The Arts Council Has Sex on the Brain
Lister, David, The Independent (London, England)
Do you want to be on the board of an arts organisation? Well, first of all, disclose whether you are straight or gay. And do you have any lurking tendencies towards feminism? The Arts Council asks such questions when deciding whether or not to give money to a company. This puzzles me. Well, actually it appals me. But it was more in a state of puzzlement that I tried this week to find out why it is necessary to declare what you get up to in bed if you are invited to sit on the board of the Birmingham Rep or the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol or presumably the Royal Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, and any arts organisation funded by the Arts Council.
Can one no longer trust a trustee to be a sexually moderate sort of person? And if they are sexually immoderate, does it affect the way they run the company?
At a lunch with the council's new chair Liz Forgan and chief executive Alan Davey this week, I asked why one's sexual preferences should have any bearing on one's ability to sort out the finances, artistic direction, catering and architectural plans of an arts company.
I haven't been the greatest fan of the Arts Council, but I do have hopes of an improvement under Dame Liz. She was an effective chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and in a previous life the editor of The Guardian's women's pages, though we won't hold that against her. Not entirely.
Apparently, the view of the Arts Council hierarchy is that the character and sexual preferences of the board could be reflected in the work. Dame Liz said that, for example, "if the board was full of ranting feminists" (it's the way these former editors of The Guardian's women's pages tell 'em) you might get work that is too feminist in outlook. Mr Davey added that the sexual orientation question was asked for the reason that an arts board needed to show that it was heterogeneous and reflected as many parts of society as possible.
I don't buy it. These matters are highly unlikely to influence a company's work. For a start, such decisions tend to be taken by artistic directors rather than …
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Publication information: Article title: The Arts Council Has Sex on the Brain. Contributors: Lister, David - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 11, 2009. Page number: 44. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.