Artists protest against Newcastle council’s 100% cut to arts funding

Jill Halfpenny. Photo: Scott Matthewman
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Actors Robson Green, Alun Armstrong and Jill Halfpenny are among a group of artists who have spoken out against Newcastle City Council’s proposal to remove 100% of its funding to arts organisations by 2016, which they say would “decimate” the cultural life of the city.

In an open letter to the local authority, the leading artists - including musicians Sting and Neil Tennant and writers Lee Hall and Peter Straughan – say that the cuts are a “short-sighted attack” on the arts and the idea that culture should be available for everyone.

They warn that if the removal of funding to organisations such as Newcastle Theatre Royal, Northern Stage and Live Theatre leads to their closure then they will “never be replaced”.

The group urges the council to “rethink this baffling decision” and find a way to preserve the arts in the city.

The letter says: “As artists with strong connections to Newcastle and the north-east we are extremely alarmed that in the context of the £418 million capital development programme to stimulate the retail and leisure sector, Newcastle City Council has proposed a 100% cut to its arts budget which will decimate the cultural life of the City.

“Newcastle has an international reputation for its cultural life and the artists it produces. Not only has this been vital for inward investment in the region, but it has allowed the people of the city access to the highest quality art for a modest investment by the council.”

“Generations of young people will be 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 letter adds.

Hall said: "We understand that the arts should not be sacrosanct in a climate of retrenchment but the draconian and scorched earth nature of these proposals is self-defeating.  The council is out of step with all other authorities.  The list of signatories demonstrates Newcastle is remarkable in having produced so many artists who did not come from privileged backgrounds."

Halfpenny said: “To think that the amazing talent and creativity that is bubbling away right now within our younger generation, will never get the chance to thrive and nurture through complete lack of opportunity if the council are to go ahead with these cuts makes me feel utterly sad and outraged.”