Sting, Bryan Ferry and Mark Knopfler unite to slam 'unnecessary' Newcastle arts cuts


Prominent artists and musicians have joined forces to criticise a council's proposal to cut 100% of their arts funding.

In an open letter to Newcastle City Council, famous names connected to the region like Sting, Bryan Ferry and Mark Knopfler branded the authority's plans "totally unnecessary".

It is a "short-sighted attack on the arts" and the council risks "throwing away a shared cultural heritage that has been built up by generations and generations of ordinary people in the city", the letter said.

Neil Tennant, Lee Hall, Sir Thomas Allen, Antony Gormley, Robson Green and Jimmy Nail also signed the letter.

If the cuts are implemented, some of the venues affected will include the Theatre Royal, the Northern Stage and City Hall.

Musician Mark Knopfler said: "It is mortifying and shaming that these 100% cuts should be in Newcastle which has always enjoyed such a rich tradition in the arts."

Playwright Lee 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 list of signatories demonstrates Newcastle is remarkable in having produced so many artists who did not come from privileged backgrounds."

The council should "rethink this baffling decision and find an appropriate way to preserve the arts in Newcastle", the letter concludes.

In response the council said it recognises that some of its decisions are not palatable but it can only spend the resources it has.

"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," a spokesman for the council said.

"We face unpalatable decisions which we know are counterproductive and, in many cases, false economy but the council can only spend the resources that it has as it faces losing more than a third of its budget over the next three years.

"The reason for a long-term approach is to be able to talk with cultural organisations to find alternative sources of funding, and we are having positive discussions with organisations across the city about what we need to do together."