Published  04/05/2007

Raiders of the Lost Ark

A major crisis is looming in Britain, in the field of government support for the arts. The present Minister for the Arts, Culture, and Sport, Ms Tessa Jowell, seems powerless and incapable of forestalling what will be a growing shortfall and a default by government, perpetrated by her Ministry in the name of the 2012 London Olympics. No amount of fudgy-sweet palliative talk from that quarter of the sofa cabinet will allay the growing disquiet amongst leading executives in the arts field. What is interesting is that authorities in sports agencies up and down the country have now united with arts people to warn that the anticipated cuts in lottery funding demanded to finance the Olympics deficit actually undermine the institutions and will severely reduce planned participation in sport. Four of Britain’s leading voluntary organisations are actually insisting that the debated issue be carried into the House of Commons, This could lead to a vote of censure on Ms Jowell, or even one of 'no confidence' in her present ministry. Who is 'fit for purpose' now? And what purpose, where?

It is no good that she claims now that the Olympics are 'a once-in a lifetime good cause'. This is casino gamblers talk, not surprising from Ms Jowell, who was only just recently defeated in Parliament in her scandalous move to spread new gambling casino chains across Britain. The Director of the National Theatre, Nicolas Hytner refutes the spectacular lack of logic in using money earmarked for the arts to plug holes in the Olympic bills, because it does down the small, weakest, yet most innovative companies and experimental organisations. 'There’s no money, and no plan' says Hytner of the so-called Cultural Olympiad supposed to celebrate the run-up to 2012. The Chief Executive of Arts Council England says that observers have become sceptical. The Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre (and also Chair of Culture and Education at London 2012), says there has been no proper consultation process. Now the Voluntary Arts Network, The Central Council for Physical Recreation, Heritage Link, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have united to warn that Lottery cuts will threaten the real legacy of the games at community level. An urgent meeting is being sought with the smiley but evasive Ms Jowell. Over £100 million is forecast to be lost to the arts, heritage and sports charities together. This is nothing less, than a daylight raid on the coffers. Arts Council England actually loses £161.2 million. Sport England faces a cut just short of £100 million. This is just the beginning.

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