Letter: Amateur art must be encouraged

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Sir: Your leading article 'A non-strategy for the arts' (30 September), in consigning 'support for amateur dramatics' near the bottom of the list, contradicts the plea for 'rigorous analysis' and 'a set of principles' which, quite rightly, you demand earlier on.

By singling out amateur dramatics and barely mentioning 'education in the arts', you have failed to illustrate two areas in which professional artists' input will both ensure a wider adult audience for the classical and contemporary visual and performing arts, and develop a much broader and better educated reservoir of young people - future customers for theatres, concerts and galleries. Your snide remark about amateur dramatics is implicitly applicable to amateur music-making, amateur dance and amateur painting and drawing.

The enhancement of the quality of amateur arts depends on the involvement, skill and understanding of professional artists. As an example of the importance of linking the education service and the amateur arts with professionals, remember that 75 per cent of the players in the major orchestras and ensembles of this country came through the hands initially of the professional peripatetic teachers to our national, county and borough youth orchestras. Of course, youth orchestras and their teachers are being steadily disbanded as, in accordance with the doctrine of market forces, they must persuade schools to pay for their services - LEAs are ceasing to have any money to continue them.

If this example of the most fruitful co-operation between amateurs and professionals in the arts is not rescued from extinction, the quality (and quantity) of our great orchestras and ensembles will soon begin to be eroded. This is just one example of why amateur arts must not be consigned to 'the bottom of the list'.

Yours faithfully,

ANDREW N. FAIRBAIRN

Loughborough, Leicestershire

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