Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
120. Those are the questions that you will ask.
(Ms Evans) The questions that you are asking are indeed
the questions that we will be asking and are asking.
Ms Shipley: Thank you.
121. Good morning. Under the last Secretary
of State for Culture there were some Regional Cultural Forums
established. What was the purpose of those given that there is
a Regional Arts Council?
(Mr Hewitt) The Regional Cultural Consortia were groupings
of agencies that fell within, if you like, the DCMS envelope that
were working at regional level. There was tourism, sport, broadcasting,
arts, heritage, etc., who gathered together at regional level.
The principal task which those bodies were given was one of writing
a broad cultural strategy for the region taking into account all
of those interests. I understand that many of them have done that.
I think the other purpose of those consortia was to bring those
interests together to take joint action where joint action was
needed. For example, during perhaps the recent foot and mouth
crisis those bodies might share what each of them was doing, the
impact of foot and mouth within their regions in terms of impact
on tourism, impact on arts attendances, etc., etc., and perhaps
just ensure that they understand what each other is doing and
they would learn from each other's experience and knowledge. They
were the principal purposes of the Regional Cultural Consortia.
122. Surely you do that too, you look at what
the areas need and what they want. Why did we spend an inordinate
amount of money doing a second job?
(Mr Robinson) They were not funded in any way, were
123. They were funded from you but surely that
is one of the things that you do, you look at strategy and you
look at what arts need to do.
(Mr Hewitt) We look at strategy for the arts nationally
and regionally. There are some things which go beyond the arts
where a grouping of that kind at regional level might add something.
It is true to say, I think, there are mixed views on the effectiveness
of the Regional Cultural Consortia at regional level. In some
regions the view is that it has worked well and in some they really
have not got beyond a place where matters are talked about.
124. For the South East one, which obviously
I have read carefully, it is full of lovey-dovey statements but
there is not a single analysis of budget or need. What is the
purpose of getting these great and good people to go out there
and mix with us if they do not actually understand the day to
day needs of the arts people locally?
(Mr Hewitt) I think you have just expressed very clearly
one of the views which has been expressed about the effectiveness
of Regional Cultural Consortia.
125. Can we move on. The boundaries of how regional
government works is going to be the subject of a White Paper shortly.
"Shortly" always means within a year. The RDAs vary.
In the South West, for instance, they have tourism but in the
South East they do not. Is there some reason why there should
not be the arts bodies from the Arts Council within the RDA or
as part of the Regional Government Plans? What is your thinking
(Mr Robinson) I think it is actually quite important
that at its simplest level we at least line up with the RDAs and
with regional government in that way. I just believe that those
kinds of changes, and if you think our reorganisation takes a
bit of time, take so long to become reality, something that really
happens across a spectrum, that the only position you can take,
and certainly it is the right position for us, is to make sure
that we get on very effectively, very efficiently, with what we
do now. Certainly we represent the arts in a very full way in
most of the regions, that too in some ways is variable. We have
a central connection wherever we can in order to ensure that the
arts are represented properly to Government, particularly when
it comes to funding them. As and when regional government develops,
we will be very happy to work very closely, in fact as we have
begun to do, for example, in London, where we believe it is absolutely
appropriate we should work with the Mayor of London's department
to make sure that we do things which operate together rather than
either separately or against one another. We are very much of
the view that our role is to go on doing what we do now in a very
positive way having the central structure in the way that it is
set up. If and as and when things change we will be very happy
to form working liaisons and relationships with those new organisations.
I am really concerned that with this, as in many other things,
it does not become some kind of distraction. We have to get on
now with what is real now, make it work now, and that is our main
126. Some of us were lucky in December 2001
to go to New Jersey Performing Arts Centre where we saw the impact
of the most amazing regeneration programme, a vision that we would
hope that we could also have in this country, not necessarily
in the largeness of such a project but even in a small scale project.
I have a constituency of 65,000 where we have no dance, no music,
no drama, no art gallery, no visiting museum. I would not say
we are a cultural desert, we are only half an hour from Canterbury
and an hour from London, but actually we are. What I want to understand
better is what is your regenerational thinking on what the arts
can do in poorer communities?
(Mr Hewitt) Our thinking is that the arts are absolutely
crucial to poorer communities in putting facilities and opportunity
at local level, in creating opportunities for young people in
education, in formal education and outside of education, to participate
in the arts and that is being led by our creative partnerships
programme. We are very attentive indeed to the place that the
arts play in terms of social and local regeneration. I think there
are some very good models around the country where this has been
shown to have succeeded. I think one of the further benefits of
the new organisation that we are putting in place is that those
models will be more easily applied to different parts of the country.
I think the communications around those sorts of opportunities
will be made easier and we will be able to replicate the best
of what can be found in certain parts of the country to ensure
that sort of regeneration is in place.
(Ms Evans) It is very important to look at the two
projects that we are discussing here today in context because
75 per cent of the capital schemes that we fund are actually for
less than £100,000, they are for small organisations and
that amount of money makes a huge amount of difference to those
organisations and to their local communities. I think it is really
important that while we are discussing two very big ones, and
it is really important that we do invest in big projects as well
as the small ones, that actually they are the exception rather
than the reality of the capital applications that we are looking
127. There are plans in the Department for Education
and Skills for specialist secondary schools, one of which is the
arts. Can I ask you how many schools you are in contact with and
have applied for arts or whether it goes to the Department for
Education and is referred on? If schools are in my community wanting
that should they come to you? What is the score?
(Mr Hewitt) The arrangement is that the granting of
specialist status is, of course, something which is within the
powers of the Department for Education but we are keen to establish
a mechanism in future whereby we are more properly consulted over
those schools being accorded that status. What has happened so
far is that specialist schools have come to us after the event
and said "We want to work with a Regional Arts Board or with
the Arts Council" and perhaps there was not the relationship
there that there should have been had there been an earlier dialogue.
So we are very keen to work closely with specialist schools in
that way. We need to strengthen the approach to them being granted
that specialist status at an earlier stage and make sure that
the arts funding system, support system, is involved in that.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed,
Derek. We will have one final question from Alan Keen.
128. You heard me ask the previous people about
their involvement with the community. Have you got criteria when
you are making awards? Obviously you want them to manage it properly
and the scheme to be delivered, can I ask you more about that?
Kim Evans did not mention that when she was answering Debra.
(Mr Robinson) The first thing is to look at the Council
itself where certainly forever it has had the largest number of
active artists on the Council. We think of ourselves, obviously,
as supporting the arts community which in turn has effects on
community in general. At the most senior level we are very well
connected to the community we serve in that sense. I know that
at the time there was an enormous fear that if somebody joined,
like myself, from business, there was going to be a whole kind
of suits approach to it. It has been absolutely the opposite to
that. I agree with what you were saying earlier on about that
connection with the community is very important. If you have not
got that artistic connection at that level it is very hard to
see it replicated further down the system which we very much encourage
and will encourage in these structures at regional level, to have
that artistic involvement.
129. Thank you very much, Mr Robinson. We are
most grateful to you for coming. Could I say that although you
will never expect us to endorse everything that you have done,
at the same time I think you have done a fantastic job at the
Arts Council. You have transformed its work for the better. Thank
you very much.
(Mr Robinson) Thank you very much.