LETTERS: Arts partnerships between big and small

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From Mr Dennis Marks Sir: Robert Maycock's article "Robbing the talented to give to the rich" (16 January) on arts funding would have been more credible if it had been accurate.

Neither the English National Opera, nor, as far as I know, the Royal Shakespeare Company or the Royal National Theatre, ever pay five-figure sums for artists. Our average performance fee for conductors and solo singers is in the region of £1,800. Nor do we budget for an annual deficit. We are budgeting for break even in this financial year, and for surpluses thereafter, a fact well known to the Arts Council, and we are supported by an increase of over 25 per cent in paid attendance so far this season.

It is a scandalous misrepresentation to say that we have "shamelessly accepted increased grants to start our studio from scratch". The recent grant increase has been made available for investment in artists and repertory. Our plans to relaunch the studiowere announced last spring, nine months before the grant announcement, and we appointed a composer-in-association and a new studio administrator before Christmas, with funds from within our current budget.

The activities of small, multicultural and experimental companies are crucial to the artistic health of Britain, but what would be the point of supporting them if their role was not to feed through into the programmes of the two major London opera companies, who perform to almost 1 million people and reach millions more through television and radio?

A healthy partnership between large and small is what will ensure the future of the arts in this country, not silly sectarian squabbling.

Yours faithfully, DENNIS MARKS General Director English National Opera London, WC2

16 January

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