Letter: Unfair arts attacks

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Everybody in theatre will strongly support the excellent case Vilma Hollingbery makes (letter, 24 February) for the survival of the endangered but essential ingredient of Britain's international theatrical acclaim that is the regional repertory network.

Sir Peter Hall (Comment, 22 February) and Sheridan Morley (letter, 24 February) are also gutsy champions of theatre's cause but they do a disservice to the arts with their blanket attacks on the Government.

How can Sir Peter say the Government decided it "needs less music in our schools" when it has just found pounds 180m extra to achieve the opposite? How can Sheridan call it "the most hostile Government in my lifetime" to theatre, when it has just given the largest percentage increase to the Arts Council in 20 years?

Why do neither of them acknowledge what Chris Smith has achieved for free admission to museums, or the support of dance and drama students, or the making of Lottery money available for arts activities, not just for buildings?

I've never heard a Treasury spokesperson of any government speak in favour of subsidy for the arts, despite the fortune the arts earn for the Treasury. Nevertheless Chris Smith has got increases for the Arts Council for the next three years. It isn't enough money to ensure that all performing arts organisations can lift their heads above crisis management, but it should have been used to help more than it has.

Sir Peter gets the question right when he asks why the 15 per cent increase the Arts Council received transmitted into 0 per cent for the majority of small-scale drama and open touring companies and into pathetically little for regional theatres.

Sir Peter's Shadow Arts Council will achieve nothing for beleaguered theatres if it succumbs to factually incorrect, ungenerous attacks on the Government which divide the arts community and its natural champions.

PHILIP HEDLEY

Artistic Director

Theatre Royal Stratford East

London E15

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