They have dismissed claims they are ‘trivialising’ women by not using Amelia Scott’s full name for the £13.2million project.
Amelia Scott was one of the town’s most famous social reformers and an ardent women’s suffrage campaigner. She died in 1952.
In an open letter posted on social media, three female cabinet members of the council wrote: “We are extremely disappointed with suggestions that the council is trivialising or infantilising women in the naming of the Council’s new cultural and learning hub.
“As female councillors we have worked extremely hard to ensure the new hub recognises and brings to the fore the life and work of Amelia Scott.”
The councillors argued that buildings such as the Albert Hall are named after a person’s Christian name, and that ‘Scott’ was the name of Amelia’s father, ‘so an example of patriarchy.’
They continued: “Some people are also missing the point about what we are trying to achieve. The vision for ‘The Amelia’ has always been about inclusion and access.
“By using Amelia’s name in this way, we are honouring her legacy of social cohesion, breaking down social barriers, and widening access to both the borough’s cultural asserts and essential council services.”
The letter was signed Jane March, the cabinet member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism and who is responsible for the cultural hub; Lynne Weatherly, the cabinet member for Communities and Wellbeing; as well as Tracy Moore, cabinet member in charge of Economic Development and Communication.
Last week Cllr Moore had insisted she would have preferred the full name to be used for the cultural centre although it was not her ‘call’.
Following criticism reported in last week’s Times, the Park ward councillor took to Twitter again, saying: “While I did think using Amelia Scott’s full name was preferable, I am persuaded that we will honour her legacy in many ways inside the building.”
She added that she ‘profoundly disagreed’ with the accusation on the front page of the Timesthat the council is ‘trivialising’ women.
Mark Ellis, Liberal Democrat councillor, who lives near to Amelia Scott’s house in Southborough and who has researched her history, said some of the councillor’s arguments were ‘ridiculous’ and that the council were ‘clutching at straws’ in justifying the naming decision.
He said: “I remain supportive of the development but this matter has just reinforced my view that the nature of decision making and consultation and announcements to the public is poor.
“Amelia Scott is not so well know, so using her full name elevates her achievements to a higher level, and using just Amelia loses the historical link.”
“Scott being an example of male patriarchy is utterly ridiculous, and why would three female councillors talk about using the name Scott after the father being an act of patriarchy then sign off on the letters using both their names in order to identify themselves as who they are?”
Dr Amanda Turner from the Women’s Equality Party in Tunbridge Wells, who had claimed the council were ‘trivialising’ Amelia Scott’s achievements and ‘infantilising women’ responded to the open letter.
She told the Times: “With only 15 women in total out of 48 councillors, it is perhaps unsurprising that these women councillors feel that they had to fight very hard to put another woman into perpetuity and we acknowledge their collective efforts.
“However, surely this is exactly the point. It is hard to get women recognised for their achievements and WEP are only too well aware of that, which is precisely why we need to grasp the moment properly and get it right.
“It shouldn’t be a guessing game and we can only avoid this if we dignify Amelia Scott by using her full name, so she is clearly and respectfully recognised across time for her outstanding contribution to women’s suffrage and social reform in Tunbridge Wells.”
A spokesperson for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council says the name was selected following consultation with focus groups.
“In December 2018 a decision was made to call the building The Amelia. It was not a political decision, it was made by the project steering group comprising TWBC and KCC representatives and has the strong support of the museum team who are passionate in their ambition to make the new hub open, inclusive and accessible and who are well placed to understand how Amelia Scott would have regarded the new hub.”