Arts Centre meeting as Darlington Borough Council tries to reduce budget
ARTS and culture should not fall victim to public spending cuts, a North-East town’s residents have declared.
Extra seats had to be brought in to accommodate those at a meeting called to discuss how the arts should be treated asDarlington Borough Council tries to reduce its budget by nearly a fifth.
However, the meeting at Darlington Arts Centre – chaired by Chris Lloyd, deputy editor of The Northern Echo – heard that people should not take the cuts for granted and should fight against them at every opportunity.
The meeting, attended by about 100 people, had been called by Darlington resident Paul Harman, who has worked as an actor and theatre company director for 45 years, to debate what arts’ provision Darlington needed.
He told the meeting: “The expression of values and belief is what I take culture to be about.
“A society which is based only on individual aspirations will fall apart, physically, as well as spiritually.
“We will not have a thriving town if we do not insist on quality in all our public expressions of who we are and what we believe in.”
His views were backed up by several people who said that they chose to live in Darlington, instead of other towns in the locality, because of the quality of its arts provision.
Ian Whitfield, treasurer of Darlington Operatic Society, moved to the town 40 years ago. He said: “A town without a theatre is a town without a soul.” However, one man said that debating what should and should not be kept was “facilitating a decision, and we should not allow ourselves to co-operate”.
Former Darlington Civic Theatre manager Sarah Richards questioned whether the Arts Centre and theatre were fit for purpose and perhaps the money should be spent on culture elsewhere.
While saying that she was fond of both buildings, she added: “These two buildings are a great drain and the council is putting a lot of money into bricks and mortar. While bricks and mortar are essential, do we need these bricks and mortar at this cost?”
After the meeting, Mr Harman said he wanted to set up a small forum of people to look at the arts in the town and lobby the council in their favour.