Blow for the arts

Cuts to arts, theatre and literary groups across East Anglia will have a devastating affect on isolated rural villages which are starved of almost all other forms of cultural entertainment, it was claimed this week.

Cuts to arts, theatre and literary groups across East Anglia will have a devastating affect on isolated rural villages which are starved of almost all other forms of cultural entertainment, it was claimed this week.

While the stars of stage and screen have been queuing up to criticise the possible Arts Council England (Ace) cuts, the very real impact will be felt in tucked-away village halls, school theatres and community meeting rooms served so well by some of the groups set to lose large slices of their budget.

Bosses at Ace are currently considering swingeing cuts to groups across the region, including Norwich Puppet Theatre losing £60,000, Creative Arts East £160,000 and Eastern Angles £113,000. For some of the groups the money represents all or nearly all of their annual grant allocation.

Small communities such as Hindolveston could be hit particularly hard because of size, location and lack of other facilities, according to villagers.


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Hindolveston residents Liz Goldfinger, Mary Beek and Frances Wingate have written to the Arts Council asking them to reconsider in advance of a final funding decision on January 23.

The main concern is the loss of visits by Eastern Angles' rural touring scheme and Creative Arts East's village stage and village screen schemes.

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“This could have a devastating effect on our village,” explained the trio.

“Hindolveston is an isolated rural village with a population of about 650 and few facilities. Over the last 20 years the village has lost its shop, pub and school and there is no regular bus service.

“We are a deprived rural village but we are able to improve the situation with help from organisations like CAE and EA.

“An event in a village hall is very different from one at a big venue: you are very near the performers and feel more involved. The audience is of a age range from three to 90 years old.

“We accommodate the very old and infirm, people with learning difficulties and severe physical disabilities.

“A trip into Norwich means a round trip of 50 miles, parking and more expensive tickets. Many would not contemplate this because of the money or the journey. Old eyes and winter roads are disincentives.

“This is unfair targeting of deprived rural communities.”

Ivan Cutting, artistic director of Eastern Angles, said their company was sometimes the only way some people could access the theatre.

“Older members of the audience don't always want to drive long distances. And people in general are more relaxed, they don't have to dress up or behave as they might for a large cultural event.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said he was particularly concerned about the impact on rural villages.

“If you are in a small community like Hindolveston or Kettlestone and these visits are withdrawn and you don't have a car, then that is the end of your access to the arts.

“It is a valuable and precious thing we have got here, high quality, creative work going on in the middle of nowhere.

“And the reasons for cutting these grants appear to be utterly flawed.”

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