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New Arts Council chief

Veronica Wadley has been announced as the new Arts Council chair for London, a job which covers most of the country’s largest arts institutions and comes with the backing of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

It’s a case of if you don’t succeed at first.

Last year, her candidacy was shot down by the national Arts Council chair, Liz Forgan, on the spurious grounds that she had no arts cred. Forgan’s personal and political prejudice against Wadley was backed by the Labour Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, whose disappearance from office after the election was loudly cheered across the arts spectrum. Forgan is not likely to outlast him by long.

In point of fact, Wadley – with whom I worked closely when she was Editor of the former Evening Standard – has shown more passion for the arts than any newspaper person in my experience, with the possible exception of Alan Rusbridger at the Guardian. She hired me to revitalise the paper’s arts coverage and allowed me to extend it to the limits of our budget and my own ingenuity. Often, she would call me early in the morning to clarify an esoteric point in an overnight ballet review. Her appetite for detail is ravenous. 

Since leaving the job a year ago, she has visited practically every arts organisation within radius and seen most of their shows. She certainly knows as much as anyone about the present state of the arts and is ideally well equipped to guide the sector through recession.

It’s a very good appointment and one she will carry off with her customary application.

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