Wednesday, February 2, 2011

British parents protest funding cuts to inclusive theatre

From The Times in Finchley, UK:

Parents and children from Finchley Youth Theatre demonstrated against planned cuts to services at two protests in one week.

On January 25, more than 25 people rallied outside the theatre in High Road, East Finchley, while yesterday, several families also joined hundreds of angry protesters for the mass rally against local and national cuts.

The march had been organised by Barnet Alliance for Public Services and went from Finchley Central Tube station to artsdepot, in Nether Street, North Finchley.

Barnet Council plans to reorganise youth support in order to save £1.65 million from the children’s service budget, which could mean the theatre loses staff and programmes would be cut.

The centre provides drama, dance, music and singing sessions for young people between 11 and 25, including those with learning disabilities.

It boasts a theatre with stage lighting and sound equipment, a dance studio and a common room with computers.

Catherine Atkinson’s son Francis, 18, was the theatre’s youth spokesman last year and her daughter, Jennifer, 15, attends weekly dance and drama sessions.

Mrs Atkinson, 53, said: “Jenny has complex learning difficulties and health needs and this is the only place where she feels welcome, safe and included.

“Our children need regular classes, they need the routine – it would save the council nothing because we’ll end up needing mental health services instead.”

Parents are also concerned there is not another centre in the area which could provide similar classes for children with learning difficulties.

Mrs Atkinson, who lives with her daughter and husband David, in Bedford Road, East Finchley, said: “My Jenny would have to be at home with me every day of the week for the rest of her life.

“But what sort of a life is that? In today’s civilised society we should be providing a quality of life that’s worth living for our children – and this theatre provides that.”

Councillor Andrew Harper, deputy leader of the Barnet Council and cabinet member for education, children and families, said: “The proposals to change the way we run the Finchley Youth Theatre, which we have been consulting on, will allow us to deliver sessions in a more targeted way, using a flexible workforce alongside our voluntary sector partners."