The first distribution of lottery money to good causes in the arts yesterday proved to be controversial as the Arts Council gave nearly £1m towards the redevelopment of the South Bank Centre, in London, by the architect Sir Richard Rogers, who is the council's deputy chairman.
The £1m for a feasibility study is likely to lead to a further £45m lottery money from the council later in the year for the entire scheme to go ahead.
Sir Richard said that he left the room when the question of the South Bank redevelopment was raised at the Arts Council meeting. Sir Richard only agreed to take on the deputy chairmanship if he could continue his work as an arch- itect and enter competitions.
Lord Gowrie, chairman of the Arts Council, which distributes lottery money to the arts, and Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for National Heritage, were questioned at a press conference yesterday about the public perception of the council's deputy chairman being a direct recipient of lottery money.
Lord Gowrie said: "Sir Richard Rogers is a great and visionary man. It is important that we have an internationally respected `pro' among our number. You have got to be very, very paranoid to think there's anything funny in this."
Mr Dorrell added: "If you want to have an Arts Council which has substantial people, inevitably some of the decisions of the council will involve those people."
Sir Richard's impressive "crystal palace" scheme for covering the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall with a glass canopy, and linking the Royal Festival Hall to the north bank of the Thames with a new bridge, was given an initial £980,000 by the Arts Council yesterday. Bigger and more politically controversial schemes, like the Royal Opera House development, will not be considered until later in the year. The council intends to make lottery awards once a month.
Yesterday's awards were: £980,000 to the South Bank board; £29,500 to Great Grimsby council for the purchase of a grand piano for its municipal auditorium; £100,000 to the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, for project design and development; £40,600 to Inner Sense Percussion Orchestra, Manchester, for the purchase of two vehicles and equipment; £47,566 to Morecambe Youth Band for 25 new musical instruments; £19,000 to the Place dance centre, London, for project development; £30,000 to the Sheffield Recreation Band Club for new instruments; £98,000 to the Unicorn children's theatre, London, for renovation of the building; and, £606,000 to the Yorkshire Dance Centre, Leeds, for renovation and improving access for disabled people.
The Welsh Arts Council has given its first £2.25m of lottery money to arts organisations. The biggest award is £2m to the Cardiff Old Library Trust to redevelop Cardiff Old Library, a scheme which will include a new children's centre, and exhibition space.
Much smaller awards were shared among Brecon Jazz; Coliseum Operatic and Dramatic Society; Bleddfa Trust, Knighton; Theatre Felin Fach in Dyfed; and, the Blaenafon Concert Band.