Licensed to scribble: lottery to give funds to graffiti artists

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Teenage pop groups, graffiti artists, jugglers and acrobats will all count as "good causes" and be able to apply for National Lottery money under a new scheme announced yesterday.

The scheme, to be administered by the Arts Council and approved by the Government, marks the biggest change to the way the lottery rewards good causes since it began.

It means that for the first time people as well as buildings can get lottery money. Actual artists - singers, actors or circus performers - can receive funds. Lottery money will also be used to keep ticket prices down at theatres, operas and concerts.

Applicants for the money will have to raise some "partner-ship funding" themselves from private sources, but last night that task was eased by a dramatic gesture from impressario Sir Cameron Mackintosh. He announced he is giving pounds 500,000 over the next five years to help partnership funding.

Arts For Everyone, as the new scheme is known, will come into force next January; and pounds 20m of lottery money will be spent on it in the first year. It will give lottery grants of between pounds 500 and pounds 500,000 to applicants that will range from youth groups painting murals on legally supplied sites around an inner city area, to theatre in education projects, to hire costs of studios for young rock bands, to ticket price reductions.

Questioned whether lottery money would go to fund young people to paint graffiti in public places, Tony Robinson, vice president of Equity who has been involved in setting up the scheme, said: "The short answer is yes. But not for illegal work. The idea of freeing people up to do graffiti art is good. It's a dangerous scheme in that it will be easy to write knocking stories about and trivialise."

The new direction in the lottery reflects the anxiety felt by both Government and the Arts Council that lottery money confined to capital projects such as building renovations was not being seen to help actual artists, young people or amateur groups such as amateur dramatics or music societies.

The new scheme has two streams of money on offer: the main programme, which will award between pounds 500 and pounds 500,000 to established organisations, both professional and amateur, for new arts activities; and an "Express" scheme which will give between pounds 500 and pounds 5,000 to small groups who may never have received any kind of funding at all.

The idea, said Mary Allen, secretary general of the Arts Council, "is that Arts For Everyone will allow us to complement regular funding we give to arts organisations. Through working with audiences, and commissioning more new work, they will be able to carry on creating the art which makes this country the envy of the world. We will give money to community groups and outreach work; for audiences and participants, and getting money into the grass roots of arts."