The Baltic, the Theatre Royal, National Centre for Children’s Books Seven Stories, Dance City, the Laing Art Gallery, the Tyneside Cinema, the Discovery Museum and many more important and innovative venues that have helped to turn the North East into an international cultural destination are to suffer between 50% – 100% cuts from Newcastle council funding in the next three years. This is part of the local government’s plans to cut £90m from the local authority budget, these cuts will accompany the councils plans to close local libraries, swimming pools and play schemes.
A host of artists including Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel Of the North Sculpture, who have connections to north-east England have protested expressing “alarm” at what they call Newcastle city council’s “shortsighted attack” on the city’s cultural life. Others, including recording artists Bryan Ferry, Sting, Neil Tennant, and Mark Knopfler and actors including Robson Green and Kevin Whately have signed a letter in opposition to the decision. The artists are protesting against the local authority’s plan to slash its £2.5m culture budget. The artists, argue the council, risk “throwing away a shared cultural heritage … built up by generations and generations of ordinary people in the city.” Its decision, they say, is “baffling”.
The Baltic is an international gallery that receives support fro the Arts Council and other sponsors, however it is also helped by the local council and any cuts in times of cultural austerity are going to be difficult to swallow. Two years ago the Baltic became a global focus when it mounted the Turner Prize, the UK’s most prestigious annual award.
Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle council, stated that the council had been forced to take “awful decisions”, and that it was impossible to argue that the “arts come before life-and-death services like children’s social work”. In a snipe at the arts community at large, he said: “I know the arts lobby is largely educated, articulate and knows how to pull the levers of power, but I want to make sure everybody gets heard.”