Ex-Opera House chief hits out over arts access

Efforts to increase public access to the arts is being undermined by the Government's refusal to pay, Lord Moser, the former warden of Wadham College Oxford, said yesterday.

Most orchestras, opera companies and theatres carried out extensive work with children and communities to encourage new audiences. But the Government, and its administrative arm, the Arts Council, refused to accept that this required funding. In the case of music, the problems started with the lack of basic musical education in schools, Lord Moser told The Independent.

"[The Government] should recognise that to do what they ask the arts to do - increasingly widen audiences - costs money. I get a little bit fed up with the pressures without the price tag attached," he said.

Lord Moser, who was once the chairman of the Royal Opera House and is currently the chairman of the British Museum Development Trust, was a key speaker yesterday at a conference organised by the Association of British Orchestras on cultural diversity.

The orchestras are keen to attract new audiences from ethnic minorities, both in order to fill their concert halls and to meet the demands of funding bodies.

But in an interview with The Independent before the conference opened, Lord Moser said most orchestras already deserved praise for being "extremely active" in outreach work.

The London Symphony Orchestra has set up an education centre called St Luke's, and Sir Simon Rattle's former berth, The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, has pioneered working with children and local communities. The London Philharmonic Orchestra has a dedicated "audience development manager" who travels around the country and de-mystifies the work the orchestra does in areas which have not traditionally been associated with a great deal of concert going.

Many orchestras are also considering how to make concerts less intimidating with the conductor or soloist giving an introductory commentary on the piece to be performed or by getting orchestras to dress less formally than their current "black tie" uniform.

"The orchestras are doing a great deal of this and are always ready to do more, but the other side of the coin is whether the Government is ready to pay the bills," Lord Moser said.

The education system was fundamental, he added. "The problems for classical music in our country go back to schools. Most children grow up in this country not learning the basic language of music."

Problems began with the "crisis" in the recruitment of music teachers, where numbers fell by 12 per cent last year. "I'm very encouraged that [ministers] Charles Clarke and David Miliband are giving music a higher profile in education but I don't yet see any acknowledgement that ... it costs money to train better music teachers and have outreach activities."