MP makes eleventh hour plea to save music library as axe looms

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AN MP has made a last-ditch plea to save from closure one of the country’s largest collections of musical scores and plays.

Bradford Lib Dem MP David Ward has called for the closure of the Music and Drama Service in Wakefield to be delayed to allow time to find a way of keeping the service open.

The collection holds more than 500,000 items of music and 90,000 copies of plays, making it one of the largest collections of performing sets anywhere in the UK. It is available not only to individual users, schools and music and drama groups in the Yorkshire and Humber area but also to organisations and groups outside the region on a pay-per-use basis.

The 12 local authorities that use the service have agreed in principle to end the service in March.

The local authorities say that the need for cutbacks has forced them to pull the plug on funding.

A range of groups, from choral societies to drama groups, are campaigning to keep the service going.

They have been backed by politicians, including MPs.

In a letter to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Mr Ward said that the closure of the service would be a huge blow to community music and drama groups in Bradford and across the country and urged him to intervene to delay the closure until a sustainable solution can be found.

The Bradford MP said: “This is a unique collection, and I know from my postbag that the service it provides is hugely valued by the many local music and drama groups who use it. A number of local choirs and orchestras have contacted me to say that they simply would not be able to continue to performing without the access to the affordable music that the collection provides.

“Suggestions have been put forward to make the service more affordable for local authorities, but we need time to work these through.

“The 12 local authorities involved need to listen to the concerns of local groups and realise how hugely damaging the rushed closure of this service could be.”

In his letter to the Culture Secretary, Mr Ward warns: “Unless a solution can be found soon, we risk losing this service for good, which would be a huge blow for amateur community music and drama groups in Bradford and across the country.

“The service makes 500,000 items of music and 90,000 plays available to individual users, schools, music and drama groups throughout the UK.

“It is funded by modest contributions from 12 Yorkshire local authorities in combination with user fees. This funding makes it possible for thousands of people to enjoy music in their communities, supports young musicians and helps foster careers in the arts. However, the future of the service has been thrown into doubt as some of the participating authorities have recently expressed a reluctance to continue their support.

“It is imperative that the collection be kept together and in the public domain. If this service was lost the costs of amateur music and drama would be significantly increased, as groups are forced to look elsewhere for sources of music. Numerous local music groups and choirs have told me that this could make their activities unaffordable.”

Mr Ward said a number of proposals could make the service sustainable, including relocating it to another local authority library, undertaking efficiency savings and increasing user fees.

“However, without continued local authority support it seems likely that we will lose this unique service for good.

“I urge you to intervene in this matter, and to bring pressure to bear on all 12 local authorities to delay taking any decision on the future of the service until all of the options can be fully considered and sustainable way of preserving this invaluable service can be found.”

The campaign has been backed by Leeds MP Greg Mulholland, who has called for more time to be given to safeguard the collection.