STOP THE AXE! DEFEND THE ARTS! – Norwich march today!

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DAVID SCHOFIELD (2nd left) and  NIGEL PLANER (3rd left) amongst more than 500 actors demonstrating last Tuesday  in Piccadilly Circus, London, to protest at the huge cuts being made in the Arts budget
DAVID SCHOFIELD (2nd left) and NIGEL PLANER (3rd left) amongst more than 500 actors demonstrating last Tuesday in Piccadilly Circus, London, to protest at the huge cuts being made in the Arts budget

‘It will be the biggest march against the funding cuts imposed by Arts Council England so far,’ organisers of today’s march through Norwich said yesterday.

‘Arts Council England is wielding an executioner’s axe over renowned and established arts organisations in Norfolk,’ they added, ‘but it is not just Norfolk – it’s happening all over England. This protest is to stop the axe wherever it is set to fall.’

Creative Arts East said the cuts in the region ‘will help turn Norfolk into an arts black-hole where nothing will happen because the grassroots is not supported’.

March organiser, Peter Beck, called on Equity to organise a national demonstration to defeat the cuts.

Today’s demonstration is assembling at 11.30am in Chapelfield Gardens and will march at 1.00pm to Norwich City Hall.

Beck told News Line: ‘We are expecting close to a thousand on the march.

‘It is specifically to do with Norfolk and region cuts, of which the Puppet Theatre is one, another is Creative Arts East, then there’s the Eastern Angles Theatre Company, the King’s Lynn Arts Centre, Momentum Arts in Cambridge, Dedalus Publishing in Cambridge.

‘Then you’ve got the English Chamber Orchestra’s residency in Lowestoft and the British Centre for Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia.

‘These are part of 194 organisations nationally which are having their funding cut. Norfolk and East Anglia have been very severely hit.

‘In the case of Norwich Puppet Theatre it is often a child’s first experience of the arts and is used by many surrounding schools and young people’s organisations.

‘I would also say that many local shops and Post Offices in rural areas have closed and arts events are often the only cohesive way of bringing villages together, they become the focal point of local communities.

‘There are a number of protests taking place across the country now and Equity should call a national demonstration to bring them all together.’

The Arts Council cuts follow a government announcement that £625 million is being re-appropriated from Grants for Arts Funding to the Olympics 2012.

Companies having their grants cut or axed include: Birmingham Opera Company, Bristol Old Vic, Bush, Derby Playhouse, Drill Hall, Exeter Northcott, National Student Drama Festival, Orange Tree, Tara Arts, Watermans, Yvonne Arnaud.

Tangram Theatre Company organised a demonstration at Piccadilly Circus in London on Tuesday and are planning a march to Arts Council England’s headquarters at Great Peter Street later this month.

Equity spokesman Martin Brown told News Line yesterday: ‘There are local protests going on up and down the country.’

He said that although the Equity Council was not organising them it was supporting them.

Asked if Equity will be organising a national demonstration, he replied: ‘No’. He said that the date for appeals passed last Tuesday, that local arts councils will be taking decisions next week and the national Arts Council England’s final decision will be taken on January 29th.

Asked if Equity will be lobbying the Arts Council national meeting, he said the union would not ‘but there are people who will be doing so’.