A host of legendary British musicians and artists have joined forces to take on Newcastle city council.
As The Guardian report, the council have announced a plan to cut the city’s £2.5m culture budget in its entirety. The savings have been proposed as part of an overall £90m budget cut across the city by 2016. A host of music, art and theatre projects will be severely damaged by the move, with the Theatre Royal apparently set to lose around £600,000 per year. Venues such as the Northern Stage, the Live Theatre, Laing Art Gallery and the Great North Museum will also weather sever cuts.
By way of protest, a host of celebrated musicians from Newcastle and the surrounding region have written an open letter to the paper, expressing dismay and concern about the move. Neil Tennant, Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler and Sting are among the signatories to the missive, which criticises the “shortsighted attack” on the city’s cultural life.
The “blanket and pre-emptory” cuts are lambasted as “baffling”, and the letter suggest that the cuts will result in “generations of young people [being] denied access to the opportunities we were given and, without the council’s support, the arts will simply become a pursuit for the most wealthy”. The council are also accused of “throwing away a shared cultural heritage … built up by generations and generations of ordinary people in the city”. Other non-musical signatories include poet Tony Harrison, actor Kevin Whately and author Pat Barker.
A spokesman for Newcastle city council stressed that the leadership team “can only spend the resources that it has”, and emphases the fact that “Newcastle is one of the very few councils that is setting out three years of its budget rather than year by year and is therefore being much more transparent about the implications of the government’s austerity measures”.
They also pointed towards coterminous cuts in the Arts Council Budget, which has seen spending squeezed by 30%, and suggested arts organisations would still be able to survive despite the efficiencies: “Although the total amount the city council contributes to the arts sector is significant it is much smaller to individual bodies – between 2.5% and 15% of the amount that they receive – and we would therefore not expect that our reductions alone would result in the closure of an arts organisation.”
The proposal is currently being put to public consultation, and is expected to be passed in March. Somerset implemented a similar 100% cut last year, and more councils are expected to follow Newcastle’s example in the coming months.