HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 c516
11. Mr. Colin Burgon (Elmet)

What plans he has for new initiatives in the arts for children as part of the reorganisation of the Arts Council for England. [102005]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that the Arts Council's announcement last week included an additional £300,000 over two years for young people's theatre, in addition to large increases for several arts organisations working with children.

Mr. Burgon

I thank my right hon. Friend and welcome the fact that, under the Labour Government, funding for the arts is running at record levels. However, the recent Gulbenkian Foundation report "Crossing the Lines" highlighted worrying trends in gender, age and class when it comes to access to the arts. What would be the best strategy to confront those worrying trends?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the Gulbenkian report, which is an extremely interesting and challenging document. It is precisely because we share some concerns highlighted in the report that we have established the new audiences fund through the Arts Council. It provides grants to pilot projects aimed at attracting new and younger audiences. We are also backing the new generation audiences scheme, which will provide free tickets to cultural events for schoolchildren and encourage them to exchange information using the latest technologies. That is why the funding agreement that we have put in place with the Arts Council requires an additional 200,000 educational sessions to be secured for the extra funding that we are providing.