Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Mr Bill McAlister

  You may not remember me but incongruously we once shared a Royal Box at the opera with our mutual friend Tessa Blackstone.

  I have spent the whole of my working life in the arts, first in community arts, (pioneering local initiatives from mural painting to city farms) then as Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts from 1977-1990 and latterly as advisor to George Soros on cultural policies relevant to his many foundations especially in Central and Eastern Europe. I also sit on a variety of British cultural institutions boards from Arts Schools to Galleries and Theatres and act as advisor to others such as the Roundhouse and the Visiting Arts.

  Yesterday I attended your Select Committee Session and the purpose of my question is as follows:

  How did you allow yourselves to be bamboozled by the proposals of the Arts Council to abolish regional arts associations? I cannot believe you of all people is looking for a quite life in your dotage?... or did you not receive adequate evidence from those who are well placed to advise you of the arguments as to why this is an ill judged exercise.

  Here is not the time or place to re-hash the arguments against this exercise but one wonders what function the Select Committee undertakes if it does not scrutinize carefully such a traumatic undertaking.

  However, I will draw your attention to one aspect that I have not heard cited but anticipate will be a consequence of this exercise. Good people will not relish working in this environment. They may pay them more; they may guarantee pensions which few of us actually working in the arts receive but when they take away authority and responsibilities they will seriously undermine commitment.

  The Arts Council argued disingenuously that they propose to delegate even greater authority to the regions. This is like Shell saying they delegate great regional authority because every attendant is free to pump gas in his own forecourt.

  You are allowing an institution that is failing in basic management expertise to so rationalise matters that we will have uniformity and conformity in the management of the arts that will haunt us until the next generation of wiser souls restructure back to a measured system of regional autonomy.

16 January 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002