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Art Council's new head

MARY ALLEN, the former actress and arts centre director, is the new secretary general of the Arts Council. She has been deputy secretary general for two years and her appointment by Lord Gowrie, the Arts Council chairman, follows the resignation last month by Anthony Everitt, writes David Lister.

Her appointment comes at a time when the Arts Council has suffered considerable criticism for its handling of many funding issues, most notably the future of the London orchestras and grant levels to bodies such as the Royal Opera House.

She brings an high level of first-hand experience of the performing arts as she was a West End actress before running the Watermans Arts Centre in west London. She said yesterday: 'I have seen the Arts Council from the outside and know what it needs to make it strong.'