The Natural History Museum’s decision to include Rochdale MBC’s offices in the first UK tour of one of its major exhibits might have caught a few people by surprise.
- Project: Dippy the Dinosaur
- Objectives: Bring the Natural History Museum’s most famous exhibit to Rochdale
- Timescale: Rochdale will display Dippy from February to June 2020
- Cost to authority: Approx £50,0000
- Number of staff working on project: Three
- Outcomes: Inspire the next generation of scientists; challenge the way people think about the natural world; provide a legacy for Rochdale and Greater Manchester beyond the life of the project; celebrate the work and ambitions of Rochdale
“Why Rochdale?” I heard a few people say after it was announced we will be one of eight venues to host an exhibition featuring the museum’s much-loved Dippy the dinosaur, the magnificent diplodocus skeleton cast that famously inhabits the museum’s entrance hall.
We’re not a museum and although they are state-of-the-art and incredibly eye-catching, our offices cannot lay claim to the kind of national significance enjoyed by other host venues like the Welsh Assembly building.
How we did it
So how did a council office come to be the North West’s venue for the Dippy tour – the only council office to do so?
The museum advertised for potential host venues last year. The application involved providing detailed information about the building where Dippy would be placed, as well as how Rochdale would achieve the Natural History Museum’s ambition of inspiring the next generation of scientists.
The museum liked our enthusiasm, our building and the fact that we are passionate about improving young people’s life chances. We have lots of children who would never be able to see Dippy in his usual home in London and we are surrounded by lots of other places with a similar profile. The museum liked that we wanted to put a major exhibition somewhere different so that more children would be able to come and see it.
Our offices are not your average offices. Number One Riverside is a special building that houses our main library, conference facilities and other public sector agencies who work alongside us to help us deliver better services for our residents.
It was completed in 2013 and is part of a £250m town centre regeneration programme that is transforming Rochdale. Alongside Number One Riverside we have demolished outdated office blocks; created a new bus interchange; brought the Manchester tram network here; reopened a section of the River Roch to reveal a historic bridge, hidden by a culvert and not seen for almost 100 years; and created the space for a new retail and leisure development.
Number One Riverside has won a number of architectural awards and it was built to a very high environmental standard. Although Dippy is a plaster-of-Paris cast of a fossil, he is still over 100 years old, and so to convince the museum we were able to house Dippy safely, we provided lots of technical information. Museum staff also visited us to see first-hand how we proposed to display Dippy. They have very strict criteria because this is a nationally important exhibit, so we had to work very hard to convince them to come to a building that is not known for housing artefacts - especially those that are 21 metres long!
We have already come a long way but by 2020, when Dippy arrives in Rochdale, we will have achieved much more.
We are using our geographical advantage, on the edges of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, to create a new growth plan that is nationally significant in scale.
Our Northern Gateway plan, which will focus huge growth on land along the M62 corridor, will attract more companies to invest in Rochdale, on top of Asda, JD Sports, Tetrosyl, Yodel, Standard Life, and SourceBioScience, which already have major operations in the borough.
By extending our existing business parks, which are almost at capacity, and creating urban extensions the plans would create 19,000 jobs and 15,500 homes in Rochdale.
Rochdale has some of the most beautiful open spaces in the North West and is a fantastic place to live and work.
Why Rochdale? Why not? We’re used to surprising people.
Steve Rumbelow, chief executive, Rochdale MBC