Arts Council sheds half its members

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The Independent Online
THE Arts Council confirmed yesterday that all its 23 members would be standing down over the coming months and the new chairman, Gerry Robinson, would preside over a slimmed-down council of 10 people.

Mr Robinson, who is also chairman of the Granada Group, hopes to make the arts funding system more efficient.

The reduction in numbers is likely to entail less bloodletting than has been predicted. Five council members are already stepping down as their appointments end on 31 March.

It also emerged yesterday that while some of the present council will be encouraged to sit on the new body, there will be no place for regional arts board chairs, or artform panel chairs representing their own advisory panels.

The chief executive, Peter Hewitt, explained that the new council needed to have people with a broad national overview.

It is expected that it will include a higher percentage of business leaders. But Mr Hewitt said yesterday: "We will not be suiting up. There will be important figures from the arts world on the council."

Michael Merwitzer, artistic director of the Kosh dance company, which won an ombudsman's ruling against the council's decision to cut its grant, is unconvinced about the promised new efficiency.

He said: "There is a serious divide between the in-house culture of the Arts Council and the broader culture of the arts world as a whole. The question is not how slim the Arts Council is, but whether or not it is socially and culturally representative of a much broader spectrum of the arts and society than it has been."

The new council will devolve some clients to the regional arts boards, whose powers are likely to be increased. Asked whether Arts Council-funded orchestras - which include the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the four London orchestras - would be devolved, Mr Hewitt said that no decision had yet been taken.

The council seemed to be making a stand for better communication in the arts, deciding at the council meeting that "the system should rid itself of cliche and jargon".

However, this resolve was short-lived. The next resolution called for the "the adoption of the more holistic and integrated approach to arts funding". As an example of eschewing jargon, it was not notably successful.