‘It’s absolutely pathetic that City Hall can’t afford £350,000 to support the arts’, says theatre director leading stars’ protest at cuts

The ‘West End Extra’ reports;

“A DEPUTATION of 50 stars could present itself at City Hall next month to stop the council slashing its £350,000 annual expenditure on the arts.

That is the aim of doyen theatre director Philip Hedley, who has joined the rising tide of protest against the council dumping its support for the arts.

Already a host of stars, among them Ralf Little and Alistair McGowan along with West End actors Samantha Bond and Abigail Thaw have signed the petition. Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips and Pauline McLynn, who stared as Mrs Doyle in sitcom Father Ted, have also added their support to the campaign.

Mr Hedley, 75, said: “A deputation is a good idea. I organised 50 stars to protest during the height of the Thatcher cuts. So I am thinking of organising it again.

“You have to do daring deeds on these occasions, embarrass the council. It is pathetic, absolutely pathetic that Westminster can’t afford £350,000 to support the arts.”

Much of that sum goes towards projects like Westminster Mind’s programme for vulnerable adults and the Union Dance programme in Pimlico which provides classes in choreography, dance styles, health and fitness to young people.

Mr Hedley, who lives off Tottenham Court Road, was artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East for 25 years, a home for radical productions.

He has already signed the petition against Westminster’s cut-back, which has attracted more than 700 names, and asked others to do so.

He said: “I have spoken up for many years against any cuts to the arts, but it’s the same old story. I think it’s obscene in a civilised society for a council to make a comparison between meals on wheels and supporting the arts. A rich borough like Westminster has no need to descend to that kind of cheap comparison because the minute amount they give to the arts is such a tiny fraction of what it spends.

“They have a statutory duty to provide meals on wheels. But providing some invigorating extra for arts people is almost as important as food.

“Stimulation for the brain, imagination and so on. You just can’t feed people and leave people in their rooms.

“They need some light relief in these days of austerity, which is something the West End does not do because it is too expensive, ridiculously expensive. We need to ensure that these people are not left out in the cold.”

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