Stars condemn arts funding cuts

The campaign to save arts in East Anglia from devastating funding cuts stepped up a gear today as more famous names rallied to the cause.

The campaign to save arts in East Anglia from devastating funding cuts stepped up a gear today as more famous names rallied to the cause.

Griff Rhys Jones and Richard Briers are the latest stars to hit back at proposed Arts Council England (ACE) cuts, which threaten the future of touring productions.

A final decision on funding will be made by the Arts Council on January 23, but unless the proposed cuts are reversed, Norwich Puppet Theatre will lose all of its £60,000 allocation and Creative Arts East and Eastern Angles, which tour village halls, arts centres and schools throughout the region, will lose £160,000 and £113,000 respectively. The City of London Sinfonia's residency at King's Lynn will also be affected.

Richard Briers, star of The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles, who is a former patron of the puppet theatre, today described the proposed cuts as “tragic”. He said: “We seem to have this annual battle with the arts council about funding projects. It is tragic they are considering cutting funding, not only to the puppet theatre but the other theatres with live actors too.

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“I have been to Norwich once before when I was made patron of the puppet theatre and would not want to see it go. The bigger picture is these cuts are going to affect a lot of people across the country. I am hoping we will be able to gather enough support from people to make the arts council reconsider cutting the funding.”

Comedian Griff Rhys Jones, who has a home in Suffolk, also hit back, saying: “Once again the fourth richest economy in the world is economising in quite the wrong way. We need to sustain our arts and Eastern Angles is just the sort of company that the Arts Council needs to be spending more money on. It should certainly not be disabling small, local enterprise in favour of grand centralised projects.”

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Bestselling author Louis de Bernières, who has already leant his support to the campaign, said of the Eastern Angles: “I have seen nearly all their plays since moving to Norfolk; all of them were original, and not one was a dud. They take their plays to all sorts of out-of-the-way places, as well as to major venues, and they are always packed out. They make a substantial contribution to the quality of life here.”

An Eastern Angles board meeting held on Tuesday night focused on working on a detailed response to ACE.

Board member Peter Stibbons said: “Board members felt that the reasons given for the proposed cut were open to challenge at virtually every point. There was particular concern that the Eastern Angles covered an area nearly the size of Wales.

“There seems to be an implication that in a rural area, those who wish to visit the theatre and the concert hall are prepared to travel over 70 or 80 miles for evening performances. The great joy with Eastern Angles is that excellence arrives on your own doorstep.”

Norfolk County Council's Conservative and Labour groups have both said they will present a motion to the authority at a full council meeting on January 21 to take action in the hope of reversing the proposed cuts.

t Eastern Angles and Creative Arts East have set up online petitions for people to register their support. To sign up visit and

t People who wish to express their feelings can also write to Stuart Timperley, Chair, Arts Council England East, Eden House, 48-49 Bateman Street, Cambridge, CB1 1LR

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