Letter: No accounting for artistic taste

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The Independent Online
Sir: Lord Rix has done an exemplary service to the arts by resigning on a point of principle from the Arts Council, and it is disgraceful, as David Lister points out in his article ('Who's watching the consultants?', 15 June), that Lord Palumbo and others have implied that the true reason for the resignation was Lord Rix's 'ill-health'.

Unfortunately, the weakness at the Arts Council stems from the inability of those in charge to recognise and, indeed, to stand up for the principles in their own Royal Charter, which are broadly to defend the Arts Council's independence from government, to support the artist and to make art accessible geographically, socially and financially to the public.

The Arts Council has now allowed the Government to impose an accountancy firm on it to advise on restructuring. Unsurprisingly, Price Waterhouse has recommended that planning should be moved into the finance department, thus ensuring that financial strictures will dominate its vision. Why are accountants thought best-qualified to decide how the Arts Council can best support artists or make the arts accessible? Will a group of artists now be approached to judge if Price Waterhouse is contributing to the future of accounting or is serving its clients well?

Before the Secretary of State for National Heritage decides on the Price Waterhouse report, he should make certain he has been seen to consult working artists, or he will find that the combination of a high-handed restructuring of the Arts Council and the threatened pounds 5m cut in government funding will add fuel to the significant protest movement already growing in the arts community and its audiences.

Yours faithfully,

PHILIP HEDLEY

Artistic Director

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Lonodn, E16

17 June

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