An 'IoS' debate at the Royal Academy last week saw leading arts practitioners telling the Goverment what was needed
THE AMBIENCE could have soothed you into thinking this was going to be a night of shared dreams, of aesthetic agreement. The walls full of Victorian paintings in the Reynolds Room at the Royal Academy set the tone of elevated tranquillity. Then Jude Kelly of the West Yorkshire Playhouse shattered the mood. "The arts are like sewerage," she declared. "They are a right and a need for everyone."

Her Majesty's minister for the arts, Mark Fisher, was shocked. Flanked by the serenity of Landseer and Millais, he countered: "The arts change our imaginations. What they give to us is how we change inside and how we grow as people."

Peter Finch of Equity wondered why no one at all had remarked that the arts were also entertainment.

Some innocent souls had hoped for a united rallying call to emerge from the special debate on the funding of the arts organised by the Independent on Sunday, The Independent and the Royal Academy in the light of our Save The Arts Campaign. But when two or three arts practitioners are gathered together complete unity is unlikely. When 100 of the great, the good and the angry meet, it's downright impossible.

The multiplicity of perspectives was expressed with such a consistent and contradictory mixture of world-weariness with penny pinching allied to infectious enthusiasm for their individual art forms, that with every speech it seemed yet more sadistically unnecessary of the Treasury to keep the arts in crisis. And for want of such a small sum. As Finch said: "Eight million pounds would wipe out the deficits of every arts organisation in the country." That would not be a blip on a Treasury graph.

The campaign for better funding, for tax breaks and incentives, must now be aimed at backbenchers and peers as well as government, said David Barrie of the National Art Collections Fund. "They are not hearing our case."

But how to argue the case? Jude Kelly's sewerage analogy had a serious implication. The Eighties' argument that the arts were the fourth biggest revenue earner may have impressed the Thatcherites. A new argument was needed now. "We haven't yet found the language that will help the Government who themselves are stuttering and stumbling to understand the meaning of the arts in their own lives personally, never mind as policy makers... So I have disappointment about the current government situation, but I also believe that we were too gleeful about the fourth biggest revenue earner argument. There's a much, much deeper river of meaning that the arts bring to society."

Mark Fisher neither stuttered nor stumbled as he delivered a surprisingly stark warning to those present to put their own houses in order - or better still fill their houses - before expecting sympathy from the Chancellor. "We are wasting, we are bleeding money. We have inefficient structures ... It's difficult to argue for theatres which are playing to 35 per cent houses."

But he predicted that he and Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, would eventually win the argument, and that our arts campaigns had given more power to their elbows in the fiscal arm wrestling with the Treasury. "Judge us over the whole parliament. Work is in progress."

Another four years was too long to wait for veteran actress Miriam Karlin. "How many companies are going to go to the wall while we're waiting for the end of the Parliament?" she asked. Besides, she was unhappy that the little money there was had been squandered. "Fourteen million pounds has been spent by the Arts Council on consultancies. This is monstrous. How many companies could have stayed alive with that money?" More might stay alive, thought David Gordon, secretary of the Royal Academy, if we created a "climate of giving" as was found in America, where all donations to the arts are tax deductible. That is the thrust of the Independent on Sunday campaign, and David Oliver of Arthur Andersen, accountants, pointed out that Britain's laws regulating tax relief on individual donations were drawn up "when Shakespeare was writing Hamlet".

How different from the tax regime in America, said David Gordon: "American individuals gave $120bn [pounds 75bn] to charities in 1996. This is equivalent to pounds 280 for every man, woman and child. Individuals in Britain gave pounds 4.3bn, or about pounds 70 for every man, woman and child ... Simplifying giving will lead to much greater giving." With a schoolmasterly but fair rebuke to the battle-scarred campaigners present, he concluded: "The arts need to campaign with facts and analysis as well as with passion."

Philip Hedley of Theatre Royal, Stratford East, has long managed to combine all three. "It is a disgrace," he exclaimed, "that there are hardly any buildings in this country run by black or Asian companies." He could not resist a telling jibe about corporate sponsorship at Genista McIntosh, executive director of the National Theatre who had been passionate in defence of public subsidy. "The room named after the socialist actress Peggy Ashcroft at the National Theatre is a private members' room. That should be changed in her honour."

But the dichotomies involved in arts funding were best, if unintentionally, illustrated by Peter Jenkinson of the New Art Gallery, Walsall. He joked how the mayor of Walsall, opening the original gallery in 1992, said: "If the art gallery is successful in its purpose we will see that the manners of the people will become softer and less uncouth than they are at present, for they cannot see pictures and mix with others as they do in this room without being cheered and instructed and lifted to a higher level."

And one of the ways Mr Jenkinson is having to raise money in 1998? The art gallery has opened its own pub.

