Help stem arts decline, schools told

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Former Radio 3 boss Sir John Drummond has pleaded for educators to take culture seriously. Biddy Passmore reports

Schools are in a key position to stop Britain becoming "flabby and philistine" in the creative arts, Sir John Drummond, a former director of The Proms and controller of Radio 3, said last week.

Whether young people were gifted in the arts or not, schools must provide them with a broad and sustaining culture, he told the summer meeting in Reading of the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools. Otherwise they would merely replicate the present generation's approach, best characterised by the statement: "I don't like it, so it's wrong."

Britain had once led the world in the field of the creative arts, Sir John said. He had grown up in a post-war world where culture was taken seriously and, through organisations such as the BBC, broadcast to a mass audience. But institutions such as the BBC and Arts Council were now dominated purely by commercial interests. The result was the impoverishment of the quality of life of millions, he said.

"I try hard not to be an old whinger, but I get so angry," said Sir John, 64, who is a former director of the Edinburgh Festival and currently a governor of the Royal Ballet and chairman of the Theatres Trust.

Change of government did little good for the arts. "Look through the Cabinet list and see if you can find a single politician with a real interest in them," he said. "There is no one, or virtually no one. Art is 'subversive' - that's why politicians hate it."

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