Right of Reply: Ian Albery

The chief executive of the Sadler's Wells company responds to our critical leading article
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The Independent Culture
YOUR LEADER suggests that Sadler's Wells should focus on a long term programme of international visits and support by populism and sponsorship. This we are, triumphantly, doing. In the next few months visits include Ballett Frankfurt, La Cuadra de Sevilla, Pina Bausch and Pacific North West Ballet.

We are carrying well over pounds 1m of advance bookings at populist prices and our sponsorship is running at over pounds 500,000 - double our level of grant subsidy of pounds 220,000 per annum.

Now the Royal Opera House and the Arts Council have arranged appropriate compensation for Sadler's Wells for the lost 21 weeks of Royal Opera programming in 1999, Nigel Hinds will rapidly fill the gaping hole with first-class visiting companies.

All we are asking for is a level playing field where our grant money per seat, sold for world class international and British companies, is on a par with other major lyric theatres or venues, such as the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

This anomaly raises questions about arts funding generally. This Government believes in regional devolution and also in a "one nation" approach. At the moment there is a divisive policy of arts funding, separating London from the rest of the UK.

Leading Scottish, Welsh and regional dance and opera companies that tour Britain are given a subsidy to do so. However, if these same companies wish to include London within their touring circuit, they do so at their own expense.

Sadler's Wells was built by public lottery funding as a receiving house for the best national and international companies. It is asking for a level playing field with its London peers and for a coherent UK arts funding policy.

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