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Arts Council chairman dodges a straight question, again

The Observer newspaper asked me what I would ask Peter Bazalgette, incoming chair of Arts Council England. I said: “Why would a man who has spent his life at the very lowest end of public media [Big Brother] consider himself fit to be chairman of the Arts Council, which looks after the highest forms of national creativity?”

The reporter couldn’t bring himself to ask that. Instead, he waters it down to: “Why did you want to become chair of the Arts Council?”

And Bazza, true to form, dodges the question, claiming that he never sought the job…. Oh, yes. Read the interview here.

Bazza goes on to maintain bizarrely that “most of the arts community were excited by [Big Brother] when it started, because it was regarded as avant garde.”

Most?? Avant-garde??? Name me ten respected artists or arts leaders who were ever so madly deluded. No answer, Bazza? I thought not.


UPDATE: On the Today programme this morning, Justin Webb put my question to Bazza. He dodged it, going off on a wide tangent. Justin lets him off the hook. Listen here.

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  1. So Norman….who would you pick?

  2. Mark Powell says:

    As God is my witness, I thought “Bazalgette” was some kind of bathroom plumbing fitting.
    With greetings from across the pond. . .

  3. Mr. Bazalgette, in his proposal to rely solely on private entrepreneurship and the vagaries of philanthropy, seems very much in step with everyone’s friendly IMF- an IMF that would like to put everything on an independent footing, with the super rich at the head of the line riding in style and the poor footing the bill.

    If his goal really were the same, namely to protect the nation’s cultural heritage and nurture its cultural future, why rely only on philanthropists when, if they are wildly wealthy, you could start to tax them a bit more fairly for the privilege of earning that wealth, and then have real assurance that the arts would be funded? And, why not cut back on those horrendously expensive military and national security state procurements, half of which don’t work, and certainly don’t add to the value (or long term security) of a society. You could save multibillions, and maybe even a few trillion.

    It’s not “communism” or “socialism” or an “attack on free market capitalism”, it’s pay for play for the bankers, hedge fund managers and high rollers, and some much needed belt tightening for the arms dealers- and all of doable through a legitimate exercise of government “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

    • Ed, I agree!

      • Simon, thanks. I forgot to add one solution which has been bandied about in the States, and that is a transaction or sales tax on the sale of shares or options or futures contracts on the stock and commodities markets, whether it is on a per share basis or value of transferred shares or contracts. There is so much “hot money” that is manipulating world market prices by moving in and out of the markets that there is much tax to be earned there without damaging the system. In fact, some estimate that that alone could solve our budget crises.

        • That’s a terrible idea, as the EU’s own research document into it demonstrates.
          Raising the cost of capital impacts each and every one of us, and, therefore, the poor are affected more, proportionally. Not only this, but the tax-based gains are small.

          • Baloney. I would look to more credible economists and policy planners for my answers. And re: a transaction tax, we are not looking at significant amounts per share traded.

    • Erm, Ed… as Chair of ACE, Mr. Bazalgette doesn’t have tax-raising powers. It doesn’t really matter if he were to agree with you – he has to run ACE based on the funding it has, and he can lobby the government for more. But he has no actual power to stop military spending and give the dosh to the arts instead as you suggest, so to say he should do so is daft. (Not to mention that if a large item of spending could be cut from somewhere it would not be likely to be sent to the arts or elsewhere, given the UK has a national debt IRO £17,000 per person, and is still overspending by more than £1500/person/year on top of that).

      It seems entirely sensible and practical of him to advocate finding additional funding from private individuals and organisations, since these are sources which both actually have money, and which he can try to influence and encourage more readily than turning to the State to ask for more.

      • No one suggested Bazalgette has tax raising powers, but your government does. As for the monies that could be saved from the defense budget and the order of magnitude of those savings, that will be the subject of strong public debate in the U.S. very soon. I can point to over twenty useless high platform procurements that are in the multibillions that could begin to reverse the mess we are in here in the States.

        So, when you speak of government overspending, I would suggest you review your military and domestic security state budgets…..and also the budget for your TSA, that organization that seems to do so much damage to musicians and their instruments, as well as to the rest of us folk who don’t think it’s funny (or erotic) to be manhandled or petted in a pat down.

        As for funding from wealthy private individuals, no one said don’t seek from that source. It is just less reliable than if the government were to collect its due from them to maintain its solvency and its ability to fund programs that advance the public good.

  4. Hugh Canning says:

    Hi Norman – I also find it very strange that there is no mention of ENO’s £2 million plus deficit, of which Mr Bazalgette must surely have been aware, or what he was expecting the company to do about it. I would have thought this one of the more pressing cases for a new chairman of the Arts Council of England.

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