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Country "terrifyingly complacent about the quality of the professional art s"

* The country is "terrifyingly complacent about the quality of the professional arts", said Lord Puttnam in the annual Arts Council report, published last week.

"Unless Government, private sponsors and arts organisations themselves tackle this issue with real determination, we will slide inexorably towards a situation in which income rather than ability becomes the deciding factor for anyone choosing a career in the arts."

And there was still a huge imbalance in people's access to the arts across the country. An informed and national audience was the only sure foundation for the vitality of the sector with schoolchildren playing an essential role, said Lord Puttnam.

But the arts had been squeezed to the fringes of the national curriculum; the infrastructure of support for quality music and drama teaching had been all but wiped out in some parts of the country; and training was in a mess.

These were vital issues as it was finally becoming accepted that the arts were more than just about jobs, prizes or national prestige. "They go to the heart of what a civilised society is, or hopes to be."

Annual report 19967, The Arts Council of England, 14 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 3QN.

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