HL Deb 21 March 1973 vol 340 cc758-816

4.8 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, if we are quite ready to move back to the problem of how to provide spiritual food as opposed to material food, may I thank the noble Earl very much indeed for initiating this debate and say how much we appreciated the great survey of the problem by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, and how we are, of course, awaiting with tremendous interest the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. Sandwiched between an ex-Minister and the present Minister, I feel rather like a small eel—in fact, a smoked eel—and I am not at all sure how to begin, because I really have only one point that I want to make to the noble Viscount. I am not intending any synoptic description of how I see the performing Arts to-day. I just want to state a problem which has arisen in all our cities which I think will become more acute.

There has been a revolution in the country's attitude to the redevelopment of our cities. To begin with, the cause of the preservationists has gained enormous ground—and very rightly—during recent years. It is not merely historic buildings that we are being asked to preserve. We are being asked to preserve curious buildings, buildings of some intrinsic interest though they may have very little æsthetic value. We are being asked, indeed, to maintain the character of a neighbourhood. Parallel with this, there is also another movement, a movement against comprehensive development in our cities. Nowadays, people say they want a mixture of housing, of pubs, of shops with public buildings, with office buildings and other kinds of large buildings.

It is this dislike of comprehensive development which I think will affect some of the rehousing of the Arts. If that mood had prevailed in the 'fifties, when the scheme for the South Bank was being mooted, should we have seen that remarkable development which comprises the Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Concert Hall, the National Film Centre, the Hayward Gallery and, now arising, the National Theatre? Should we ever have seen a development of that kind? I doubt if we should. Some people might well say, seeing that great sea of concrete, that this would have been a good thing visually. But from the point of view of the Arts, of course, it is a development of immeasurable advantage.

It is precisely because of these changes of attitude that I think the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is going to come up against a very difficult problem. We have seen that the scheme for the comprehensive, large-scale redevelopment of Covent Garden has been turned down—again, in my view, very rightly. I am speaking purely personally, but I very much hope that we shall preserve the character of the Covent Garden market area—and that we shall be able to preserve not merely the historic buildings there but many of the dwellings in which people live. But, of course, this creates great problems for the Royal Opera House, because for many years now we have had a redevelopment scheme the designs for which were approved by all concerned. These schemes began, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, suggested, primarily in an attempt to do something to improve the conditions for the artists who perform behind the stage and for all who work with them. Those conditions are as deplorable as, indeed even more deplorable than, those of the workers for whom the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, did so much when she was considering the question of a new library for the British Museum. That is one part of the redevelopment: we want to help our artists and our workers behind the scenes.

Then there is another part of it; namely, that something should be done to improve the amenities for those who pay to go to see the performances in front of the house. We also have a project—and, again, I think it is one which anybody concerned with the rationalisation of the Arts would think wise—for bringing the Royal Ballet School (and not merely the ballet school but all the practice rooms in which the artists of the Royal Ballet rehearse every day) into the Opera House, so that we can have a whole unified complex of opera and ballet. With this, of course, go plans for improving the stage and having a small auditorium. These plans have met with general approval. The Government have given £6 million to acquire land, and a blessing in general terms to go ahead. But since then the problem of the preservation of the Market area has arisen. On this question of preservation, I am sure that the directors of the Royal Opera House will be very happy indeed to acquiesce, even though it means a total revision of their plans.

It is at this point that I am asking the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, if he would have a look at this problem from the administrative angle. In such a controversial area as Covent Garden we need some super authority which will be able ultimately to give official approval to plans, not merely for the Royal Opera House but for other concerns and interests in the Market area. Could such an authority be set up? Could it be given delegated powers from the Department of the Environment or the G.L.C. to take decisions? Perhaps this is an impractical suggestion. Indeed, if I knew the administrative answer I should not be asking the question. But I hope the noble Viscount's Department will study this problem. It is not merely a problem for Covent Garden and for London. It is a problem which is going to affect every major provincial city. The noble Baroness, Lady Lee, was very rightly talking about the need to rehouse the Arts in the Provinces, and this, as is the case with our housing programme in all areas, does not mean just building new theatres or new houses; it means refurbishing old ones.

There is always a difficulty here, because these old theatres, some of which are rather grand and splendid buildings, are commercially owned. We must find some way in which we can blend the private enterprise which owns those buildings with the public enterprise which gives subsidies or benefits to the commercial companies which are running the buildings. This is going to need looking at administratively. This, it seems to me, is precisely where the Department of Education and Science can help. It does not need to interfere by telling the Arts Council and artists what to do: and I am sure it does not want to. Where the Department can help is by untying administrative knots and freeing the Arts from those shackles which, in our free country, are far worse than any vestiges of censorship which may remain. They are the shackles of administrative and governmental regulations which, to artists and those who help them, seem so often to impede every initiative that artists take. That is the matter which I hope the noble Viscount will look at, and see if he can do something to make this a less vexing problem for those who try to help artists in their work in the future.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I join with the other two speakers in thanking my noble friend Lord Drogheda for initiating this debate in such a charming way. My noble friend is, as every Member of the House knows, the most qualified of all of us to speak about the performing arts of opera and ballet; and, as those who recently went to the concert in Smith Square also know, my noble friend has at his elbow a most beautifully accomplished musician, and we are very glad that she has had such a success. Now I propose—and I hope this meets the wishes of the House—to make a few general observations and then, with leave, when I come to wind up, to answer as best I can as many of the questions that are raised in the course of the debate.

