Witty character who smiled in adversity: David Lister on the man who was at the helm of the Arts Council at a troubled period

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IT WAS in the sociable and witty character of Anthony Everitt, who was at the helm of the Arts Council through one of its most troubled periods, to smile in adversity. His stated desire yesterday to leave one of the most important posts in the Arts and return to journalism would have been said with that half- smile playing about his lips.

Mr Everitt succeeded to his post in uneasy circumstances after the resignation of his predecessor, Luke Rittner, who could not get on with Lord Palumbo, the then new chairman. In April, we will have a new chairman, Lord Gowrie, and he is keen to signal a change from a period in which the Arts Council's esteem has not been high.

High-powered candidates to succeed Mr Everitt are likely to include Mary Allen, the present deputy secretary- general, Clive Priestley, chairman of the London Arts Board, Roger Lancaster and Mick Elliott, regional arts board chief executives, and possibly Colin Tweedy, the influential director of the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts.

Earl Gowrie would probably be happy to work with Luke Rittner as the two worked together at Sotheby's when Lord Gowrie was chairman there, but Mr Rittner is unlikely to want to return to the Arts Council.

Mick Elliott, who has helped administer the arts revival in the West Midlands, is a possible favourite for the post.

For Mr Everitt, the last year has seen a series of blunders, which may not all have happened at his instigation but for which he has taken much of the blame. He followed the policy objective of the chairman, Lord Palumbo, which was at a time of unnecessary government cuts designed to fund fewer organisations and create centres of excellence.

However, the Arts Council did not have the courage of its convictions, sometimes admittedly the wrong convictions, and Mr Everitt was time and again forced into embarrassing about-turns.

He predicted yesterday that Lord Gowrie will instigate another year of cuts resulting from government cash cuts. Faced with this and the certain hostile reaction of the arts lobby Mr Everitt is probably happy to contemplate a change of scene.