Campaign supporters

Pamela Harlech, English National Ballet, London Carole McPhee, executive director, English National Ballet

Lloyd Newson, artistic director, DV8 Physical Theatre

Nicholas Cleobury, musical director, Britten Sinfonia

Dafydd Wigley, MP

Michael Bryant, CBE, National Theatre

David Glass, David Glass ensemble

Siobhan Davies, choreographer

Christopher Bruce, artistic director, Rambert Dance co

Nick Rogers, artistic director, Bristol Old Vic

Serge Dorny, artistic director, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Marylane Barfield, president, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists

Mark C Hughes, London SE3

Duke Dobing, Sutton, Surrey

Nina and John Cowan, Erpingham, Norfolk

Brian and Claire Taylor, Salisbury, Wilts

Sarah Wragg, London W4

Anne S and J Evans, Bishopsteignton, Devon

Rev Caitlin, John and Emrys Matthews

Pat, Emily and David Walton, Knutsford

Janet and Denys Goose, Shrewsbury

E Reilly, Letchworth, Herts

Kenneth C B Wilkie, Ruth I Hope, Edinburgh

David Holland, London SE9

Catherine and D H Clarke, Ilkley, West Yorks

Deborah Nash, Hitchin

Mel Nash, Swandon Jordan, Bucks

Mr L and Ms K Williamson, Epsom, Surrey

R A and F West, Bournemouth

Miss E Bell, E Smith, Workington, Cumbria

M S Travis, London SW6

John Young, Barnet

Dr M Swallow OBE, John A Wright, Belfast

David S Browne, Hilleborough, Co. Down

Euan and Angela Petrie, Glasgow

L Crawford, Glasgow

Ms J Horsfall, David Price, Yolande Inglis, D Davis, P Jackson, M Bucklen, Trowbridge Orchestra, Trowbridge, Wilts

Z Bremer, London W14

Jennifer Ware, London SW5

Lianna Crystal, London SW18

Peter Featherstone, Staines

Patrick Kane Lennox and Annabel Jackson, London W5

Ian and Judith Marshall, London N2

K Pierce, London W5

A Rivoire, London W1

Peta Smyth, London SW1

Anna Blair, Antonia Williams, London SW11

J R C Harvey, Shaun McMackin, Cathy Turner, Exeter

Michael Fry, R Levene, London NW1

Minne Fry, London W2

Freya Sandford, M Apraharnian, Joan Marcus, Alan Stott, Stourbridge

Sebastian Poole, Whitby

Maureen Ripley, Jean McNeil, London N19

Gillian Withers, Smarden, Kent

Gillian and Laurie Marsh, London NW8

P A Potter, London, SW15

Maureen Bebb, London SW7

Lynn Hughes, Carmarthen

Charles Pick, London W1

Clemence Bettany, London SE5

George Greenfield, London NW3

Wendy Oberman, London N10

Paul Holmes, Glasgow

Judith Burnley, London W1H

C Balding, G Amherst, R J Verrall, N C Creed, N K Creed, M Duncan, S Watkinson, all Oxford

