By John Paul Stephenson from Giggle Beats
Comedians, actors and musicians gathered in Newcastle last night for a variety show to launch The People’s Assembly in the North East.
Stand-up and poet Kate Fox was joined by comedian Mr Drayton, and satirists Andy Croft, Patrick Snape and Jack Burton to support The People’s Assembly, established to pressure the coalition government to abandon austerity measures, which they say are “unjust, immoral and undemocratic.”
Actors Joe Caffrey and Dave Nellist, who are appearing this week in Wet House at the Live Theatre, performed pieces by playwrights Fiona Evans and Lee Hall.
Sharon Facinelli, Richard Brook and the Live’s Youth Theatre’s Izzy Sorby also performed monologues and play extracts.
Mark Steel, who cancelled his appearance, will perform a one-hour show later this year for People’s Assembly North East, organiser Joan Hewitt announced.
During the three hour variety show, opera singer Dawn Furness spoke passionately about regional arts funding, saying that the subsidy received by Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House is fifteen times the arts funding in Newcastle.
Newcastle City Council initially proposed to cut their arts funding by 100%, but, following a public consultation, council leader Nick Forbes announced the creation of a £600,000 ‘culture fund’.
Furness, who has performed with Luciano Pavarotti, also attacked a “£3.2 million bill” for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral in April “paid for by the tax payer”.
“They managed to spend in three hours the amount that could have sustained the entire Newcastle culture fund for five and a half years.”
Furness joked that the cost of the funeral was excessive in a time of austerity “particularly when several mining communities in the North East would have put her in the ground for free.”
The variety show was the conclusion of a conference at Newcastle University, with speakers including Owen Jones, Stop the War Coalition’s Alex Snowdon, and comedian and activist Stuart Robertson.