Politics: Bogdanov vents anger over squeeze on arts funding

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The Independent Online
THE theatre director Michael Bogdanov has attacked Labour's policy on arts funding - saying he feels "like the turkey that's voted for Christmas".

Writing in this week's New Statesman, the artistic director of the English Shakespeare Company criticises the Government for doing nothing to alleviate the squeeze on arts funding over the last two decades. In voicing his feelings Mr Bogdanov becomes the latest in a long line of figures from the arts world to criticise Tony Blair and Labour's approach to artists, including Peter Hall and Oasis's manager, Alan McGee.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, comes under fire for a series of decisions including ignoring calls to appoint a fully- paid chairman of the Arts Council. "Labour has already blown it. There has been a staggering misreading of the public mood in all areas. How do I feel? Like a turkey that's voted for Christmas."

After 20 years of "philistinism and underfunding" the situation is worse than anyone could have imagined, he writes.

"Museums are charging, contracting, shutting for whole days of the week. Orchestras are merging. Theatres are closing. Courses and facilities at all levels have disappeared.

"The three R-ruling will make it even harder to teach arts subjects in primary schools - ask anyone who teaches art and is now unable to take children on trips to art galleries.

"Bureaucracy and Mammon rule. The various devolved Arts Councils have degenerated into bungling, bureaucratic, hands-on governmental lackeys. Funding for the arts is on a level with a car boot sale.

"Individuals and companies stagger from one annual handout to the next, unable to plan for the future, only to see the cake gradually diminishing and the crumbs being swept under a Cabinet carpet."

Sponsorship and National Lottery funding are not the answers, Mr Bogdanov says and calls for a government-led "coherent strategy".