Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic on its 150th anniversary.
It took place at Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, and the crowds enjoyed a packed programme of entertainment to mark the special celebration, including Glenn Tilbrook from chart topping band, Squeeze.
Also in the line up were local folk legend Johnny Handle, as well as traditional music and dance, street theatre and entertainers, the Ashington Colliery and Bedlington Youth brass bands, Werca’s Folk, and the Monkseaton Morrismen.
The day started with a memorial service and wreath laying.
Woodhorn’s own comedian-in-residence Seymour Mace added a touch of humour to the day as he, his fellow comedians John Whale and Andy Fury, and staff from the museum who have been working with the project, put their own entertaining twist on a guided visit to the museum.
Extracts from the Pitmen Painters were read out as Woodhorn is the home of the Ashington Group’s main collection of paintings and has a close bond to the story.
Original cast members, Chris Connel and Phillippa Wilson, recreated scenes from Lee Hall’s award-winning play.
The first Picnic was staged at Blyth Links in 1864 and over the years it has moved around the county – from Blyth to Morpeth, Bedlington to Ashington, Newbiggin, Tynemouth and even Newcastle’s Town Moor.
Keith Merrin, Director of Woodhorn, said: “150 years on and this event is still about bringing the whole North East community together, to strengthen bonds and have fun. It’s not just about Ashington, but about the whole region as so many have a link to coal.
“The Picnic is the perfect opportunity to come together to remember and celebrate an industry and the people that helped shape the North East and create the proud communities that exists today.”
This year’s special Picnic has been made possible thanks to Northumberland County Council, Ashington Town Council and the NUM working with Woodhorn to develop a fitting tribute to the event’s history.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 June 2014
Arts funding must not be limited to groups inside the golden circle of the M25, the wife of playwright Lee Hall has said.
Baroness Beeban Kidron, the director behind films such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, has called on the Government to ensure the North sees a legally binding share of arts funding.
The peer was one of many speaking out following a report last year that showed half of the Arts Council England funding budget went to London, as well as some 90% of the £450m Department for Culture, Media and Sport budget.
This means the capital gets £69 of cultural spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England.
Alongside this, 45% of National Lottery arts cash goes to London.
Baroness Kidron, whose husband led efforts to reverse council arts cuts in Newcastle, said that just four institutions in the capital receive more lottery funding than the 33 local authorities which are home to six million people at the bottom of their funding list.
She added: “These local authorities are predominantly, although not exclusively, in the North, but they all cover areas that are already challenged by other symptoms of deprivation and where current and prospective local authority cuts are biting most deeply.”
Speaking before members of the House of Lords, she called for the Government to make funding for the arts “a legal requirement” and to give local authorities the resources to fulfil that requirement.
She said that “talent is not centred in London, appreciation is not centred in London, the need to see oneself reflected in our world is not centred in London” and made the point that the national and international reputation of excellence in the creative arts started with individuals and groups in towns and cities across the UK .
“If we withdraw funding now we decimate the art and artists of the future,” the peer said.
“Starving the ecosystem of the tiny, the local, the experimental, the site-specific and the amateur groups, or insisting that this same list become little businesses, will simply kill the juggernaut of British theatre which has conquered Broadway and beyond.
“Could not Her Majesty’s Government consider making arts funding a legal requirement of local authorities and provide the resources to support that requirement, in order that we do not decimate arts provision outside the golden circle of the M25 and, in doing so, deprive ourselves of the artists and art of the future?”
Jane Tarr, director for the North at the Arts Council England said that the organisation is a “national champion for the arts and culture all over the country”.
“However, we’re not the biggest investor in culture in this country.
“With organisations like the National Glass Centre, The Baltic, The Sage and MIMA it’s clear that the North East is home to some world class arts and culture organisations – the result of very successful partnerships between the Arts Council, local authorities and higher education.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 14 Feb 2014
Visitor numbers at museums in the North East have dropped as funding cuts force shorter opening hours and hit exhibitions, new figures have revealed.
Government statistics show that annual visits to the facilities run by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums were down by more than 26,000 in the first nine months of this financial year compared to the same period a year earlier.
That slump included a 17% fall in visitors at Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery, a 14% reduction at the Laing gallery in Newcastle and a 10% fall at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum – all of which suffered cuts in opening hours as a result of budget reductions.
The Great North Museum and the South Shields Museum also saw a drop in visitor numbers, though there were encouraging rises at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, both of around 18%.
The downward trend has been attributed to a reduction in museum opening hours in the region, introduced last year as a way of cutting costs.
And last night one former council leader said the region would start to realise the true extent of its cuts.
Liberal Democrat council David Faulkner said the cuts to Newcastle’s arts scene would be damaging.
He said: “The cuts by Newcastle City Council to the museums service was camouflaged last year by all the publicity surrounding Lee Hall and the arts venues. The chickens are coming home to roost now. They had to take their share but we still say that cuts to arts and museums should have been more proportionate and spread over a longer period to allow more time to absorb them.
“Our museums are among the best in the country and attract huge numbers, including many thousands of young people who get an appreciation of their heritage, of science and engineering and of arts and crafts. The value of this work is underestimated by the council, it seems to us.”
Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums director, Iain Watson, said: “At many museums and galleries visitor figures will vary year on year and this can be due to a complex range of factors including popularity of individual exhibitions, major programmes in a particular year with significant external funding, particularly successful events, and even the weather.
“In April 2013 opening hours at Discovery Museum, the Laing Art Gallery and the Shipley Art Gallery were all reduced as a result of the very difficult funding positions of the supporting local authorities.
“Not surprisingly this has had an immediate impact on visitor numbers but measures have been put in place to mitigate this. For example, at Discovery Museum, in October we reorganised the weekend opening hours to spread the available hours differently over Saturday and Sunday to make sure that the museum is open at times that best suit our users.”
Tyne and Wear Archieves and Museums said the upward trend of Segedunum was “very pleasing” and that it works hard not just to maximise visitor numbers, but also to ensure that it reaches members of communities who are less likely to use museums.
And commenting on the visitor numbers at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture said: “If we look at figures for April to November there was an increase of over 40,000 visitors compared to the same period for the previous year.
“The Museum and Winter Gardens programmes a wide variety of high quality exhibitions to accommodate the needs of all of our visitors, whatever their interests. All exhibitions are engaging and accessible and fulfil our aim to be a cultural centre for everyone in Sunderland and the North East region.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 10 Feb 2014