Lottery fillip for young stars of stage and sport

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The Independent Online
Talented young people in sports and the arts are to benefit from National Lottery funds under a rule change unveiled yesterday by the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley.

Lottery "good causes" money, currently channelled into buildings and equipment, will now be open to bids which develop the potential of people, with emphasis on the young.

Mrs Bottomley said: "The lottery has been successful in creating and enhancing the physical fabric of our arts, heritage and sports worlds. The popular success of the lottery will allow us to invest in the nation's human capital as well as its buildings."

Labour quickly claimed credit for the idea. At Commons questions, Dr Jack Cunningham, the party's heritage spokesman, told Mrs Bottomley he welcomed the move "because what you have done is to implement Labour policy". He said he had put the idea to her on "25 October last year". Mrs Bottomley said she was not going to spend time arguing over "ownership of the concept".

Sports and arts bodies welcomed the move. A spokesman for the Sports Council said: "We gave the heritage department a wish list and have got nearly everything we asked for. We have received over pounds 180m from the lottery in schemes aimed at improving the bricks and mortar and now we will be able to look at other ways of funding sports."

Under the rule changes, money can be used to establish "talent funds" to develop the abilities of performers and artists; aid sports coaching and talent-spotting projects at grassroots and elite levels; and increase access to the arts, for example by supporting touring companies and subsidised ticket schemes for schools and community groups. It can also be used to fund one-off major sporting events.

The money can also now be used to restore historic buildings by extending aid to building preservation trusts.

A spokesman for the Department of National Heritage said the aim of the new rules, issued under the National Lottery Act, was to give organisations the "freedom to invest in talented individuals".

For the arts, it would mean investment in creative ability. "For example, at the moment companies like the RSC have beautiful homes in London and Stratford, but not everyone will be able to go and see them. This will bring the best of drama, music and dance to regional audiences," he said.