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Our Crack Snapper

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“A black market in string and woodwind instruments have created dangerous gangs of noise vandals who terrorise people on public transport…” Oh you people of the north-east please peer into my crystal ball: Newcastle in 2020, a city without council funded art. A city without theatres, concert halls, galleries or performance spaces.

A city where actors, musicians and ex-arts administrators rampage through the streets stealing Subway sarnies and Gregg’s sausage rolls from horrified shoppers. A city where break-ins have reached epidemic proportions because actors keep on breaking into people’s houses to perform pieces by Shelagh Delaney, Andrea Dunbar and Lee Hall. A city where young tyros are addicted to spray paint and the kind of profusion of ‘artistic expression’ seen rarely outside the New York subway system in the mid eighties. A city where art is a dirty word. Where a black market in string and woodwind instruments have created dangerous gangs of noise vandals who terrorise people on public transport with their off key and violently loud renditions of Beethoven’s fifth or Oasis’ first. Where eviction orders and public nuisance notices flutter like confetti because JSA ‘funded’ opera companies have taken to performing Wagner’s Ring cycle in shopping centres and on pedestrian crossings during rush hour. Where orchestras hire themselves out as muscle for firms who fancy a better class of conversation. Where the Wonga Stadium has been partly dismantled by irate music fans after hundreds of illegal gigs staged in the car park result in nightly disturbances and riots. A city where The Laing has been converted into loft apartments (still unoccupied) and The City Hall is a night-shelter for ex-musicians and performance artists. A city where there’s no shortage of local artists turned house painters and internal decorators, and one can’t swing a microphone without hitting a busker or a human statue. A city where people remember the good old days when arts funding created a city and a locale that attracted people to it, where locals and tourists had a range of cultural options and now wonder how the council ever managed to rip the cultural heart out of the city and sell the idea like it was a ‘good thing’. And watch while other big northern cities like Manchester and Liverpool, although knowing that arts funding wasn’t for front line services realised it was on the front line for attracting visitors, and stole Newcastle’s visitors and tourists wholesale. Newcastle and the north-east an area of rumours and whispers about who used to appear, who used to play, and where the great big musical nights out are now just a distant and fading memory. A cultural free and visitor free zone, a place where some in the arts community have gone guerrilla and the rest have closed the door, turned off the lights and hitched a ride to the artistic promised land of other British cities whose councils had the foresight to realise the value of all the kinds of art that made Britain the envy of the world.