Jackie Warren, London W14

Tony Britten, artistic director, Music Theatre London

Andrew Taylor, Anthony Banks, Music Theatre, London

Tania Kindersley, Aberdeenshire

Adrian Ellis, Caroline Kay, Maddy Morton, London EC1

Clara Crockatt, Andrew Salmon, Chris Hann, all Norwich

Laura Hough, Kenilworth

Pauline Hackney, Dubai

David Hext, Manchester

Catherine and Sheila Eyre, London E11

Philippa and Dominic Coughlan, Battle, Sussex

Simon Jones, Brian Benjamin, London SE18

Mike and Karen Clark, London N19

Margery Hay, Brentwood, Essex

Naomi Russell, London E5

John and D M Basing, Pinner

R A and E F Stanner, Enfield

Zoe Hall, Edinburgh

Vivienne Packer, Don Williamson, Dunks Green

Catriona Macphee, Dorset

M P Ormerod, London SW14

Charles Scott, Haddington

Jacqueline, Ezra and Joshua Hewing, Ipswich

April and John Skinner, Alveston

Patricia Wroe and Alec Jones, Ipswich

Helen McQueen, Esher, Surrey

Stephen Tees, Kimpton, Herts

Tania Hussey, T Byrom, E M Morse, S M Aspinall, all Ecclesbourne School

J H Porteous, Holloway, Derby

Ronald Morgan, Castleford, Yorks

Courteney and Diane Willett, East Bergholt, Suffolk

R and P N Miller Yardley, Fradley, Staffs

Harry and Luela Palmer, Colchester

Anne Hale, Worcester

M J Phoenix, Droitwich, Worcs

Mrs E and Prof J Fletcher, Caythorpe, Notts

Una McLean, Russell Hunter, Eileen McCallum, Edinburgh

Deidre Davis, Alison Peebles, Hope Ross, Glasgow

Katherine Connolly, Edinburgh

Tariq Hussain, Leith

Suzie Normand, Perth

N Wallis, London SW19

E S Ayers, Watford, Herts

D Coombes, Barnes

M Badia-Marin, London W9

Jo Lewis, London SE5

Richard Lester, St Margaret's, Middlesex

John Bull, Christopher Bryant, Leonard Price, Chicken Shed Theatre, London N14

M J Bowtell, Walton-on-Thames

Peter Bloomfield, Petworth

C Turner, London NW5

Caroline Staunton, London W10

Peter and Rose Heath, London W5

C A Shadbolt, Chipping Norton

J Charles, London SW1

Geraldine Copley-Smith, Kew

Andrew Wade, Stratford-on-Avon

Steven Holland, London SW3

Kysa Johnson, Robb Mitchell, Rosine Bagnall, Glasgow

Timothy Alcock, Romford

Adele, Brian and Jessica Winston, Barnet

Kate Russell, Brian Peace, Leeds

James Dyson-Sykes, Kenneth Greenwood, F Tunbridge, Huddersfield

Maryse and David Jeffery, Cornwall

T J Russ and M Courts, St Dennis

David Bowen Lewis, Margaret Kennaugh, Gwynned

Christine Lewis, Cardiff

Christopher, Janet and Michael Sodring , London W4 Howard Lake, Fundraising UK Ltd, London SW19

Elizabeth Attree, Matthew Huntley, Todd Wodicka, Manchester

R F and Liliane Fredericks, London SW7

J E Wallis, Newbury, Berks

Stephen Lee Amor, London SW16

Brian and Sheila Barford, London N21

A D and R D Hanson, London N1

S Mullins and M I Tungay, London W14

Brenda Daly, London N19

Rebecca Williams, London SW9

N Hern, London SW2

Catherine and Juliette Young, London SW8

Roy Kendall, London SW18

M H and Terry Scott, Nottingham

J D Mitchell, London SE24

M A Winn, London SE5

J A Rose, London E1

Chris and Jake Green, London N6

Stefania Taviano, Loryn Green, Sarah Lehman, London N6

Diana Ambache, Jeremy Polmear, London N19

Heather Baxter, High Wycombe

Robert and Barbara A Jacobson, London N20

Michael, L H and B Wooding, Kent

Jenny Tozer, W J Chettleburgh, Salisbury

Gerald Nason, Wendy Thomas, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Sue and Don Prutton, Norwich

Alan and Inger Eade, Cambridge

Angela Hughes, Bury St Edmunds

K J Green, Strettington, Hants

Christine MacGregor, Chichester

P S and S A M Wilson, Powys

Patricia Greatorex, Woking, Surrey

A E Stewart, Weybridge

Dorothy Loveday, Woking, Surrey

S Perry, Bucks

Elinor Bennett, Caernarfon

Judith Coke, London SW14

Susan Dorey, London SW4

Dr Jane Taylor, Manchester

David Whiting, London W2

John Balance, Peter Christopherson and Otto Avery, London W4

Victoria Goodman, London, WC2

Mark Sainsbury, Kings College, London

Marcia Coburn, Hitchin

Stella, J R and Laura Briggs, Emsworth, Hants

John Acton, Brighton

Annabelle Mills, Sheffield

Mrs E B Guthrie, Dr J G Guthrie, Mrs C Kane, Norman & Margaret Longworth, Josephine Nendick, M Doguet, Janet & David Whitter, H Baylet, P J Hooper, Elizabeth Berthon, Audre & Aduard Brive, all 66500 France

Ann Monnington and Dr Nigel Kieser, Harpenden

J Nicholson, V Craddock, M Marchant, Y N Hiley, J E Spicer, V M O'Taney, J Gibbons, P Manwaring, all Woking

E M Pullen, D C G Whittle, J E Whittle, Anne Broadbent, Rosemary Hobbs, M G Green, Dr Angela Hobbs, Dr D J L Gibbins, M Nanney-Wynn, C G Mawdsley, Jack Mawdsley, all Bishops Castle

Mrs Susan McNaught, Ludlow

Nick Watts, Long Marston

E A Stanley, London SW14

Helen Jones, London SW2

David Ward, London SW18

Suzanne Green, Esher, Surrey

David Bell, Ashstead

C Whittle-Dale, Claygate

Richard Barrowclough, London SW15

Antonia Kendall, London N22

We have been inundated with responses to our campaign. Next week we will print another list of supporters so please keep writing. We regret taht because of the size of our postbag, we cannot reply to your lettters

Compiled by Mel Steel