Beverley Knight urges council to backtrack on youth drama axe

Beverley Knight in The Bodyguard. Photo: Paul Coltas.
by -

Bodyguard star Beverley Knight has issued a rallying call for her former youth drama group in Wolverhampton to be saved from a 100% cut to its local council funding.

Wolverhampton City Council is proposing to end its £13,500 annual grant to Central Youth Theatre – formed 30 years ago – under measures aimed at helping it save more than £123 million over the next five years. Councillors had been due to make a final decision on the proposal last week, but this has now been deferred to give them more time to consider.

Knight, who is currently appearing in the West End production of The Bodyguard and who attended CYT for three years from the age of 12, described the deferment as a “stay of execution” and urged the council to reconsider.

“I was there from the age of 12. There was such enthusiasm, and so many kids from all kinds of backgrounds. To see that potentially going down the toilet after 30 years – in a place where unemployment is so high, particularly among the youth – is terrible. Young people need to be engaged – these kinds of groups are character-building and help build confidence. I don’t know what the council is on,” she said.

CYT founder Jane Ward told The Stage that the group had narrowly missed out on avoiding the cuts after it scored 13 out of a possible 16 in a points-based system the local authority had been using to assess groups’ value. But she said: “There has been no assessment of the value of youth work and youth arts at all. The councillors are not interested in creative things, but at the end of the day we do life-changing things with the young people.”

A spokesman for Wolverhampton City Council said: “Councillors took the decision to defer this report in order for them to be able to take further advice and study the implications of the equality impact assessments that have been carried out into how the cuts would affect users of the various groups.”