I looked at the Motion, and I saw that it referred to the performing Arts and matters relating thereto". Now those words could be stretched to illustrate a very interesting development at the present time. The Arts seem to be merging into each other. The old boundaries, so skilfully defended in the past by the votaries of one or other of the Muses, are now being crossed and recrossed to form new and fascinating patterns. Works in the visual Arts, which used to be motionless and silent, are now made to move and emit light and sounds. What happens to objects—be they solid shapes, the human body, or the script of a play—now matters much more than the object itself. My Lords, we see potters turning into sculptors; weavers constructing pictures to hang on a wall; painters encrusting their canvasses with bits and pieces from the dustbin; and the hammer and tongs, with which we politicians traditionally have a go at each other—and not always only at our opponents, as the Party opposite will know—are now orchestral instruments. All this is good fun, and it is producing some very interesting new forms of art.

My Lords, if artists themselves want to change the roles and the public welcome their transvestite ambiguities, why is that happening? I think that the major influence must be television conditioning us to everchanging programmes, and experiences overlapping and running into the next ones. Television is accustoming the viewer to cross the frontiers between the Arts, and in his leisure time he is looking for a parallel experience outside home. This, I think it must be, which accounts for the extraordinary demand for multi-purpose art centres where, as on the screen, one can participate in a bit of everything, and the performing Arts have chances to attract new audiences.

I see these developments as a sign of life and greatly to be welcomed; so if we had the resources, we ought to be experimenting with art centres, sometimes purpose-built, sometimes an extension of an existing building—it could be the library or the museum—and doing this all over the country. I find evidence in all sorts of unexpected places of the desire that cultural experience should not be static and confined to one art at a time. For instance, very interestingly, a revolution is taking place in our museums and galleries in the way in which their collections are displayed—or would be displayed if the curators, especially in the provinces, had the resources at their command. A collection can be arranged as a series of objects each presented for its own sake. Or the objects can be related to each other, creating a synthesis between life past and present; telling some kind of human story, as well as being displayed each for its own intrinsic merit. There is no question—it is writ large in the attendance figures over the last two years—that it is the story-telling method of presentation which is attracting the new public. Surely, my Lords, it is of great social interest that the combination of one art with another and the relating of different objects to some ongoing aspect of life should now be popular, both with artists and also with the public. I think that here we have the key to the provision of cultural experience in stages which will carry those who are now outside the charmed circle of the scholar and the connoisseur little by little to a deeper appreciation of the higher forms of art.

My Lords, the Arts have always expressed and informed the life of the community. Whether to-day they are merely reflecting the whirlpool of change whipped up by science and technology, or whether they are themselves major instruments of the change we see all around us, is perhaps best examined in the context of what is actually happening in drama, opera, ballet, music, painting, sculpture, the cinema and the crafts. The first thing to say is that all these activities are influencing each other as never before, and in all these Arts the rate of expansion is greater than it has ever been. That is very satisfactory so far as it goes, but the demand is rising even faster. The desire to enjoy the Arts, whether as a performer or a member of the audience, feeds on the provision of facilities; and it is a natural and welcome reaction against a society which has paid too much attention to economics and to making money.

The figures illustrating the expansion in the fine Arts are to be found in the last Report of the Arts Council and I fully expect that next year's Report will show further unprecedented progress in all the Council's activities. I am not going to take up the time of the House rehearsing the story of all that is being so well done; but I should like to point to one or two features of particular interest. I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, concentrated so much on the Housing the Arts scheme, because I agree with her; I think it is underestimated, and very interesting things are going on in that sphere. The noble Baroness was right in saying that up to now the amount of money that has been committed is about £5 million. She was also right that the annual ration for commitment is now £750,000 and that in the course of last year there was this bonus of £675,000 to finance various projects in the assisted areas. The noble Baroness asked about that bonus. The reason for it was this: the Government felt that an injection of investment into the assisted areas for all kinds of purposes was justified, and naturally I thought that the Arts should have a certain amount. We were given this amount and it has enabled a number of important projects, particularly in Scotland and Wales—at Mold, Inverness, Kirkcaldy and so on—really to get going in a way that they would not have done otherwise, and I am very grateful for that.

