Memorandum submitted by Art and Politics
I write to you in your capacity as Chair of
the Culture Committee.
There is some concern throughout the country
regarding the current Arts Council of England restructuring and
indeed the state of the arts support and funding system. Apart
from the conflict of interests that seem possible when Arts Council
directors leave their posts at the Arts Council to take up post
with an Arts Council Client there are a number of basis situations
that must make one wonder why the Audit Commission, Trade department
and those responsible for Best Practice have not seen fit to give
the Arts Council the benefit of the experiences.
In brief the funding system is archaic, self-serving
in many respects and too slow to serve many of the practitioners,
organisations and audiences it is supposed to serve. We trail
behind our European partners in the use of technology in the art,
we do not respond to the frequent changes in technology and many
of our theatres and art spaces are ill-equipped to support contemporary
artists and their work. Arts Officers (in the main) seem more
concerned with their careers then with the service they provide.
Officers are also given the power to decide (effectively) what
good art is! This may be reasonable with a well-informed officer
but when officers have no understanding of the technology, the
cultures, the contemporary "scene" then how on earth
can they judge what either the practitioner or audience member
desires? Despite promising, "less bureaucracy, waste and
slow funding application processes" the system seems to be
worse. There has been a noticeable movement (at the Arts Council)
away from supporting Individual Artists in favour of organisations
and the number of schemes and initiates for arts projects has
surely decreased in the last three years to favour impenetrable
and divisive lottery applications whose criteria restrict eligibility
from the outset.
We have recently had the announcement of the
Race Relations Amendment Act 2002. This covers all public bodies
and yet quangos such at the Regional Arts Boards do not have a
duty to comply with the Act. How will the Act be tested anyway?
It is hoped that before the next election that the Government
might turn its attention (for a moment) to this area of life that
has the capacity to enrich every citizen (not the few).
In closing I would make a plea for the new Arts
Council to be forced to engage in a more open operation and for
a coherent strategy for the arts to be created and published as
part of the current changes.
12 February 2002