About the Friends

The Friends of the Livesey Museum for Children is an independent charity aiming to re-open the doors of the Museum and to continue its inspirational work for the benefit of the locality and beyond. We exist to ensure that the Museum and courtyard garden remain accessible to all, providing creative and playful learning experiences for children and the wider community.

The Museum was based in the Old Kent Road in South London, in one of the most deprived areas of the city. Originally a library donated to the people of Southwark by local industrialist Sir George Livesey, the building was re-opened as London’s first museum for children in 1974. The Museum ran on a minimal budget, yet managed to produce innovative and interactive exhibitions for children. It played an important role in the community, offering a safe haven to explore and learn.

Despite the Museum’s popularity, Southwark Council decided to close it as part of a package of cuts to local services and the doors were shut on 29 February 2008.

The campaign to prevent this closure has now transformed into a constituted group of Friends. We negotiated with Southwark Council and the Charity Commission to run the Museum independently, and submitted a proposal that was supported financially by the Novas Scarman Trust. In late 2008, Southwark voted to put forward a scheme to the Charity Commission that would convert the building into a theatre rehearsal space, run by Theatre Peckham. We agreed to support Theatre Peckham in future, for example to explore the possibility of Livesey-style experiences in the building or garden. On 30th September 2009, the Charity Commission published their scheme for public consultation. See the Posts on this site for more information.

Since Southwark decided to focus on the conversion of the building into theatre rehearsal space, we have looked at ways to continue the Livesey legacy in other venues and with other local partners. More news to come soon on some initial ‘museum-without-walls’ projects.

If you would like to join the Friends of the Livesey, please complete the application form and return it to livesey.friends@googlemail.com.

Please click on the Posts page to see news updates.

The Friends of the Livesey Museum for Children is now a registered charity no. 1126001

16 Responses

  1. Dear Friends

    I was very sorry to see the council take the decision to close the Livesey. Wearing both of my hats as President of Hands-On! Europe and Director of Eureka!, another of the UK’s very few children’s museums, I applaud your efforts to re-establish yourselves as an educational trust. If you believe that I can be of any help, please have someone contact me.

    Best Wishes
    Leigh-Anne Stradeski

  2. Can you post information about the cuts to the Livesey Museum on this Demos website: http://www.demos.co.uk/projects/aperfectstorm/overview

    In late 2006, John Holden, Head of Culture here at Demos published a thinkpiece warning that in some places in the UK, culture faces a crisis at Local Authority level.
    The situation he outlined in A Perfect Storm is one in which the current relationship between culture and local governement is confused and confusing – there is no cultural system, and hence reliable evidence is difficult to come by. But that is no reason to ignore the problem of falling budgets and asset disposals.
    Except for libraries and listed buildings, spending on cultural services is not a statutory requirement. The current dynamics of local authority funding are limiting the ability of councils to spend their resources outside those areas where they are obliged to spend. The result is likely to be that cultural infrastructure and cultural life will be hit, in turn affecting the achievement of council priorities and diminishing the quality of life of their citizens.
    We invite people to add examples of this to the project blog below. We hope to collect an inventory that will evidence the perfect storm that we predicted. It’s already happening – famously, Bury Council announced that it would sell the Lowry Painting in the museum’s collection. What other cases are there?

  3. This is a little out of date, I came across it when the Battersea Arts Cente was facing similar problems. Hope it helps


  4. I fully support the option of transferring the assets and the trusteeship of the Livesey Trust to the Novas Scarman group. We need more places like this to take our children to.

  5. As above, I also fully support the transfer of the assets of the Livesey Trust to Novas Scarman. The Livesey is a fabulous museum which should continue to be a key part of the local community- it’s a completely unique museum and this shouldn’t be lost for the future.

  6. As above, I also fully support the transfer of the assets of the Livesey Trust to Novas Scarman. The Livesey is a fabulous museum which should continue to be a key part of the local community- it’s a completely unique museum and this shouldn’t be lost for the future.

  7. I also support this. But perhaps we can have some updates. What’s happening?

  8. Southwark Council does not own the building known as The Livesey Museum.
    All and every person acting in an illegal manner regarding “the Livesey” will be held accountable and prosecuted under UK law

  9. So who did own it at the time when it was closed? I would be very interested to know. I would not dream of doing anything illegal but I am glad that you have information. I look forward to hearing more.

  10. Hi Jenny

    The building was given by George Livesey to the people of Camberwell and Peckham, and held in trust by Southwark Council.

    This article by Jonathan Hunt from about a year ago may explain a few things:


    Southwark Council has now agreed to lease the building to Theatre Peckham, a local youth theatre group, to convert the building into a studio and workshop space.

  11. Thanks for the update. The Livesey was a great place to take little kids – I still don’t really know why it was closed so suddenly. Was this because Southwark Council had misunderstood the situation and thought the building was theirs to sell?

  12. Southwark’s reasons was that it was part of a cost-cutting programme that also saw the reduction of other services around the borough. Basically they said they had to choose between closing Nunhead Library or closing the Livesey. They chose the Livesey because they said it wasn’t popular. When the protest group proved that they had in fact been using flawed data to arrive at that decision, they refused to back down and closed it anyway.

  13. For more current updates, see the Posts section on this website.

  14. I visited the museum often in my youth, as I lived on the Bonamy not too far away. I loved history and along with the exhibits also enjoyed the building.

    Southwark has always been determined to destroy and undermine any history the area has and has left the area a much poorer place culturally. It seems they want to deny the past – why?

    My recommendation to you all is to seriously consider for whom you vote, as the local representatives were obviously not considering their electorate.

  15. The Livesey was a wonderful museum, I home-educate and took my children there on numerous occasions, we live in Hertfordshire but travelled there especially. It had a warm, friendly, cosy atmosphere and was fun & inspirational for the children. Southwark Council made a huge mistake in closing it, they should recognise their error and offer alternative premises for it to re-open. My 11 yo son often laments its closure, as do we parents!

  16. I have two dolls that I was hoping to find a home for at the Livesey museum ,now that it is closed I’m not sure what to do with them.

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