'Dark times' for North East literature bodies

'Dark times' for North East literature bodies

Literature organisations in the North East have said they face difficult times with a combination of local council and Arts Council England cuts in their area.

As part of ACE's restructure, its Northern region will see literature specialists remain in Manchester and Leeds, but be cut from Newcastle, while the number of staff overall will drop from more than 20 to no more than 15.

Meanwhile Newcastle City Council has announced major cuts, including plans to reduce the number of library branches by more than half, from 18 to eight, as they seek to save £90m from their budget in the next three years.

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North which supports literature in the area and also runs the Durham Book Festival, said these were "dark times".

She said: "It feels like we are being hit more than some other areas. What makes it worse is that the cultural regeneration in the North East has been extraordinary. Other cities and other countries have looked to us to see how it can be done—we have so many great organisations and projects here. For the council to make a 100% cut to its cultural budget is draconian, it's a huge step backwards."

She added: "Library closures are very distressing too. They have a huge part to play for writers and literacy. The council have said everyone will still be 1.5 miles from a library, but will that work in practice?"

Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children's Books, based in Newcastle, has both ACE and council funding, but will now lose its council support.

Seven Stories chief executive Kate Edwards said: "The grant aid we receive from Newcastle City Council constitutes 13% of our income. We recognise that the local authority is taking difficult decisions and many services that it believes in will be affected by government imposed cuts. There are difficult times ahead, but we will work hard to find solutions and will work with our partners and supporters to build our fundraising and earn income."