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Singer hits out at cuts to school music service; EDUCATION: Kids will suffer, says performer who owes success to free lessons.

Byline: Lucy Lynch

A SINGER-songwriter whose passion for music was fired up while a schoolboy in Coventry has hit out at plans to make cuts to music, dance and drama.

Declan Bennett, 28, says plans to make pounds 150,000-worth of cuts to the Performing Arts Service will mean children may miss out on what the Coventry City Councilrun service has to offer if the charges go up so much that their parents can't afford them.

Declan hired a flute and had flute lessons from the Performing Arts Service while at Christ the King Catholic Junior School, in Scots Lane, Coundon. At 11 he moved to Cardinal Newman Catholic School, in Sandpit Lane, Keresley, where he took part in a range of music and drama, some of it run by the Performing Arts Service.

The former boy band member now lives partly in London and partly in New York and makes his living from music.

He said: "My mother was a single mother and wouldn't have been able to afford to pay a lot for music lessons. At school they provided me with a flute and they provided me with a guitar as well. The music and drama I did was always free.

"It starts children on the track and they can develop a love for music. If only the children from the af- fluent families can do it that would be a mistake." The Coventry Telegraph reported previously how cuts to the service were on the cards.

The pounds 150,000 cuts were finally approved at a council meeting yesterday by Coun John Blundell (Con, Wainbody), Coventry City Council's cabinet member for children, learning and young people.

The issue has now been referred to one of the council's scrutiny committees for a decision on which groups not to subsidise any more, raising charges for parents, and which groups to continue subsidising. Areas most likely to be hit are activities for adults and activities for children out of school hours. They include adult singing, guitar and record groups and children's dance, recorder, Asian music and keyboard groups.

The Performing Arts Service is based in the former Chace Primary School building in Robin Hood Road, Willenhall, Coventry

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DEBT... Songwriter Declan Bennett (left) says he owes his own musical career to the early music and drama lessons which were provided at his Coventry schools. Inset: Coun John Blundell.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 23, 2009
Words:398
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