Letter: British Council: a selective judgement

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The Independent Online
British Council: a selective judge

Sir: Those in the private sector who labour to promote Britain and the English language overseas know the British Council to be rather more of a restrictive censor than a conduit for contemporary British culture and ideas.

Sir John Hanson's comment ("Cultural ambassadors face curb on global crusade", 21 May) that the profile of the British Council is a "a very small one in Britain" is a telling one. The Council imposes its own selective judgement on taste and standards, representing only organisations and activities that it "recognises".

The Council promotes its own view of what British culture should be and not the culture that actually exists in this changing society. To most people in Britain the British Council is simply a rather vague overseas operation which basks in the reflected glory of the past.

The Council does not have a monopoly on high-mindedness: in the private sector we feel very confident in promoting Britain as an integral part of our business interests, which in my case include language and management training in Britain and internationally. We work to encourage tourists and students to come to Britain in order to learn and enjoy our country and its language. This is the real world of creating export earnings, ensuring cultural relevance and representing Britain as it is.

The Council's pounds 131m government grant would be better spent on the artistic and cultural fabric of Britain: on theatre companies and galleries, on the film industry and the environment.

The work of promoting Britain should be left to those who are the true representatives of British contemporary culture, language and history; those who "market" Britain professionally and with integrity and who are happy to take the financial risk as well as the reward attached to their work. Rather this than an unaccountable, self-proclaimed arbiter of taste.

ROWAN CARSTAIRS

Managing Director

General Education Group

Guildford, Surrey

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