Duchess ‘horrified’ over threat to music centre

THE DUCHESS of Kent has lent her support to a campaign to keep open a threatened music centre in Hull.

The duchess, or Katharine Kent as she prefers to be known outside Royal circles, taught incognito at Wansbeck Primary School, Hull, for more than a decade before setting up the Future Talent charity, which encourages and supports gifted youngsters.

Although council leader Carl Minns insists the Albemarle Music Centre will stay open, young musicians are planning to stage an impromptu performance as they carry a petition with over 1,000 names to the city’s Guildhall next week – two days before the council’s crucial budget-setting meeting.

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The £3.5m centre, which opened in October 2007, has become a hub of musical activity for more than 700 youngsters, in choirs, orchestras, and bands. But users fear it could be forced to close if the authority withdraws its entire £511,000 annual contribution.

While the figure represents only around a third of its total budget, Hull Music Service relies on it to provide a venue for 21 music-making ensembles, with funding from other sources focused on teaching youngsters in schools. The service had been anticipating a 25 per cent cut.

The duchess told the Yorkshire Post she was “horrified” when she heard of the threat, which followed closely on the heels of a Government report stressing the importance of local music services. She said the centre was “absolutely amazing” and “probably the best in the country”, adding: “We all know the ripple effect music has right across the community and I speak passionately as a music teacher in Hull.”

Head of the music service Chris Maynard said he had been overwhelmed by public support. He added: “It is reassuring to hear the leader of the council pledging that the music centre will not close and other funding streams will be sourced but as yet it is not clear where they might come from. As well intentioned and reassuring that is, until we are clear where this alternative funding is coming from, this threat still remains.”