MORE stars from the arts world have voiced their concerns about Newcastle city council’s cuts to its culture budget, following an open letter sent to the Journal yesterday.
High-profile authors and actors also repeated calls for council leaders to reconsider cuts to the library service, while a North East charity unveiled plans to prevent a “lost generation of young British artists” after reductions in culture spending.
Rock star Bryan Ferry told The Journal his experiences of the City Hall, the Theatre Royal and the Laing Art Gallery – all of which are at risk of having council funding completely withdrawn – helped form him as an artist.
“They all gave me strong moments of inspiration at an impressionable age,” said Ferry, who signed the open letter to the council.
“I think it would be very sad if young people in the North East today were not given the same chances that I had many years ago.”
Coronation Street and EastEnders actress Jill Halfpenny, who also put her name to a 24-strong list of North East talent asking the council to reconsider, said planned cuts made her feel “utterly sad and outraged.”
She said the “amazing talent and creativity that is bubbling away right now within our younger generation” would never get the chance to flourish if cutbacks went ahead.
And Skellig author David Almond said cuts to cultural venues would be “a massive repudiation of years of great work”.
“In its belief in the power of art, Newcastle has been a visionary place. Art has helped to regenerate this great city,” he said. “We have seen that art is not some add-on or some luxury, but that it helps all of us.”
The outcry came as actor and director Samuel West wrote an open letter of support to those protesting planned Newcastle library closures.
The Howard’s End star, who has directed plays at Newcastle’s Northern Stage, said: “Now a university education costs nine grand a year, the need for libraries as a refuge, an oasis and an inspiration has never been greater.
“Don’t let your councillors fob you off with excuses. It’s not their job to attack services; it’s their job to defend them.”
Dozens of authors who have visited the city for the Northern Children’s Book Festival sent a separate letter to the council opposing library cuts.
The letter, signed by award-winning authors Alan Gibbons and Anne Fine among others, called planned branch closures “appalling”.
“It is not the role of a Labour council to act as a conduit for the coalition Government’s ‘austerity’ cuts which disproportionately hit the poorest and most vulnerable,” the authors wrote.
NE-Generation, an independent youth work charity based in North East England, has proposed a Young People’s Charter for Arts and Culture to prevent growing talent being wiped out by government and council cuts.
Ben Ayrton, programme manager for NE-Generation and a former actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company, said the charter aimed to get the region’s young talent working with industry leaders.
“A lot of great art is born from struggle but there is a real danger that without funding our organisations and local authorities will simply withdraw from supporting young people in the cultural sector,” Mr Ayrton said.
“The moment has arrived when we all need to work together to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
Reacting to the original letter signed by Bryan Ferry, Sting and other North East stars, a council spokesperson said it knew some cutbacks were “counterproductive and in many cases false economy”.
But he added: “The council can only spend the resources that it has.”
The council is in talks with arts venues to find alternative sources of funding, the spokesman said.
‘I think it would be very sad if young people in the North East today were not given the same chances that I had’
‘We have seen that art is not some add-on or some luxury, but that it helps all of us’
‘Don’t let your councillors fob you off with excuses. It’s not their job to attack services; it’s their job to defend them’
‘It is not the role of a Labour council to act as a conduit for the coalition’s ‘austerity’ cuts’
Anne Fine (and others)