Help save this vital musical resource

From: Robert Webb

Director of Sheffield Sterndale Singers and Sheffield Chamber Choir

Not many people outside of the classical music and drama world will have heard of the Yorkshire Libraries and Information Music and Drama Service operating from Wakefield Libraries Headquarters, but it is vital to almost every amateur choir, orchestra and dramatic company in Yorkshire.

This service houses a collection of over 500,000 items of music and 90,000 copies of plays, one of the largest and most important collections of performing sets in the UK. It enables thousands of people to participate in music making and theatre and to enjoy live performances with communities coming together to thrive through such activities.

In Sheffield alone there are over a dozen choirs and orchestras that regularly use the service and many more across Yorkshire and beyond.

The service is subscribed to by 12 local authorities, of which Sheffield is one.

On October 20 an announcement appeared on Wakefield Library’s website that an “in principle” decision to close the service as it currently exists in March next year had been made on September 30.

Wakefield Library is moving to new premises and it seems that there will not be room to house this magnificent and unique collection.

In addition, the service is apparently not financially viable.

As yet there are no firm plans for the collection, which may be broken up and lost to the thousands of users across Yorkshire and beyond. A final decision is expected at the YLI meeting today (Thursday).

If the service were to cease operating and the collection lost, the effects would be felt across the music and drama world.

Hiring music scores, instrumental parts and plays can be prohibitively expensive for many amateur and even professional groups, so many musical works and plays would be impossible to produce.

Is it any wonder, then, that the arts community is up in arms?

National campaigns began only hours following the announcement, and hundreds of Sheffield musicians have signed a petition which was being presented yesterday to Sheffield City Council, calling on the council, through its representative, to support the deferment of any decision on the future of the service pending proper consultation with its users.

It is to be hoped that our council will take note of the exceptional strong feeling which this matter has stirred up, and support its constituents.