The first question I was asked at the HoC Committee for Culture, Media and Sport was, ‘what’s wrong with the Arts Council?’ Since the committee’s brief is to examine the funding of arts and heritage with particular reference to budget cuts, this was a leading question.
One MP in particular, Tom Watson (Labour), had formed a dim view of the ACE during its chief executive Alan Davey’s testimony two weeks ago. Another, Louise Bagshawe (Con), announced that Mr Watson had ‘filletted’ the ACE during their session.
So the committee as a whole was receptive to criticism from Tiffany Jenkins of the Institute of Ideas, David Lee of Jackdaw magazine and myself. And I think we gave them the specifics required. I discussed the huge budgets lavished on non-arts social and political ventures; Alan condemned the unaccountable preference for one contemporary style over others; and Tiffany, naturally an ACE supporter, acknowledged its weak leadership and loss of direction.
Various reforms were proposed, all of us rejecting outright abolition. It will be interesting to see which of our ideas will appear in the final report.
Here is a video of the session that has just appeared online. My contribution begins at 12:08