time to grab a seat in the auditorium enjoyed almost an hour listening to the two gallery directors share their knowledge.

The National Gallery runs an ongoing programme of talks and lectures, many of them free. Check out forthcoming events at their website: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/events

Find out more about cultural events organised by and with the support of the Instituto Cervantes in the UK here: https://londres.cervantes.es

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Merton councillor in denial over air quality failings

“We are the experts in London” for air quality, councillor Nick Draper bragged today, despite an annual performance review for Merton showing the Council had failed to hit targets on NO2 compliance at all 44 of its air quality monitoring sites.

“We are the lead authority for London and in Britain”, Mr Draper told the Joint Regulatory Service Partnership (RSP) committee, praising “the excellent work that our team is doing”.

‘Failure to comply’

Members were shown a slide listing all three Key Performance Indicators for Merton on air quality as ‘red’, with the council failing to comply on: annual average amount of NO2 per m3; annual average amount of particulates per m3; and NO2 diffusion tube monitoring sites in the borough exceeding national levels.

Nevertheless, Mr Draper, who was attending the meeting as an observer, insisted, “What we have achieved is extremely successful.”

However, Cllr Martin Elengorn, of Richmond Council, was critical of “self-congratulation and back patting”.

“The public won’t be impressed, since we still have bad air quality,” he said. “They don’t want to know we are pleased with ourselves. They want to know what we are doing and how we respond. The public are not happy.”

Mr Elengorn is Richmond’s Cabinet member for the environment, leading on the fight against Heathrow expansion.

The Joint Regulatory Service Partnership (RSP) committee, is a money-saving collaboration between local authorities in Merton, Wandsworth and Richmond, covering areas including food safety, trading standards, pollution monitoring and trading standards. Nick Draper is not currently a member of the committee.

Staff: ‘passionate’ but inexperienced

Members heard that grants worth £1 million for work on air quality across the three boroughs had funded the appointment of nine extra members of staff, many of whom are graduates on short-term contracts and unqualified in air quality issues.

Merton Council’s Housing and Pollution Control Manager Ed Shayler explained that it was difficult to attract experienced environmental health officers to potentially temporary roles, but that the graduates employed were qualified in science subjects, keen to learn and “passionate” about air quality issues.

In response to a question from Wandsworth councillor Paula Walker, Mr Shayler said that the new staff were spending time on jobs including visiting construction sites to check for compliance, and taking air quality readings.

Merton councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah failed to attend the meeting but was elected chairman of the Joint RSP committee in her absence.

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