Magazine article The Spectator

Resigned to Change

Magazine article The Spectator

Resigned to Change

Article excerpt

The future of Scottish Ballet is assured - for now - but at a cost. John Parry reports

The Scottish Arts Council's threat to cancel the funding of Scottish Ballet (Arts, 2 August) has been withdrawn and a solution to its immediate future has been found. Whether it will be a permanent lifesaving formula is beyond anyone's ability to predict at this stage. What is certain, though, is that for the Scottish Arts Council to achieve the resignation of the whole board of the ballet company and to appoint its own replacements ranks among the most draconian acts in the history of arts administration in Britain. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. . .

Over the years, I have urged more than one secretary-general of the Arts Council of Great Britain (now reduced to the Arts Council of England) not to be afraid of being judgmental or of taking direct action where they could see it was required. I have argued that the Arts Council's function should go far beyond simply handing out grants. Because the Councils are awash with advisers in all areas of the arts, they should have no fear of taking tough decisions even if it means being politically incorrect occasionally.

And so it is in Edinburgh. The Scottish Arts Council, led by its journalist chairman Magnus Linklater and its director Seona Reid (incidentally a strong contender for the vacancy left by Mary Allen at the Arts Council in London), decided it was time for Scottish Ballet to catch up with the reality of what Scottish audiences actually wanted at the end of the 20th century. They did not believe that Scotland could afford to support large-scale classical ballet any longer.

The new message is `middle-scale and classically-based', which essentially means fewer dancers, smaller venues, lower expenses and more contemporary works. With a ballet board totally dedicated to the concept of large-scale classical ballet, Seona Reid and Magnus Linklater realised the only way to solve the impasse would be to take the unprecedented step of calling for the resignation of the whole of the tenstrong board. …

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