Punters say £46m South Bank revamp fails good-cause test

Deprived children and cancer research have more public sympathy. Liz Searl, Paul Kingsnorth and Decca Aitkenhead report.
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The Independent Online
There were grumbles on the South Bank yesterday, as news of Camelot's £1m contribution to the redevelopment of the capital's arts centre reached the ears of those who care.

"In the Sixties and Seventies, people hated this building," said Simon Crabb, 36. "But now it's become a real part of the London skyline. This government and people today are so concerned with tarting things up."

The South Bank will receive £1m of lottery money to launch a feasibility study, which could lead to a further £45m grant to create a footbridge and fit a Crystal Palace-style glass roof for the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

But South Bank visitors like Edmund Waterhouse, 43, think the money could be better spent on new projects: "The South Bank is a very unattractive building but I don't think the answer is to cover it all up. What you really want Camelot to support is the artists. The lottery would be useful if it could fund big one-off projects - for a long time London has needed a national centre for dance."

Andrew Roberts, 38, disagreed: "When you look around the cities and see all these homeless people on the streets, you have to think there must be better places to spend this money." There was a unanimous verdict on the South Bank that cancer research would be a much better cause for the donation.

Rebecca Morgan summed up everyone's fears: "Some of the smaller charities have really suffered because of the lottery. When it comes to it, people decide that they'll only use up so much of their money and gambling is so much more attractive."

At a big supermarket in Docklands there were other signs that the lottery was not always good news for charities. "I used to sell cancer research tickets here," said a woman in her sixties, indicating the foyer where the familiar red and blue machines now stand. "But when the National Lottery arrived, we had to stop. It's done a lot of harm to charities."

Lottery tickets and the new scratchcards are on sale, bought by shoppers with dreams of giving up work to liver in luxury.

Gyla Kinka, a secretary, is the only buyer to add an altruistic afterthought. "It's a chance to win, but also most of the money I spend goes to good causes." However, she is surprised to hear that only asmall proportion goes to good causes, and still less to charities. "I thought about 60 per cent went to charity. No, that's not enough at all," she said.

This is another area on which ticket buyers seem united. "I thought all the money went to charity," said Vincent Harvey, a security guard at the store. "I reckon it should go to things like the homeless, or kids." However, it seems most would still buy a lottery ticket rather than a charity draw card with a much smaller prize.

The view that more of the proceeds should go to charity was echoed by drinkers in City bars yesterday.

Ken Hamilton, of Midland Security Services, said Richard Branson should have been given the franchise for the lottery. "Virgin were going to let all the money go to charity. The lottery hasn't had any effect on what I give to charity, but I'm sure it does with people who have less disposable income."

Matthew Whyte, a reinsurance broker, said the money should go to hospitals and medical research. "The average man who buys a lottery ticket isn't ever going to go to the South Bank, is he? Shouldn't the money be ploughed back into the inner cities where people are buying the tickets?"

Andy Rupp, a merchant banker, was succinct . "The South Bank versus the charity which helps kids? There's no contest."