Letter: Labour's support for the arts

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have no idea whose opinions Andrew Marr has been canvassing when he draws the conclusion ("Art lessons for New Labour", 17 July) that "almost everyone involved in the arts has come away depressed at the lack of interest" shown by the Opposition. After 17 years in which the cultural and educational foundations of Britain have been handed over piecemeal to the marketplace, the prospect of a change of government is one of the few aspects of the next 12 months that is not depressing me.

New Labour has been meticulous and exhaustive in testing its ideas among my colleagues in the artistic world, and has shown a healthy awareness that audiences and communities, supported by a humane and undivisive education system, are the lodestar that should guide any cultural policy. This is scarcely surprising. It was the Labour Party that planned the Festival of Britain, founded the Open University, brought the talents of Jennie Lee and Lord Goodman into the leadership of arts provision and, despite the frequent tiffs between Harold Wilson and the media, presided over a golden age of British broadcasting in the Sixties and mid-Seventies.

It was a sympathetic Labour administration that allowed the Sadler's Wells Opera to grow into English National Opera and hundreds of thousands of opera-goers each year have reason to be thankful to a party that seems to believe that the greatest artistic creations are for everyone, regardless of their means or origins.

DENNIS MARKS

General Director

English National Opera

London WC2

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