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
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
More jobs will have to go at Durham County Council as civic centre chiefs look again at one of the region’s biggest series of budget cuts.
Over six years Durham will lose some £224m, and the latest plan to find £100m is seeing the council prepare for further service cut backs.
Council leader Simon Henig said the council has already lost more than £113m, and is well into current plans set to make some 2,000 staff redundant by the next financial year.
But even that total is now likely to be passed as the council look to the next three years of cuts.
After a lengthy consultation process in which the public was asked to use a Monopoly board-style game to identify priorities, the council is now ready to go with further cuts to museums, arts, some library support services and grass cutting.
Mr Henig said: “We are looking at the arts, but no one will see their entire contribution cut. We have a number of facilities across the county, the museum, the theatre and so on, but no one will lose out completely. It could lead to changes such as opening hours, but trying to avoid being too dramatic in these areas.”
Other savings confirmed include a reduction in school crossing staff and the switching off or dimming down of some street lights.
The leader said that, of the new savings identified, many would be met by back office cuts and efficiencies. “But you cannot keep cutting this,” Mr Henig said, “Sooner or later all you are left with is front line services to cut.”
He added: “Next year is when we will have to make some incredibly difficult choices about our services. The Government can’t just keep cutting this. You can’t look for efficiencies each year, they run out and then it is front line that goes. All councils will reach this point. We have been in a better position than some as we are the biggest council in the North East and have been able to find more savings, but we will reach that point next year where it is our front line that has to suffer. It’s inevitable.
“What we have asked for from the Government is fairness, for the North East to face the same reduction as all councils, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
“But we have instead seen councils in the South East and Home Counties having increases in spending powers, on the Government’s own figures.
“If we had the same reduction all round there would still have to be cuts but at least it would be fair across the country.”
> Is he really suprised ? As I’ve said before, neither Tories or Lib Dems, seperately or in unholy alliance, are likely to win power in the North East, so why should they care ? Well, yeah, plenty of reasons, but none that would occur to them.
More to the point, what we want to know is what Labour will do to rebalance things, should they win the next election. Very little, I suspect, but I’m up for a nice suprise. Not holding my breath though…
Council treasurer Don McLure set out the jobs risk of the Government not listening to those concerns.
He said: “The forecast we did on the first plan said 1,950 job losses, and that is likely to be the same as imagined over four years. That takes us up to 2015. There is another £100m to come, we need to look at them in more detail, but we are predominantly an employer, 70% of our budget is staffing we will have to look at that again.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Jan 2014