OBITUARY: PETER BRINSON

I phoned Peter Brinson a few weeks ago in a state of gloom, writes Naseem Khan. I had been trying to find funding for a dance project that seemed to fall between every sort of stool. Was I being foolish? "No, I don't think so," said Brinson in his judicious and careful voice, "We ought to meet."

When we met, it took just a few minutes for him to ease himself into my enthusiasms. "Now," he said happily, slipping naturally into the comradely first-person plural, "I think we should go about it like this . . ."

There were few things that Brinson liked better than an uncluttered canvas, the sense of creative possibilities implicit in new directions and the idea of releasing energies that had been trapped in dusty constraints of habit, old thinking and prejudice. The idea of a network for Indian dancers - encompassing other diaspora dancers - excited him. I knew it would.

Twenty-one years before, when he was Director of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Brinson had made it plain that his cultural sympathies were generous ones. In 1974, his foundation (together with the Arts Council and the Community Relations Commission) had decided to commission the first report into the arts of ethnic minority communities. The report (which I researched and wrote) had the effect of opening doors and minds. Published in 1976 as The Arts Britain Ignores, it started the process in which the principle of a culturally diverse Britain came gradually to acquire respectability. In 1993, when the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company (partly through Brinson's vote) won the prestigious Prudential Award, no voices were raised to say that work inspired by Indian dance was not really British. Without Brinson's seeding strength, that would have been less certain. His support of "ethnic arts" was not a phase or a fashion. Brinson and the foundation stuck with it; they funded the energetic national conferences that followed The Arts Britain Ignores and then the national organisation, MAAS, that those conferences had endorsed.

The principle beneath it all was self-evident to Brinson: that creativity is democratic; that excellence is to be found everywhere; and that the state of Britain makes all sorts of cultural cross-overs possible. His own instincts were for breadth and fresh thinking, and for the conversations that co-existing cultures make possible. He gave an arena for them, generously, wherever he could.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing