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2 December 2012
The historic industrial metropolis of Newcastle upon Tyne (population around 280 000) in north-east England is proposing to stop subsidizing cultural activities.
Under this proposal, the existing £2.5 million annual spend on cultural projects will be hacked back to zero.
Institutions affected include the Theatre Royal, the Live Theatre, Northern Stage and the Laing Art Gallery.
Newcastle Council, which is controlled by the Labour Party, is also proposing to axe 10 of its 18 libraries.
The proposals are out for public consultation with a view to formal ratification by the council next spring.
The reason is no mystery: it is the world-wide economic downturn, which is affecting the peripheral regions of states as much as globally significant mega-cities.
As a result of the depression, the UK national government, like the governments of other states in recession, has slashed its subsidy to local authorities.
With a reduced budget, these local authorities have no option but to cut spending.
The dilemma they face is in which public service to make the cuts.
The proposed cutback in cultural spending in Newcastle has sparked virulent criticism from the arts community.
Playwright Lee Hall, for instance, who grew up in the city, is quoted as saying:
“It is a philistine attack on the arts. It is culturally, socially and, crucially, economically illiterate. It is the supine nature of local government that they are willing to throw the arts to the dogs.”
However, Nick Forbes, Labour Party leader of Newcastle Council, has reportedly said that, faced with the obligation to take “awful decisions”, it is impossible to argue that the arts “come before life-and-death services like children’s social work”.
Newcastle arose out of the Roman settlement of Pons Aelius founded around 122 AD on the orders of the Spanish-born Emperor Hadrian (who reigned 117-138 AD).
It has played a crucial role in England’s economic development, the trades for which it has been noted ranging from wool and beer to coal-mining and ship-building.
The inhabitants of Newcastle are known as “Geordies” and speak a dialect, derived from Anglo-Saxon, which is incomprehensible to the rest of the country.
If we, as radical leftwingers, were in control of Newcastle City Council, how would we tackle this dilemma? Suggestions from readers welcomed.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.