I URGE the council to reconsider the closure of Balne Lane Music and Drama Library and the dismantling of the collection.
It is a unique and invaluable resource which empowers both individuals and community groups. It is one of the resources that has made me proud to live in Wakefield, and has made me feel that Wakefield Council had a commitment to the development and continuing education of its citizens and communities.
It has been a resource of tremendous benefit to young people who could not otherwise have had exposure to such a wide range of plays, sheet music, books on the theory and practice of music and drama, underpinned by the helpful expertise of the library’s staff.
Many citizens who run or are engaged in (sometimes small, informal, local) arts groups – theatre groups, choirs, youth theatre, junior bands, etc, would not be able to afford to continue without the resources that Balne Lane offers. Surely this kind of voluntary community involvement is precisely what the council should be supporting if its banner mission statement of “stronger safer communities” is to have any real meaning.
The Balne Lane collection has enriched the education of many Wakefield pupils, extending the breadth and depth of their exposure to the arts, enabling them to explore and develop far beyond the range of what was available from school departmental budgets.
Many people of all ages have taught themselves to play musical instruments with the aid of Balne Lane’s resources, where there has been no household money for lessons.
I know that many, like myself, feel that Wakefield Council seems to be more concerned with offering consumer ‘opportunities’ of various kinds at present, to the detriment of the infrastructure that supports genuine community-generated arts involvement.
Shopping centres for young people to hang around in; festivals that are often little more than shopping opportunities; council-run, watered down ‘educational activities’ are no substitute. Wakefield Council should be supporting its taxpayers not as ‘consumers’ of the arts, but as citizens who develop themselves and strengthen communities through growing, active involvement in the arts.
Once the Balne Lane collection is dismantled, there’ll never be anything like it again, and the area will be poorer for it.