Newcastle’s fight is our fight

Nov 23 2012

Over the next three years Newcastle City Council, like Sheffield and other major cities, will make major cuts in line with its reduced grant from central government. The impact will be devastating. The Council’s proposal to cut its funding of arts by 100% and museums by 50% will have a significant impact on children, young people and families and all those people who benefit from free access to great art and great museums.

But this isn’t just about services for the city’s residents. Newcastle is a destination city – its theatres, museums and galleries are woven into the fabric of the city alongside the river, the buildings, shops, parks and open spaces and the warm and welcoming people. Reducing investment in museums so drastically risks the city losing the very things that make it attractive to investors, to a skilled workforce, to students and visitors from around the world.

Culture is not the icing on the cake of our cities - it’s the recipe book and the essential ingredient.  We must acknowledge that culture has social and economic value; it is both intrinsic and instrumental.  The challenges for Sheffield are much the same – how do you balance the cost of statutory provision with the investment required to be economically competitive, vibrant and inspiring?  It’s a tough call and the pressure on local authorities to make the right decision in the face of massive cuts is immense.

Families living in Sheffield and Newcastle have less money than ever to spend on culture – everything is more expensive – and for that reason a free trip to the museum or gallery is more important than ever. Museums Sheffield is proud to call Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) one of our partners. TWAM are world leaders; a source of inspiration for people who work in the sector and a part of everyday life for the millions of people from the city, the region and further afield who take part every year.

One of our visitors recently left a note in the Graves Gallery; ‘Unemployed right now.  It’s frustrating and chips away at my soul.  Every time I sign on I come to the Graves.  It keeps me going and I leave with a smile on my face. Thank you’.

The Graves Gallery was built in 1934 during the Great Depression. In the 30s, self-improvement through culture was seen as a path out of the economic darkness. As the shadows lengthen in Newcastle we should all speak up – soon they may reach us.

Kim Streets, Chief Executive, Museums Sheffield

Image: John Martin, The Plains of Heaven (1851) © Tate, London, 2011. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums premiered a major exhibition by North East painter John Martin in 2011, which later toured to Sheffield.


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