Letter: The arts need a new strategy

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee's interview with the new Heritage Secretary, Chris Smith, (3 June) indicates the winds of change sweeping through the Department of National Heritage. Chris Smith's wish to encourage Lottery funds distributors to set their own coherent strategy is very welcome. The ad hoc nature of the present system where projects can only be initiated by the applicants is in desperate need of revision.

But might I suggest a more radical approach? The Lottery, for good or ill, has transformed the cultural landscape, but has not been put into the context of priorities or needs. Britain's funding system is a laudable patchwork, but inevitably much is duplicated, short-term and incoherent. The previous government did not accept the need for a cultural strategy. A review of the whole funding system for Britain's culture is long overdue.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to look at what we want as a nation and then find ways of properly funding it for posterity.

COLIN TWEEDY

Director General

Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts

London SE1

Councillors are good value

Sir: Your item on councillors' pay ("Councillors' pay rises by a third", 21 May) referred to Birmingham's spending on allowances for its 117 elected councillors.

The new regulations were, in the Conservative government's own words, designed to "encourage people with a wide range of backgrounds, experience and skills to serve as councillors" and to "allow local authorities to give more adequate remuneration to those councillors with special responsibilities".

The total expenditure on councillors' allowances actually represents less than 0.04 per cent of the gross expenditure of Britain's largest local authority. Payments equate to around pounds 25 per day per councillor or just over pounds 1 per elector per year - looked at either way this represents extremely good value and a small price to pay for the maintenance of local democracy.

MICHAEL LYONS

Chief Executive

Birmingham City Council

Sad tradition

Sir: Female "circumcision" has been practised for thousands of years, sad testimony that the existence of the clitoris is an ancient part of folk knowledge in much of Asia and Africa. Mateo Colon's main claim to fame ("The anatomy of desire", 3 June) is that he anticipated Harvey by discovering the pulmonary circulation of the blood.

P J STEWART

Oxford

Maggot in brain

Sir: What's this about earworms (Letters, 3, 5 June)? The term for that annoying tune embedded in your brain is "maggot". Hence all those Elizabethan pieces with titles like "Captain Johnson's Maggot".

JOHN SMURTHWAITE

Leeds

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