Artists get influence boost

All cultural bodies seeking government funding will have to have at least two artists on their board under government proposals announced today.

Culture secretary James Purnell said he was interested in fostering a “fundamental change” in the way the arts are viewed following the publication of a policy review.

The report, chaired by former Edinburgh Festival supreme Sir Brian McMaster, recommends at least two artists or practioners feature on the board of every cultural organisation.

It also backs ten-year funding packages for the most innovative organisations and calls for admission charges in all publicly-funded organisations to be cut for at least one week a year.

Sir Brian said he had encountered a “hunger” for public funding to be more ambitious in terms of financial risk and broad appeal.

“We could even be on the verge of another Renaissance,” he said.

“So we should do all we can to make this happen. That means moving away from simplistic targets and recognising instead the profound value of art and culture in itself.”

Mr Purnell said he wanted to see high quality and broad appeal go hand-in-hand, ending traditional elitist views of excellence.

“The very best art and culture can change people’s lives, and everyone – regardless of their background or where they live – deserves the chance to experience the very best,” he commented.

The Conservatives have expressed concern at cuts in public funding to a quarter of bodies backed by Arts Council England announced last month, however.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt criticised the decision to cut funding for 194 arts organisations and said it was unreasonable for the Arts Council to refuse to release the names of those affected.

“No one wants to subsidise mediocrity, but is James Purnell really describing nearly 200 arts organisations as ‘garbage’? he asked.

“Without clarity on what criteria are being used to make the cuts, any appeal to so-called excellence risks the charge of cultural snobbery.”