Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Art and Politics Magazine

  I write to you in your capacity as Chair of the Culture Committee.

  There is some concern throughout the country regarding the current Arts Council of England restructuring and indeed the state of the arts support and funding system. Apart from the conflict of interests that seem possible when Arts Council directors leave their posts at the Arts Council to take up post with an Arts Council Client there are a number of basis situations that must make one wonder why the Audit Commission, Trade department and those responsible for Best Practice have not seen fit to give the Arts Council the benefit of the experiences.

  In brief the funding system is archaic, self-serving in many respects and too slow to serve many of the practitioners, organisations and audiences it is supposed to serve. We trail behind our European partners in the use of technology in the art, we do not respond to the frequent changes in technology and many of our theatres and art spaces are ill-equipped to support contemporary artists and their work. Arts Officers (in the main) seem more concerned with their careers then with the service they provide. Officers are also given the power to decide (effectively) what good art is! This may be reasonable with a well-informed officer but when officers have no understanding of the technology, the cultures, the contemporary "scene" then how on earth can they judge what either the practitioner or audience member desires? Despite promising, "less bureaucracy, waste and slow funding application processes" the system seems to be worse. There has been a noticeable movement (at the Arts Council) away from supporting Individual Artists in favour of organisations and the number of schemes and initiates for arts projects has surely decreased in the last three years to favour impenetrable and divisive lottery applications whose criteria restrict eligibility from the outset.

  We have recently had the announcement of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2002. This covers all public bodies and yet quangos such at the Regional Arts Boards do not have a duty to comply with the Act. How will the Act be tested anyway? It is hoped that before the next election that the Government might turn its attention (for a moment) to this area of life that has the capacity to enrich every citizen (not the few).

  In closing I would make a plea for the new Arts Council to be forced to engage in a more open operation and for a coherent strategy for the arts to be created and published as part of the current changes.

12 February 2002

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