Letter: Slimmer Arts Council

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The Independent Online
Sir: There has been much nonsense talked in the last few days - among others by resigning members of Arts Council panels - about the Government somehow being only interested in "populist" culture and sacrificing the high arts to the vagaries of business ("Exit left as Arts Council drama panel resigns", 21 May). Quite simply, this is rubbish.

Let me put the record straight with a few facts.

We have increased the money going to the performing arts through the Arts Council, with the addition of the pounds 5m "new audiences" fund I was able to put in place two months ago.

We believe every bit as passionately about the need for government to support the high arts as to applaud the best of popular art.

It is right and proper for the chairman of the Arts Council to aim for a slimmed-down council. Decision-making had become very unwieldy with a council of over 20 members. But at the same time, there must remain a clear role for expert advisory panels to feed in to the deliberations of the council itself.

Rather more attention to reality and less assumption based on mythology might not go amiss in future discussions of these vitally important issues.

CHRIS SMITH

Secretary of State

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

London SW1

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