A duty to our new musicians

Two rows agitate the arts world. The first comes out of the Budget, which capped at £50,000 a year the income tax relief that anyone can claim on charitable giving — way below the level that large arts companies need from big donors if they are to keep afloat. Consequently, Jeremy Hunt, the hapless Culture Secretary, has been the butt of some blistering invective in recent days. Rightly so. He tells the arts world to go out and get more private funding to make up for cuts in state subsidy, while George Osborne withdraws the very tax incentives that reward philanthropists. Such contradictory Government thinking is either hypocritical or plain incompetent.

Meanwhile, 250 top British composers and performers, ranging from Maxwell Davies and Birtwistle to John Rutter and Military Wives tunesmith Paul Mealor, have written to the Arts Council to protest about the inane policies of a body called Sound and Music, which has received more than £3 million of public money in three years.

In 2008, the Arts Council helped to create Sound and Music (I had better not call it S&M) to replace four venerable but worthy organisations promoting new music. Unfortunately, Sound and Music’s agenda was instantly hijacked by a self-regarding clique, and millions of pounds poured into an esoteric nonsense called “sound art”, while talented young composers have gone unsupported and unpromoted. These things matter. Britain’s composers are world renowned, but won’t be if we don’t nurture the next generation. The Arts Council needs to sort out this scandal quickly and ruthlessly.

—Richard Morrison: The Times 30/03/2012


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