Crucial day for future of arts and leisure in town
CRUNCH meetings will take place today to establish how to protect a North-East town’s museums, theatres and leisure facilities against forthcoming cuts.
In what is being seen as a crucial day for arts and leisure in Darlington, two meetings will take place to explore the future of popular North-East venues such as the Civic Theatre and Dolphin Centre.
Darlington Borough Council, which is facing £22m budget cuts, meets at 9.30am today in the town hall to discuss how to mitigate the effects of the savings.
Proposals include the introduction of a public subscription to fund the facilities, and, as reported yesterday, applying for lucrative World Heritage Site status for the town’s historic railway museum.
A public meeting will take place at the Arts Centre at 7.30pm, called by Darlington resident Paul Harman, who has worked as an actor and theatre company director for 45 years.
Mr Harman said it was crucial that residents had a chance to debate what a town of Darlington’s size, with a population of about 100,000, needs.
He said Darlington’s German twin town, Mulheim, with a population of 169,000, has 11 museums, while its French twin town of Amiens, with a population of 136,000, has a Maison de la Culture, which contains theatres, music, dance and exhibition spaces, and cinema, all rolled into one. Mr Harman said it was then important to discuss how the services are provided.
He said: “It is perfectly reasonable to suggest new community interest companies, professional companies and volunteer groups, but we also have to ask if a local council cannot provide it just as efficiently.”
The Northern Echo asked people in High Row what they thought of the borough’s arts provision, its cultural identity, and what should be done.
Ian Stephenson, of Raby Moor, Darlington, said: “Look around, look at what people want. People are selling the Big Issue and begging on the street. The arts aren’t that important.”
Bethan Brown, of Stonehaven Way, Darlington, said: “We should keep funding the arts for the children, especially for the pre-school age. It gives them a lot more to do. I really like the Arts Centre and theatre”
Dennis Roddy, of Twickenham Rise, Darlington, said: “Don’t cut funding, people want to look at things in the area.”
Shelley Pickering, of The Mead, Darlington, said: “It does the area good to have a diverse culture.
“We have no identity, we did many years ago, but there’s not much of anything now.”