Michael Bogdanov, artistic director of the English Shakespeare Company, touring rival to the Royal Shakespeare Company, has viciously attacked the British Government in the latest edition of the left-wing New Statesman magazine. Bogdanov claims that Labour has "blown it" by reducing arts funding to the level of "a car boot sale."
Bogdanov acknowledges the difficulty in lobbying for arts money when so many other worthy areas, such as schools and hospitals, are also in need of financial assistance, but decries the arts situation as "worse than any of us could have imagined." Nevertheless, he maintains that the situation is dire. "How can we still maintain that British is best, with quality so eroded by 20 years of philistinism and underfunding?" Bogdanov asks.
He writes of the alleged betrayal of the new Labour Government, which took over in May after 18 years of Conservative rule. "There has been a staggering misreading of the public mood in all areas. How do I feel? Like a turkey that's voted for Christmas."
Bogdanov goes on to draw unflattering parallels between the situation in fellow European countries. In particular, he refers to the striking difference between the UK and Germany which has 75 opera houses and 16 culture ministers.
He criticises Culture Secretary Chris Smith personally for disregarding calls for a fully paid, dedicated chairman of the Arts Council and calls EMI head Gerry Robinson, recently appointed to the post, a "slash-and-burn merchant who will do the job 'reluctantly' and only for one day a week." --By Terri Paddock
What's On Stage, London