Lottery cash for dance and drama students

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The Independent Online
National Lottery money will be used for the first time to help individual drama and dance students with their course fees under an initiative to be announced tonight by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

In a major speech, Mrs Bottomley will also announce the establishment of her own arts forum - a shot across the bows of the Arts Council - giving her a greater say on policy-making than previous ministers.

On the lottery, Mrs Bottomley will announce "a breakthrough for dance and drama students", giving pounds 25m a year for the next three years to fund 1,000 students. Some pounds 15m will be from the lottery, the rest from government funds.

The move addresses the anomaly that while art and music students can get mandatory funding, dance and drama students have to rely on ever- decreasing discretionary grants, meaning that only the relatively well- off can go into acting and dance.

This will also mark the first time that lottery cash has been used to fund individuals rather than new buildings, as is now permissible under regulations brought in by Mrs Bottomley. "It recognises," she says, "the relationship between lottery money, arts and education."

The announcement was welcomed by Lord Gowrie, the chairman of the Arts Council, whose job includes the distribution of lottery funds.

But he added: "These funds will provide an interim solution only. The Arts Council recognises that grants for dance and drama students are properly the responsibility of the education system, and expects the Government to introduce a permanent solution in time for the academic year starting in autumn 2000.

"The Arts Council will withdraw its support after three years as the permanent earmarking of future funds is expressly forbidden by lottery rules."

A government-appointed committee is already looking at the whole area of student grants.

Mrs Bottomley will make her announcement at a lecture to the Royal Society of Arts tonight, entitled Our Heritage, Our Future. In it she will also reveal that she is setting up, with the RSA, "a forum to bring together all those with an interest in the arts to inform the process of government policy making".

The forum, which will meet every month, will include business men and women, national leaders, and representatives of the Arts Council.

It will inevitably increase the powers of the Secretary of State, and move arts policy making away from purely arts people. Mrs Bottomley is eager for the business world to be "a more powerful catalyst".