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
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
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