Right of Reply: Peter Hewitt

The chief executive of the Arts Council replies to an article on the Lottery by David Benedict
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The Independent Culture
IT IS a peculiarly British disease. Hundreds of millions of pounds in lottery proceeds come tumbling into the arts and the critics dub it "the biggest disaster ever to befall arts funding in this country". The reality is different: the majority of our capital projects are yet to be completed, but we are on the brink of nothing less than a transformation of the landscape for arts infrastructure in this country - thanks to the lottery.

Yes, capital projects can be fraught with risk, but this is the case with all developments - whether commercial or subsidised, lottery-backed or non-lottery-backed. But the successes speak for themselves. Next month, Sheffield's National Centre for Popular Music opens with pounds 9.5m of lottery funding. Sunderland's National Glass Centre - pounds 5.9m - has already proved a triumph. Of course, we shouldn't forget smaller projects such as the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London - pounds 2m - or the pounds 1.8m to Henshaw's Society for the Blind for a craft centre for visually impaired people in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.

David Benedict rightly highlights the difficulties that could result from the initial lottery blueprint. In a situation where all proceeds had to be ploughed into capital, any revenue implications had to be met from non-lottery budgets. But that was then. Now we are in a position where we can use lottery money to produce a much healthier mix of revenue and capital funding. And we are doing just that.

New lottery legislation gives us the flexibility to use both of our cash- streams - grant-in-aid and lottery proceeds - to achieve one single strategy. We can't promise there won't ever be problems again with lottery projects, but we can guarantee that the arts and the arts public will be the winners.

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