Letter: Arts Council statistics tell only half the story

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The Independent Online
Sir: It seems very strange that while aiming to emphasise the popularity of the arts among more than a third of the adult population, in its annual report the Arts Council seems to confine its attendance statistics to a comparatively narrow range of venues and events - presumably mainly or exclusively those funded by or through the Council itself ('Arts events hold their appeal in recession',

16 November).

In comparison with the Arts Council's claim of 10 million theatre attendances in 1992-93, this department has records of almost 23 million in its detailed monthly analyses of around 50 central London theatres carried out for the Society of West End Theatre and of 350 other British venues and touring companies for the Theatrical Management Association.

Similarly, though we do not at the moment have anywhere near a comprehensive coverage of art galleries, we have today without any real difficulty been able to identify more than 26 million visits to clearly identifiable art galleries in Great Britain, compared with the Arts Council's claimed figure of only nine million.

Quite apart from their intrinsic value to human enjoyment and enlightenment, the arts, heritage and related cultural activities now represent a multi-billion-pound part of the national economy, far more important than many areas of industry and commerce that attract many times more media coverage and armies of government, academic and private sector analysts and statisticians.

It is time that the present confusion and internal contradictions over arts, heritage, media and tourist attraction definitions and statistics were sorted out for the whole of the wide range of activities covered by the Department of National Heritage (and the respective sections of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices).

Yours sincerely,

PATRICK J. BOYLAN

Head, Department of Arts

Policy and Management

City University

London, EC2

16 November

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