Letters: Halt this savage attack on the arts

Letters: The leader's comments that this is a simple choice between the arts and 'life and death' services is just not the case

As artists with strong connections to Newcastle and the north-east, we are alarmed that in the context of the £418m capital development programme to stimulate the retail and leisure sector, Newcastle city council has proposed a 100% cut to its arts budget which will decimate the cultural life of the city (Report, 11 December). The council's support helps arts organisations attract many millions of pounds in yearly investment to the city and the effects will be economically disastrous to both the arts organisations and to hundreds of businesses which benefit from their success. Newcastle has an international reputation for its cultural life and the artists it produces. Not only has this been vital for inward investment in the region, but it has allowed the people of the city access to the highest-quality art for a modest investment by the council. Generations of young people will be denied access to the opportunities we were given and without the council's support the arts will simply become a pursuit for the most wealthy.

By the council's own admission these cuts are blanket and pre-emptory. No strategy has been made to save any or part of these thriving organisations and it seems to us a shortsighted attack on the arts and the idea that culture should be available to all. The leader's comments that this is a simple choice between the arts and "life and death" services is just not the case. These cuts are totally out of line with the rest of the country. The city council is risking throwing away a shared cultural heritage that has been built up by generations and generations of ordinary people in the City. If these organisations go under they will never be replaced. We recognise these are difficult times, but it is precisely now that we are relying on the council to protect these organisations for everyone. The cost of losing them is simply too huge and totally unnecessary. We strongly urge Newcastle council to rethink this baffling decision and find an appropriate way to preserve the arts in Newcastle.
Thomas Allen, Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Neil Tennant, Kathryn Tickell, the Unthanks, Antony Gormley, Jane and Louise Wilson, David Almond, Pat Barker, Peter Flannery, Lee Hall, Tony Harrison, Sean O'Brien, Peter Straughan, Alun Armstrong, Robson Green, Jill Halfpenny, Charlie Hardwick, Tim Healy, Jimmy Nail, Madelaine Newton, Kevin Whately

• Josie Rourke commissioning Phyllida Lloyd's Julius Caesar is more than an interesting opportunity for women (Exit the women, stage left, G2 11 December) – it is a rallying call for female empowerment and has the potential to mark a turning point in UK theatre. How good to see the 2-to-1 casting of male actors over female backed up by your research. This figure was identified by Equity members in 2008 when looking at TV schedules. Sadly, at that time we thought theatre was so much better at offering female performers opportunities to work and portray 51% of the population. Now, though we see improvement in TV, theatre has got worse.

"Artistic freedom!" men cry, and then censor women's voices, particularly older female writers' voices, and perpetuate the invisibility of older women. Actresses know this too well as our careers peter out after 45. The Equalities Act, if not exactly hindering us, does nothing to change the situation. However, there are two hopeful signs. The first is the growing resolve that "we are not going away"; the second is that there are women coming into positions who can unlock the barriers to what is commissioned.

It is not fair to expect change to be the sole responsibility of female artistic directors, thereby absolving men. These women are often not holding the purse strings to the largest subsidies, and the larger the public subsidy surely the larger the responsibility for equal representation. If Ian Forrest at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, can build successful seasons of plays on a company of equal gender, so can the National, can't it?
Jean Rogers
Vice-president, Equity

• In his learning plays, Brecht asks us "expressly to discover that what happens all the time is not natural". As Jez Butterworth, April De Angelis and others testify (Back to school, Review, 15 December), good classroom drama encourages children to think imaginatively and to question the "natural". This is the last thing the "Tinas" want and it's no surprise that drama is being downgraded. Can anyone who has ever been inspired by drama at school please flood the education department with their reasons for upgrading the subject. The world and our children need it.
John Airs

The GuardianTramp

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