Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Community Outreach Hit by Exhibition Cuts

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Community Outreach Hit by Exhibition Cuts

Article excerpt

Byline: DANIEL HOLLAND Local democracy reporter daniel.holland@reachplc.com @danhollandnews

BUDGET cuts to the Great Exhibition of the North made after a weapons manufacturer pulled its sponsorship meant some communities were left "marginalised" by the event, Newcastle's council leader has conceded.

Nick Forbes said that organisers of the cultural festival made a "tactical error" by reducing community outreach initiatives when BAE Systems withdrew its funding.

BAE announced in March that it was quitting as a sponsor of the Great Exhibition, following an outcry from a number of artists over its involvement.

The Great Exhibition's executive director has insisted that the event delivered a "huge amount of community engagement".

It is estimated that the 80-day festival, which closed in September, helped bring more than four million visitors to Newcastle and Gateshead over the summer, providing a major boost to city hotels and key venues such as the Sage and the Discovery Museum.

But the exhibition's impact outside of the city centre has been called into question, and Benwell and Scotswood councillor Rob Higgins told a council scrutiny committee that communities in the West End had been "marginalised".

Coun Forbes agreed that more could have been done to spread the event's influence, if organisers had more cash at their disposal.

He said: "I take your point about the Great Exhibition. In the relatively late stages of the planning for the programme there was a budget cut. One part of that was elements of community outreach.

"We feel that that was a tactical error because it felt like it became more about showcasing things than creating opportunities for people to show off our city in a wider range of ways."

Coun Forbes said the Great Exhibition would have had a "different" feeling had the BAE funding not been lost, with more opportunities to promote parts of the city's culture outside of the festival's main attractions. …

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