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Library cuts will make Newcastle 'cultural wasteland'

Protesters against proposed cuts to Newcastle’s library service warned last night (9th January) that the cuts would leave Newcastle “a cultural wasteland”.

Newcastle City Council wants to close 10 of the city’s 18 branch libraries, as part of an attempt to save more than £100m from their annual budgets. It is also planning to scrap its entire budget for the arts and culture.

Members of the Save Newcastle Libraries coalition gathered at the Assembly Rooms on Frenkle Street in the city last night, with more than 250 opponents of the plans packing out the hall to hear speeches from local writers.

Hall, the creator of Billy Elliot, said: ““I don't want Newcastle to become a cultural wasteland. I'm not a politician but I want the libraries and the arts to be defended. I don't want Newcastle to be seen as just a shopping mall.”

Crime writer Ann Cleeves, who has taken part in a project with literacy agency New Writing North to “adopt” one one of the libraries earmarked for closure and write about the role it plays in its community, said: “Step inside and you’ll see a different world. We shouldn’t close these libraries. We should develop them.”

Rachel Kirk, a library assistant, listed the range of services libraries provide in Newcastle, and said: “The coalition government is systematically destroying our public services. The cuts are unnecessary.”

A petition on the coalition’s website against the cuts has gained more than 3,300 signatures of support, while another meeting to help coordinate opposition is planned for 17th January at Newcastle Central Library at 5.30pm.

Author Mari Hannah blogs on Newcastle's library closures.