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Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Friday, 7 January 2011
A writer campaigns against Darlington Arts closure
Darlington Arts Centre
Darlington Arts Centre. Photo courtesy of Darlington Council.

Darlington Council has announced it is considering cutting funding to the Darlington Art Centre, due to government spending cuts.

In response, a writer involved with Dr Who has condemned the plan, calling it 'criminal'.

Paul Magrs, who grew up in Newton Aycliffe, has fond childhood memories of the Civic Theatre and Arts Centre.

The council says no final decision has been made, and feedback from the public will be taken in to account.

Paddington Bear

John Foster spoke to Paul Magrs on BBC Tees to find out why he feels so passionately about the Arts Centre.

Paul said: "I wrote a blog piece. I feel passionate, because I grew up in Newton Aycliffe and there was nothing, culturally, in the 80s.

Paul Magrs is originally from Newton Aycliffe
Paul Magrs is originally from Newton Aycliffe

"We had to go up the road to Darlington and everything was going on at the Arts Centre, and it still does!

"It was a big deal, and it has been through the years to other people... it's very short sighted to look at this centre and think 'oh lets close that'.

"The Civic Theatre was the first theatre I ever went to. It was a school trip, I was five, and it was to see Paddington, the stage show. Kids from Aycliffe, we had no idea this stuff went on!

"And so when the fella came out dressed as Paddington there's this fantastic scene where you have the whole of The Brown's house in cross section - he's upstairs and the bath overflows and fills the house with water - it was complete magic to see that happening on stage in front of you, that's what theatre does.

"The idea of taking a theatre like that, that looks like a fantastical box of chocolates, it's a proper theatre, it's just criminal.

"I question who makes these decisions and how... the arts seem to come in for it quite quickly, when they can't see a use for it compared with other things.

John Foster, BBC Tees
John Foster talks about everything Teesside, 5am - 10am on BBC Tees

"It's long term investment in having a community with any kind of heart and soul, and I think that's of much more value than other things they do put money into."

£700,000 annual subsidy

A Darlington Council spokesperson said the authority is currently considering a response to the significant cuts in government funding over the coming year: "All services are under consideration, including the Arts Centre, which currently receives a subsidy of approximately £700,000 per annum from the council.

"No final decision has been taken. Feedback from the public engagement activities will be taken in to account when the final budget is agreed in March 2011."

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