Allen goes sick as RoH crisis deepens

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The Arts Council is holding an emergency meeting to discuss recent events concerning the council and the Royal Opera House, The Independent learnt last night.

It was also learnt that Mary Allen, the council's secretary- general who was appointed to become chief executive at the Royal Opera House, has taken sick leave from the council, and is not expected to return this week.

An Arts Council spokeswoman refused to comment on this, or confirm the subject of the council's discussions.

In the dramatic events of last week, Genista McIntosh resigned as chief executive of the Royal Opera House because of ill health. The Royal Opera House's chairman, Lord Chadlington, then appointed Mrs Allen to replace her without advertising the post.

The Arts Council has been meeting in emergency session to discuss the situation and is expected to continue discussing it today.

Mrs Allen was said by the Arts Council to have taken sick leave, after having a severe cough for more than a week.

Mrs Allen was at the Cannes film festival last week overseeing a lottery film awards announcement and attending related functions including a cocktail party.

A senior Arts Council source said: "There are recent developments that we are unhappy about. The Royal Opera House post was not advertised, but the Arts Council, which funds it, is supposed to be the guardian of equal opportunities."

Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, says that he is "not happy" with what has happened at the Royal Opera House, but he added that he understood why its chairman felt it necessary to make a speedy appointment to oversee the redevelopment work and the move of the opera and ballet companies to different parts of London during the next two years.