Letter: Festivals are good for the Barbican

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Sir: May I add a coda to Clive Gillinson's letter about the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican (5 October)? David Lister asserts (3 October) that the success of the 1992 Scandinavian arts festival, Tender is the North, was mostly due to the LSO's Sibelius. This is a ridiculously dismissive assertion: those five magnificent Colin Davis concerts formed a vital but small part of the festival, in which the Barbican's art galleries, theatres, foyers and cinemas were all involved.

Tender is the North received almost universal praise in the press and went on to win the Sony international classical music award as the world's best festival in the 1992-93 season. It exceeded its target for sponsorship, attracted good audiences and gave the Barbican staff a sense of unity and purpose, invaluable when it comes to sustaining morale.

Baroness O'Cathain (managing director of the Barbican Arts Centre) says she is giving proposals for new festivals 'a long hard look': obviously she has to be convinced they represent value for money. The LSO's artistic policy (and the Royal Shakespeare Company's) has proved that insistence on quality is the best way to get bums on seats. There are 280 nights a year when the LSO is not playing: this is the area where the Barbican has to have its own policy.

Yours sincerely,


London, W14

The writer was artistic director of 'Tender is the North'.