BROADCASTER and author Melvyn Bragg yesterday described Newcastle City Council’s proposed 100% cut in its arts subsidy as “extraordinary” and “short-sighted”.
Lord Bragg chaired a debate at Newcastle’s Lit & Phil library to conclude a week of BBC Radio 4 programmes exploring the value of culture.
Afterwards, stressing that these were his personal views, he said he had chosen the Lit & Phil for the debate because he had talked about one of his books there recently and liked the place.
He said: “I worked in Newcastle for the BBC and ITV and I like the city.
“I thought this would be a very good place to have the debate, and it coincided with this quite extraordinary proposed cutting of subsidy to all the arts.
“I think the arts have helped very much with the regeneration of Newcastle and Gateshead, especially Gateshead, and to cut all the funding seems to be seriously short-sighted.
“I understand the council has difficult problems, but I don’t think cutting all the arts funding is any way to solve them.
“In difficult times people need more access to the arts than ever before.” Lord Bragg, who has presented arts programme The South Bank Show for more than 30 years and radio discussion show In Our Time since 1998, has been hosting The Value of Culture all this week on BBC Radio 4.
The series will conclude with yesterday’s debate, which is to be broadcast on Friday at 9am and again at 9.30pm.
Lord Bragg was joined on the platform by sociologist and social commentator Dr Tiffany Jenkins, Sir Chris Frayling, former chairman of Arts Council England and the Design Council, and Matt Ridley, science writer and 5th Viscount Ridley.
During the debate Sir Chris said the creative industries were a dynamic part of the economy and had helped to regenerate places like Gateshead where the Millennium Bridge, Sage and Baltic were “like three wonders of the world”.
Lord Bragg referred to the Lit & Phil as “an extraordinarily distinguished place” that had been at the heart of culture in the city for 250 years.
Newcastle City Council’s proposal to cut arts subsidies amounting to £1.6m comes as it strives to make £90m savings over three years.
I think the arts have helped with the regeneration of Newcastle and Gateshead