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Thoughts from the Arts Council

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Interesting event last night with Alan Davey, Head of the Arts Council, in a wide ranging speech he made two points that I found particularly fascinating. Reflecting on the difficulties the Council had when it cut funding to several organisations earlier this year, Alan said that in future the Arts Council would use peer review increasingly to assess the value and quality of publicly funded art. My question to Alan was whether this was realistic. In my experience artists are often willing in public to criticise other sectors of society, notably politicians and business people. However the same artists are very wary of criticising each others work. Maybe it’s because they fear retaliation, but artists also claim that criticism is a dangerous infringement of artistic freedom. So I will be interested to see whether peer review gets off the ground.

Alan’s other interesting point, I thought, was confirming the need for better cooperation between the Arts Council and the BBC. There are fascinating contrasts between the way the BBC funds public service broadcasting and the Arts Council support art, most obviously, whilst the BBC spend lots of our money paying for people and programmes that could just as easily be provided in their commercial sector, the Arts Council generally restricts it’s funding to organisations and performers that could not possibly provide without subsidy. When I probed Alan he recognised the case for convergence between the BBC and the Arts Council model. This won’t be a popular suggestion at the corporation…

I’m posting this from the buffet on Coventry station. I’m off now to the opening of the RSA Academy, which has already had splendid coverage on TV. Everyone is looking forward to welcoming Prince Philip to Tipton. I’ll blog later on how the day has gone.

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