The Journal opinion: Nick Forbes and Lee Hall in row over arts funding

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes and playwright Lee Hall have traded heavy verbal blows in the row over arts funding in the city. But who is right?

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes and playwright Lee Hall have traded heavy verbal blows in the row over arts funding in the city. But who is right?

Well, it has to be said that the city has for some time been faced with budgetary problems caused in part by an unfair financial settlement from the Government.

Cuts have had to be made over the last few years – and they are still having to be made now. No one suggests arts and culture should enjoy complete immunity from those financial pressures.

Nevertheless, the city’s “radical solution” to arts funding – the Cultural Investment Fund – has clearly failed to fill the hole in the arts budget.

Grants are still being made, but not on the scale they were before.

Playwright Lee Hall
Playwright Lee Hall
 

And it must be said that Coun Forbes’ invitation to North East arts personalities to give money to the fund was not couched in the best of terms.

He said the fund was an opportunity for “rich individuals” who had made “quite a lot out of the North East over the years” to contribute.

It’s not surprising that playwright Lee Hall and others refused to play ball with this clumsy attempt to make them feel guilty for being wealthy.

It’s all something of a mess. With the council having announced further budget cuts a few days ago it does not seem likely that a return to more orthodox forms of arts funding in Newcastle is likely. The city is the poorer for that.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer