A POSITIVE update about the excellent month at the Gala arts venue provided by ourselves was unrecognisable as it appeared in print (Echo, July 3).

To reiterate the facts: Gala is doing very well - it is enjoying full houses at theatre productions, good numbers in the restaurant and at events. It is not, and never has been, a 'troubled theatre' as your article titled it.

Durham City Council is pursuing a number of options during a full investigation of the best way forward for Gala. One of these is to discuss overall management with operators. Others include talking to separate specialists for the main elements of Gala - theatre, catering and large screen cinema - or for Durham City Council to remain as managers of the venue.

The article chose to focus on one option and imply it would somehow weaken the structure of Gala, which is complete nonsense.

The London-based consultant editor quoted at length gives comments which underline his lack of knowledge of the principles of Gala, current audience figures, and Durham people. Gala was conceived as a community resource, and it has consistently won high audience figures for amateur productions, smaller touring productions and tribute bands.

It has never tried to be a base for 'large-scale opera'.

The consultant's doomridden comments are delivered from a blissfully ignorant state, although if he ever does venture north of Watford Gap, he will always be welcomed at Gala.

Stop the sniping. Gala is a fantastic resource which has won the backing of an increasing number of local people and Northern Arts and is at the heart of Durham county's culture strategy.

It needs as many people through its doors as possible to make it thrive. Articles designed to stress the negative will only worry and deter people from experiencing Gala themselves. Who wins from that? - Colin Shearsmith, Chief Executive, Durham City Council.

ON the Gala Theatre, Mick Bennett (HAS, Jun 29) seems to be apportioning the blame somewhere else. His comments mean we must question the ability of the council to even be allowed to run such a venture.

The assertion the city council will take all available steps to pursue money owed to it is a case of too little too late. How often do we see councillors wasting taxpayers' money and then having the gall to put the blame on someone else?

The problem with many of our councillors is that lack of expertise sees many of their ventures become nothing but a costly mistake. One just has to consider the Dome fiasco and the huge cost to the citizens.

It seems that, once again, essential judgement and good business acumen were lacking and some wise boy has conned another nest egg out of the taxpayer. - John Young, Crook.


THE picture of the little boy dressed and kitted-out as a suicide bomber shocked the world (Echo, June 29). How could parents use a child in such a way, to glorify war and death?

Pause and look at the bigger picture. How many of our children dress up and play soldiers with toy guns? How many have toy soldiers, action figures, toy tanks, rockets etc?

Suppose the Palestinian parents of the child concerned claim they only dressed him up as a bomber (however sick the idea may be to our minds) for a party or for 'fun photos'. How many 'boy soldiers' attend fancy dress parties in this country?

I am not, for a moment, condoning what the photo of the child suggests. I merely wonder if we are wise to make comment if our own children dress up in combat gear and play war games for fun and we approve of them doing so. - EA Moralee, Billingham.


I THOUGHT that BBC1's recent Punch and Judy portrayal of an NHS news item was cheap sensationalism, rather than news.

The fact is that the NHS is working well, thanks to dedicated doctors and nurses who soldier on, regardless of problems.

Of course, the news hounds can always find a poor soul waiting in a corridor, in an overcrowded hospital, in a city like London. No mention of the thousands of patients who do get successful treatment. - FM Atkinson, Shincliffe.


AFTER having had the experience of riding a scooter on the roads in the area for the past year, I have formed the opinion that the attitude of most road users towards the riders of motorcycles and scooters is ill-mannered, and threatens the safety and lives of the people using two-wheeled transport.

Other drivers simply do not acknowledge that motorcyclists even exist when they pull out in front of them and, particularly with scooter riders, they overtake dangerously and follow far too closely behind.

The Highway Code clearly states that a two-second gap should be left between you and the vehicle in front. At 30mph (48kph), this should be no less than 29 yards (27 metres).

The places that car drivers choose to overtake are extremely dangerous to both the people riding scooters and themselves and, in many cases, they are breaking the law by overtaking on parts of the road where there are solid white lines up the centre.

Perhaps the reason why there are so many motorcycle accidents is due, not to the mistakes of the motorcyclists, but to the generally bad driving and intolerance of car users. - Ben Johnson, Daddry Shield, Weardale.