Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture
HELENA KENNEDY, barrister and baroness, now chairs the British Council. On Tuesday she announced the Council's impressive programme of arts events around the world. All human life seems to be there, from Booker Prize winners touring Belgium, to Steven Berkoff in India.

I asked Baroness Kennedy how she felt about the supposed rebranding of Britain abroad. There was a need, she said, to show that institutions were changing. Perhaps, she mused, the board of the British Council had some way to go to show that it was in tune with a multi-ethnic society that also had women playing a full part. "Places like the British Council have to be at the cutting edge." They have been warned.

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GERRY ROBINSON, the white, middle-class chairman of the Arts Council, wants to see a complete rebranding of the arts. On Wednesday he accused arts companies of "plying their trade to the same white, middle-class audiences". After his lecture, I sought the view of white, middle-class Thelma Holt, the West End producer and former chair of the Council's drama panel. Did she agree with him?

"I'm not qualified," she said tartly, "to look out into an auditorium and determine what class people belong to." And talking of class - is there a lecture in the fact that the past three chairmen of the Arts Council have been multimillionaires?

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IT IS hard to see how Sir Colin Southgate can survive as chairman of the Royal Opera House, after the withering description of him by its musical director, Bernard Haitink, as a man who "does not understand artists". Mr Haitink has no such grumbles about EMI, the company he records with. EMI clearly has a much more understanding and artist-friendly chairman - Sir Colin Southgate.

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