Fury over Suffolk music axe threat

Waveney will become a cultural wasteland if plans to scrap funding for music education across the county are approved, parents claimed last night.

Waveney will become a cultural wasteland if plans to scrap funding for music education across the county are approved, parents claimed last night.

In the latest wave of cost-cutting measures, Suffolk County Council is proposing to slash its budget for performing arts by 73pc, from £450,000 to £119,000, in the next financial year.

If agreed, the cuts could have a catastrophic effect on the county music service, which provides music services and tuition to thousands of young people.

Parents and politicians in Waveney said the move would be yet another blow to an already deprived area, following hot on the heels of the council's closure of the Seagull Theatre last July.

The music service budget currently funds subsidised music tuition and free instrument loan, along with the internationally renowned youth ensembles the Suffolk Youth Orchestra, Suffolk Young Strings and Suffolk Wind Band.

It is also the major provider of music therapy and tuition in special schools.

Most Read

But many parents fear all this could be lost if such a hefty cut is agreed.

Piano teacher Penny Harvey, who has three sons receiving tuition from the council, is just one of the parents lobbying the council against the cuts.

For the last five years, her sons Charles, 18, Oliver, 15, and Hugo, 13, have attended weekly music schools at Kirkley High School.

They have also benefited from free instrument loans, giving them the chance to learn instruments they could not afford to buy.

Ms Harvey said: “I think it is just horrendous. I have written to so many people about this.

“At Kirkley High School alone, there are more than 80 young people, mainly teenagers, who attend the Friday night and Saturday morning music schools.

“These are all young people who are doing something positive, learning a skill, learning about teamwork and discipline.

“If they were not at this club, they would probably just be hanging round the streets.”

Mrs Harvey added: “The county music service is a wonderfully positive thing for young people and for Suffolk as a county.”

The county council, which is struggling to save £22m in the next financial year, is expected to make a final decision on the budget cuts in February.

A council spokesman said: “The council recognises and values the work done by the county music service and is sympathetic to the concerns expressed by many people.

“We are confident that some savings can be made in the short-term through efficiencies that will not have a detrimental effect on the service,” the spokesman added.

THE VIOLINIST

Suzie Watson is one of many youngsters who have gone on to become professional musicians after tuition from Suffolk county music service.

The 25-year-old violinist from Lowestoft has just joined the South Bank Symphonia, following a music degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

She believes none of this would have been possible without the tuition and support she received from the council.

Suzie said:“The idea that it could be cut really saddens me. I wouldn't be where I am now if it hadn't been for the county music service.

“As a young person growing up, music was, and still is, such a huge part of my life. But it wasn't just about lessons, it was about social interaction, about teamwork, about the discipline to learn. Music is just so important for young people.

“There are so many children who could not afford to learn an instrument without this service.

“If the council cuts so much of this budget I just cannot see how the service will continue.”