Ken Loach defends Barking’s Broadway Theatre

17:48 22 February 2012

Ken Loach has spoken out in defence of the Broadway in Barking last week

Ken Loach has spoken out in defence of the Broadway in Barking last week

PA Wire/Press Association Images

People vented their anger at a meeting against council cuts which attracted an award-winning film director.

Ken Loach, who directed Kes, gave an impassioned speech against proposed funding cuts which could lead to the closure of The Broadway theatre as a fully operating entertainment venue.

He was joined at the Spotted Dog public house in Barking last Thursday by residents and activists concerned about the effect of the cuts on culture, public life and the health service.

Mr Loach told the Post: “Because of the widespread closure of libraries, the Tory cuts are going to leave us with a cultural desert.

“A local community theatre is a place where the community can identify itself, it can discover its identity, share experiences and enjoy comedy. It can have access to the great theatrical tradition that we have. That’s where I found my enthusiasm for theatre. It’s important that people have that.

“It is a very inexpensive theatre. It seems outrageous that this is happening while elsewhere people are dodging tax.”

He added: “The Labour Party, in its early days, had huge respect for culture. It has been moving to the right for a long time. Very little priority is given to the good things in life.”

In his speech, he said theatres helped go against the tendency of being “atomised in your room in front of the TV”.

He continued: “It’s really shocking, small-minded, petty and has the kind of book keeper’s logic that you would expect from the right wing.”

The meeting was organised by Cllr George Barratt, Mayesbrook ward, who resigned the Labour whip in December in protest against the council’s lack of opposition to the government-imposed spending cuts.

Barking and Dagenham Council is planning to withdraw the theatre’s entire £330,000 grant because it needs to save £20million in the next financial year.

In a letter to the Post Cllr Barratt said: “This is not a moment for the council taxpayers of the borough to sit and wait for their elected representatives to sort out their problems. If the representatives are not performing, kick them out.”

Barking resident John Lang said: “Our councillors have not responded to any of our correspondences about supporting the theatre – that typifies this borough. It’s a cultural desert – we have no book shops, no cinema. It’s an outrage.”

Former councillor and mayor Pat Manley told the meeting: “We should be fighting to keep the theatre and the King George Hospital A&E but more so, we should ask for work.”

Other speakers were Cllr Ralph Baldwin, former Sydney Russell teacher and NUT member Bob Archer, and Paul Mackney, vice chairman of the Coalition of Resistance Against Cuts and Privatisation. Mr Mackney, former general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Most people can’t stand what’s going on. People become angry, they want to do something and they feel empowered.”

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