Washington Arts Centre has been the home of The Davy Lamp Folk Club, which has been run by Terri and Eric Freeman and the team, for more than 40 years.
It is a very successful club and has been recognised by the BBC as the ‘Folk Club of the Year’ previously.
It attracts both local and international artists of all ages. It is a place where people, young and old, such as those studying on the folk degree course at Newcastle University or anyone learning to play an instrument or sing can perform.
It is well attended every Saturday night where everyone enjoys an evening in which they can partake.
Audience participation is encouraged and it does not matter if your voice is good or bad. As that well known phrase states ‘it is the taking part that counts’.
Unfortunately, due to Government cuts, Sunderland Council feel the need to quadruple the fee for the use of the venue from January next year with further increases to follow.
This now means that the club will only be able to run once a month instead of every week due to financial constraints.
I assume the council is hoping to try to hire out the hall for other functions, which are not likely to be artistic events, for a much larger amount of money.
The folk club will be priced out of the market eventually.
This is a non-profit making organisation and even with increased membership fees and entrance fees the future of the club is in jeopardy.
The great pity is that it is a place where our cultural history is preserved in words and music.
Terri and Eric have strived to keep this history alive and it should be kept alive. It also provides a meeting place for many like-minded people.
There is so much money wasted both locally and nationally that the amount concerned here is minuscule.
Maybe Sunderland Council could provide an ‘arts grant’ to sustain the facility.
If Sunderland is to bid to be a City of Culture how can our council justify getting rid of something that does preserve our heritage?
Since our folk heritage does not seem to be important enough to be included in ‘culture’ perhaps someone can enlighten us as to what actually fits into the programme as the bid is put forward.