Noddy Holder: It is a disaster to close gallery
"It will be a disaster, the arts is a big part of people's lives."
This is the damning view of Walsall and music legend Noddy Holder who has joined the fight for Walsall's New Art Gallery to be saved.
The former Slade frontman, whose voice rings out in the lifts at the gallery, was speaking exclusively to the Express & Star just weeks after Walsall Council announced that the borough will have no art gallery by 2020 unless council tax gets a significant rise or central government relaxes its austerity measures.
He said: "This is really sad news, I think the arts is a big part of people's lives.
"It is a huge part of the Walsall skyline as well and a beacon at the top of Park Street. I remember walking that street as a boy way before the gallery was even built.
"When it was built it was up for the prestige architecture award and ended up coming second, which is no mean feat.
"I think the gallery is great for the community. They put on some wonderful exhibitions and closing it will be a disaster."
As well as the closure of the art gallery, Walsall Council has also warned that by 2020 14 of the 15 libraries could be shut as well as the leather museum and local history centre having relocated to the only remaining library on Lichfield Street.
Noddy added: "I know there are cutbacks in all parts of the country but the arts always get hammered first, be it galleries, music, libraries.
"People really just do not understand the importance of the arts."
His comments come as a petition started to save the art gallery has more than 5,400 signatures.
Walsall Council has put dozens of potential cuts out for public consultation, so residents can have their say on them.
Among the cuts are the proposals to cut the council's funding to the art gallery as well as close 14 libraries.
Councillor Sean Coughlan, the leader of Walsall Council, said back in October: "If we continue with these austerity measures then in four years time we will be left with one library, no youth service, no art gallery and no performing arts centre.
"Public services are at the point of breaking right across Walsall.
"We will have a conversation with our electorate, the residents of the borough. What will go out will overcompensate so people will have a real choice to make over the services they want to keep.
"We will listen to what they say and hopefully act accordingly when we set our budget in February next year."