Within 24 hours, over 1600 mainly young people have joined the Facebook campaign to save the Forum music centre in Darlington. I only found out about this this afternoon and am not yet fully aware of the exact details of the financial reasons for its impending closure, though the blame is being laid squarely on the shoulders of the Council for deciding to withdraw financial support.
I cannot recall seeing any documents about this, but I'm sure, if such a decision has been made, there will have been a full and open democratic airing of the matter. After all, as well as the jobs of the staff and the owner, any decision which leads to the closure of such a venue will have a direct effect on many hundreds, if not thousands, of young people across the Borough. I've written to the Chief Executive asking her to point me in the direction ofthe papers referring to this matter.
In the event that there has no democratic discussion, and I didn't just miss it, I have asked that councillors be provided with a full briefing as soon as possible.
I've been to the Forum a few times. It's a unique music venue which offers something quite unusual for Darlington: somewhere that young people seem happy to call their own. Events here attract much more support than the same things would at the Arts Centre, because at the Forum kids can relax and take ownership of the place. The Arts Centre, for all its great facilities and breadth of events, remains a Council-owned facility and, as such, is less inviting to a Forum audience.
The loss of such a facility in the heart of what the Council hopes will become our Cultural Quarter will be a severe blow to the hundreds of people who use the place, not to mention the owner and his staff. If no way can be found for the Council to support this music venue Darlington will be a lesser place. On the face of it, the sums required do not seem excessive in view of the return our community receives from it.
Many hundreds of young people in the town are going to learn more about real politics over the next few weeks than they will in years of classes at school. They're already learning how to lobby their MP, who is acutely aware from her own experience of the role this place plays in many peoples' lives.