Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

We Must Fund the Future for Adult Learners; More Than a Million Students Have Disappeared from Adult Learning over the Past Two Years Due to Course Closures and Rising Fees. Ahead of a Major Conference in Newcastle, LIZ LAMB Speaks to Those Whose Lives Have Beeb Changed by Adult Education

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

We Must Fund the Future for Adult Learners; More Than a Million Students Have Disappeared from Adult Learning over the Past Two Years Due to Course Closures and Rising Fees. Ahead of a Major Conference in Newcastle, LIZ LAMB Speaks to Those Whose Lives Have Beeb Changed by Adult Education

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ LAMB

THE hit play The Pitmen Painters tells the story of the Ashington miners, who won fame by challenging the art world with their portrayal of mining life in the 1930s.

Back then, the hardened pitmen, fresh from the coal face, indulged in art appreciation classes under the guidance of Newcastle tutor Robert Lyon and hosted by the Workers' Educational Association (WEA).

Though wary at first, the part-time classes propelled the men from the Northumberland town into becoming artists in their own right and, in doing so, opened up a whole new world.

Today their story, retold by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, has played to packed houses at Newcastle's Live Theatre, and the WEA that helped them is still going strong.

But senior figures at the century-old voluntary organisation fear cuts in funding for adult education make it less likely that art groups similar to those depicted in The Pitmen Painters could emerge today.

Nigel Todd, regional director of the WEA in the North East, says: "We are probably at a turning point in the future of adult education in England.

"The current consultation is a welcome response to concerns that have been growing over the past few years and it may set the scene for the next 20 years.

"It is important to ensure the views of adult learners are heard."

The WEA is campaigning for fairer and more stable funding ahead of a major regional conference at the Centre for Life next month, which will discuss the current government consultation on the future of adult learning. …

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