Last November, Arts Council England granted Seven Stories in Newcastle a new name - the National Centre for Children's Books. If you are interested in children's books, but don't know about Seven Stories yet, you probably should. Its archive in Gateshead is a veritable treasure trove of original manuscripts, illustrations and memorabilia from some of the best-loved and most famous names in children's literature, and is considered of national importance. The Centre itself (which I visited recently, and plan to do so again in March) is a vibrant space set by the little trickle of river which is the Ouseburn, full of wonderful exhibitions, creative play space, the best bookshop I've been in for years, children's laughter, enthusiastic and knowledgable staff and volunteers, and so much more. I can't remember when I've been more impressed with a place. It is somewhere children can learn about books, get involved with projects, meet authors and illustrators - but most of all have a fantastic and memorable time - and that's just a small part of it.
It was therefore with some shock that I found out at the beginning of this week that Newcastle City Council (NCC) are proposing to withdraw 100% of funding from this amazing resource. Just stop and think about that for a moment. I'll say it again, and even write it in big bold red letters.
100% Funding CutYep. You really did read that right.
Now, personally, I think that's a disgrace, especially coupled with the fact that the same NCC want to close ten of their city's eighteen libraries. What Seven Stories do is, quite literally, irreplaceable. The withdrawal of this funding would mean they lose 13% of their entire income. That, in real terms, means that they'd lose the ability to carry on with their very important outreach and learning work - work that benefits disadvantaged families, parents and children who might otherwise never even be touched by the world of reading.
While Seven Stories has had some generous benefactors in the past, and is currently a member of the Arts Council's Catalyst fund (which means that any donations they receive from the general public are matched), 13% of income is a still a significant amount to lose. If you agree with me, please click on THIS LINK, which will take you to the Seven Stories protest page where you can find information on how to help. It might be your letter or email which makes the difference, so PLEASE, if you can find the time to write to NCC, and also to spread the word via social media, then I know that Seven Stories will be very grateful.
"I understand that you need to make cuts, but if you dismiss and disregard the cultural life of your city by slashing much of its arts budget to the bone (in particular Seven Stories and your libraries), you risk disenfranchising and disinheriting both the children of today and the children of the future. Children need books for learning, to inspire their minds and to give them a better understanding of the world they live in. Don't put that at risk - please, please think again."