Lord Sainsbury made a surprise attack yesterday on political correctness in the arts when he presented the pounds 225,000 Sainsbury's Arts Education awards. In his speech he said that the judges were concerned at the number of entries 'whose drafting seemed influenced by current concepts of political correctness, artspeak and educational jargon'.
After the ceremony at the National Gallery, the judges said that up to 50 per cent of the 600 entries lost sight of artistic objectives in their keenness to stress what they were doing for women, the disabled and ethnic minorities.
The judges also said that a number of schools had lost out by striving for 'educational correctness', suggesting projects that focused on the national curriculum and the three set Shakespeare plays. Stephen Philips, the arts writer and broadcaster, said: 'We had this horrible image of a generation of schoolchildren who knew these three plays and no other Shakespeare at all.'
Luke Rittner, former secretary general of the Arts Council, said: 'It seemed as if everything had to be related to disability. We need to deliver a friendly warning that people should not let artspeak get in the way of the actual art.' He added that funding bodies such as the Arts Council had probably encouraged the political correctness as it was often thought necessary to include it in grant applications.
Among the award winners were Nottingham Playhouse, for a new writing programme associated with the singer Elvis Costello; Candoco's Dance Unlimited - New Moves, which aims to teach able-bodied and wheelchair-using children a new physical language; and Dulwich picture gallery for 'The Figure Reinterpreted', where modern artists work with young people to explore the nature of the figure in art.