Fears raised over new Arts Council

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ANGEL OF the North sculptor Antony Gormley and ballet dancer Deborah Bull are among those joining a slimmed-down, new-look Arts Council of England.

But yesterday's appointments to the new celebrity-lined council, which will distribute around pounds 400m in grant and lottery money, were given a chilly response in some quarters of the arts world.

One former council member, who did not wish to be named, pointed out that Ms Bull, a Royal Ballet dancer, is an employee of the Arts Council's biggest client, the Royal Opera House. And Antony Gormley's Angel Of the North sculpture received pounds 584,000 of lottery money.

The council's new chairman, Gerry Robinson, wanted to streamline the decision-making process at the arts-funding body and the number of members has been halved to 10. He said the new members had been appointed for their breadth of knowledge .

A spokeswoman said yesterday: "It would not be sensible for the Arts Council to dissociate itself from the very people who are active in the world in which it operates. And we have a strict code of practice which requires members to declare interests."

She added that the lottery award for Angel Of The North went to Gateshead Council not Gormley personally.

Commenting on the new line-up, Stephen Phillips, who resigned this week as chairman of the Arts Council's touring panel, said: "I very much enjoy the work of the artists that have been brought in, but I worry about whether their diaries will enable them to attend sufficiently."

William Weston, general manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company, added: "With such a small number of people, it is difficult to cover all the cultural ground."

The make-up of the new panel was announced yesterday by Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, who said: "I am particularly pleased that a number of artists and performers of international standing have committed their time and expertise to the council. What all its members have in common is the ability to offer expert understanding and committed leadership to the arts in this country."

Mr Robinson said: "This blend will without doubt provide vision, strategic thinking and decisive leadership on behalf of artists, arts organisations and audiences throughout England."

The new council comprises six fresh appointments and four members chosen to serve again. The new appointments are: Derrick Anderson, chief executive of Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council; Deborah Bull; Antony Gormley; Anish Kapoor, sculptor; Joanna MacGregor, concert pianist and professor of music at Gresham College, London; and Hilary Strong, director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The reappointments are: David Brierley, former general manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company; Christopher Frayling, director of the Royal College of Art; Andrew Motion, poet and biographer; and Prue Skene, until recently director of the Arts Foundation.