Letter: Paying for the arts

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The Independent Online
ANDREAS Whittam Smith's argument that "the best way to save the arts is to remove the single payer" (17 February) papers over a number of cracks.

He is incorrect to suggest that most arts organisations rely overwhelmingly on a single funder. This is not the case for many organisations who already put together a patchwork of income from many sources, including the Arts Council or regional arts boards, local authorities, businesses, box office and private giving. Whilst the loss of one of these sources would be damaging, it would not necessarily be fatal.

Second, he assumes that, having plotted its demise, a culture of philanthropy towards the arts would spring up to carry the coffin of the Arts Council. I suspect that he is too optimistic. Whilst a number of Britain's larger arts institutions have indeed tapped into private giving, they have the strength of being highly visible, national organisations which can offer a great deal to their donors in the form of kudos. Many less well-resourced companies might soon find themselves face down in the malmsey.

Smaller organisations cannot compete in terms of prising open the wallets of the wealthy. Their clients might be the young, the unemployed, the disabled. They may operate on a local level, so that much of their work is unseen. Or they may produce experimental work. All useful, necessary and potentially of very high quality, but just not "sexy" enough to attract private giving. They would consider life without public subsidy as being very unfair indeed.


General Manager

Milton Keynes City Orchestra