Upbeat: Wrong track

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DESPERATE times, desperate measures: so keen are people in the east of England to fend off the three other bids to be the 1997 Region of Opera and Musical Theatre that they have gone for eye-catching tactics worthy of a city that wants the Olympic Games. Yesterday they invited the judges (and press) on to the 10.30am train from London to Norwich. Assorted musicians were lined up to see them off, travel with them, and pop up at stations along the way. Then they were booked in for lunch and, afterwards, the serious work of a Presentation involving business and tourism as well as the arts.

It must have been fun for the regular passengers, and no doubt the Arts Council judging team will have been impressed by the recruitment of InterCity Anglia in support as well as the ingenuity of the Eastern Touring Agency, which is coordinating the bid. But the spread of competitive tendering ought to set off a few alarms. We have just seen the London orchestras' expensive (and, in the end, pointless) exercise in it. Now another batch of hard-pressed arts organisations is forced to splash out in satisfaction of fashionable funding doctrines - so that most of them can be disappointed.

Even if they pay their way, they still face a diversion of time and energy. Shouldn't the funders encourage them to spend it on music instead of packaging?