Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech opening Design Museum

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Butlers Wharf, East London
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Editorial comments: Between 1730 and 1830.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 778
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Education

Sir Terence ConranSir Terence, Ladies and Gentlemen, I will speak very briefly because Sir Terence has said most of the things that need to be said.

First, we needed this Design Exhibition Centre in London. I call it an Exhibition Centre and not a museum—a museum is something that is really rather dead, and this is a living exhibition, and how we came to design as we do, how the early artefacts and the early consumer goods were designed. How present day is designed, the best of design. It is a living history, so they call it a museum—I would like to call it a record of design, as something living from the past into the future. We owe such a lot to Sir Terence himself for bringing good design within the reach of everyone. And there is no earthly reason why we should not have good design, whether it's in clothes, whether it's in furniture, whether it's in houses. The outstanding characteristic of the post-war period has been to take the very best, whether it be clothes, housing, things that you have in houses, in cars, and turn it into mass production so that we may all profit from it. And Sir Terence is one of the great believers of that in design, in that he brought new quality of standards, value for money and culture to people who could not otherwise have had it.

Of course design is relevant to everything. Some of the newspapers give prizes to companies who look at design as a total concept, not only the things they produce—what do they look like—but do they work? Are they safe? Are they up to British standards? Can they be well maintained? Can you clean them? Will they last? But more than that. When they're trying to sell to people who visit those companies, they're interested to see them as they go into the foyer—is it is well designed? Is there someone there to welcome them? As they go round the factory the layout is well designed. And this conveys the impression that those manufacturers, those shops that pay attention to these things, are concerned not only about the general design but about each and every detail and they give value for money. And if design is like many other things, you can be taught a good deal about it if you go [end p1] round an exhibition with someone who will tell you what it is all about, and why things are done in a particular way. And so I'm very glad that you will have little commentaries while you go round this Design Museum, or Exhibition, on living standards of the things that we have on display, so that young people will be able to learn and that students will be able to learn from those who have had excellent design which has stood the test of the years.

And of course its very appropriate that this great exhibition should be in Docklands. The interesting thing as we go up and down this great river of London, which is itself an example of liquid history, you see buildings on either side many of them many years ago beautifully built, the windows perfectly designed, the paintwork around them of excellent quality, relevant for the needs of the century for which they are built, but like good design relevant when they are are adapted to the century in which we live. The proportions are there. The workmanship is there. The elegance is there. And young people can learn so much from it and it is very marvellous that it is being revived and it is as exciting to us now as it was when it was built.

Now Sir Terence, may I thank all of those who sponsored this great undertaking. £6½ million are needed and I believe and hope they've got £6½ million. Have you got it? And they want more to run it. And here are some of the sponsors who gladly entered into this exciting enterprise.

It is very interesting that more and more of these big museum/art galleries/exhibitions are being sponsored by the private sector. Nor surprising, because the things we buy and the jobs we do are really the essence of the life in which we live and so more and more a part of the sense of community and that we wish in fact to enjoy the things we buy and know more and more about them.

I have just one thing to say, Sir Terence. I thought that there weren't quite enough British things. But we have some [end p2] very well designed things and I'm sure that that will be put right very quickly. Because we also would like it to be a window to the world, of how the good things that we can produce so that people needn't import them the whole time and the good things that we export to the world because we're good.

I would also like to say thank you to some of our educational and technical colleges for the very good work they do in design and to some of the schools. When I was Education Secretary years ago, I said please start to teach the children how to design. They are now doing it and this will be a very great asset to them. So it is an honour and a pleasure for me to come and formally open the Design Museum/Exhibition.