LETTER:Small price to pay

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From Mr Keith Cooper Sir: Football fans must be heartily sick of being accused of supporting art forms they have no interest in ("Let the market return to Covent Garden''; leading article, 13 January). Of the 500,000 who come to Covent Garden every year and the 5 million who have watched performances by Royal Opera House companies on BBC TV over the past few years, some must enjoy watching golf, snooker, football or tennis balls being knocked around.

This week, 10,000 first-time opera and ballet-goers, many of them young men and others on low income, have cheered Darcey Bussell and Dennis O'Neill to the rafters, at ticket prices from £1 to £10, thanks to Paul Hamlyn's generous foundation and Westminster City Council. Over the next few months, 10,000 children will enjoy school matinees subsidised by - yes, you've guessed - Pavarotti's top-price ticket-payers.

We do not all like military bands, go to national parks or swim in the local pool, but as taxpayers we support them by much the same amount as we cough up for the Royal Opera House - 35 pence per year.

Yours faithfully, KEITH COOPER Director of Corporate Affairs Royal Opera House London, WC2

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