Right of Reply: Peter Hewitt

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The chief executive of the Arts Council of England responds to a recent article

by Sir Peter Hall

SIR PETER Hall ("A dreadful performance", 22 February) argues that increased Government support for the arts has not got through the Arts Council to frontline arts activity. Wrong. Witness the 9 per cent - that is pounds 1m - increase to the National Theatre, 10 per cent or more to several major orchestras, and increases of up to 100 per cent to a number of small but ground-breaking arts organisations in the year 1999- 2000.

Sir Peter argues that the Arts Council's funding policies are elitist. Wrong. Equal emphasis is given to excellence, access and education. As evidence, the Arts Council's support to the regional arts boards will double to pounds 122m in three years.

Sir Peter argues that cash for the arts is being sidelined increasingly to bureaucracy. Wrong. The Arts Council is currently cutting its staffing by half and, so far from taking from the arts, is in fact restoring many millions of pounds to it.

Sir Peter argues that 30 per cent to 40 per cent of theatres are unlikely to be in existence in a year's time. Wrong. In order to avoid indiscriminate damage in any area of the arts, the Arts Council is committed to reviewing its current spending patterns, by art form and by organisation, in the coming months.

It has also created, for the first time in decades, substantial financial flexibility to effect real and lasting change.

Sir Peter argues that all of the problems of the arts would be solved by money alone being thrown at the current pattern of provision. Wrong. It is more complex than that.

Sir Peter would serve the arts so much better if he acknowledged that complexity, and engaged with the real challenges and questions facing all of us working in the arts at this time.

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