What that means in total is that £5 million has so far been allocated, and it has attracted £21 million from other sources; so that now we have £26 million for projects authorised to start. As I think the noble Baroness pointed out, this is a very remarkable story of "pump priming". It shows how a minority participation, in actual fact 18.9 per cent., from the Arts Council, in conjunction with local authority and private support, can lead to very large results. In view of what the noble Baroness said, I think I ought to make clear that it has always been the intention of Governments, the Government of her Party just as much as the Government of ours, that very large schemes should not be handled through the Housing the Arts scheme. I mean, for example, the National Theatre, the Barbican and Edinburgh Opera House. I might perhaps say that the Edinburgh Corporation have not yet promised their half of the money, now that it is seen that the opera house in Edinburgh is going to cost so much more, but we very much hope that successful arrangements will be completed soon. Then there is the project at Cardiff with which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is so much identified. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, is in the Chamber, and no doubt he will tell us about a project at Manchester which, if it gets off the ground, will be too big for the Housing the Arts scheme.

In addition to that I think the House would be interested to know that over the last ten years 16 universities have built new theatres and there are four more university theatres being built now. These 20 theatres received not a penny from the Arts Council. It is the Gulbenkian Foundation and other great Trusts, and of course the U.G.C., which have backed these 20 theatres. But they are a very big addition to the places at which drama companies can perform. Turning now to the Arts Council's own field one can say that the repertory theatres—and there are five more now under construction—have been largely cared for, and in consequence it should be possible now to pay more attention to the concert halls which the noble Baroness rightly mentioned.

At my request, Mr. John May, Secretary of the Association of British Orchestras, drew up an admirable and ambitious plan showing the gaps through- out the country where halls are wanted for large and small orchestras. This plan is now being studied by the Arts Council who have been astute enough to lay hands on Sir William Glock as he left Broadcasting House and to persuade him to become the chairman of their Arts panel. I think we can expect both expert and sympathetic examination of Mr. May's plan. Both the drama and the music panels of the Arts Council report a sharply increasing number of small companies catering for small audiences and very anxious to be supported in touring around the country. Already, for example, the Arts Council make grants to 31 small drama companies—very many more than two or three years ago. This is an excellent movement for two reasons: first, it gives more authors, performers and producers a chance to see what they can do; secondly, these small groups respond to the minority interests that are growing among the public.

Turning for a moment to opera and ballet, on which we had such interesting information both from my noble friend Lord Drogheda and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I would say that they are much more difficult to expand because of the cost per performance. For every performance of grand opera you put on, you need a larger subsidy. There is no way of covering the cost by increasing the output. The subsidy which my noble friend mentioned of £2 million to Covent Garden this year and £1¼ million to the Coliseum, £3¼ million in all, does not compare at all badly with the subsidies in most of the European cities where they have only one opera house. We are getting extremely good value for our £3 million because, as your Lordships know, Covent Garden and the Coliseum are both putting on a series of very fine productions. It is a great relief to me, at any rate, that the Coliseum is now playing to near capacity. Then there was mentioned the £6 million which we have provided to buy the land adjacent to the Royal Opera House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that artists so much love performing at the Garden that they seem willing to put up with almost anything. But I also agree that much better facilities in their existing house—a second auditorium and a solution to the rehearsal problems for the ballet—are very badly needed.

I would say, too, that we have to think ahead to the role which the Royal Opera and Ballet should play in Europe and on the television screens of the whole world. We cannot fully grasp the opportunities which are there without a major building programme. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said about the administrative difficulties. Of course, this is always true with large planning schemes. I think I see what the noble Lord would like and I undertake to speak to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and ask him what he thinks of the idea. In any case, it is probable that we should have to streamline the organisation for dealing with the Covent Garden building programme itself. My noble friend mentioned the main ballet company's reservations about touring. I was much cheered to hear his frank reference to the drafting of his own report. All I would say on that is that the negotiations are going on. I feel confident that a compromise will be arranged, and I think I must say that the dismay of people outside London that they might not see the Royal Ballet main company again was very strongly expressed. I think your Lordships would wish that that reaction should be taken account of.

Outside London, the Scottish and Welsh National Opera companies are going on very well. When they come to London to perform they will get a warm welcome. I look forward to nothing more than two-way touring between the Provinces and London. I do not believe that ten years from now that will be anything extraordinary. It is also true in opera, ballet and music that the sudden flowering of small groups, singing, dancing and making music, is one of the most significant movements of our time. The classic operas, ballets, symphonies and plays will, I suspect, go on drawing large audiences to big theatres providing that living artists are not breaking with tradition but absorbing and transforming it into new works of art.

I am a follower of T. S. Eliot: I think that in some way the past and the future are both contained in the present, and that is very true of the great traditions in the Arts. Anyway, we all know that new forms of Art are very uneven in quality and it is extraordinarily hard to know, when they first appear, whether they have any lasting quality. Because they are new they do not easily attract the audiences. That, for the Arts Council and for me, presents a problem of awkward implications, both of taste and finance. For example, the performance of new music requires more rehearsals than an item, say, from the classic repertoire. It must be very well performed and performed several times if the public is to understand what it is all about. If that does not happen it disappears before it has had a chance to be accepted.

Of course, poor box office returns mean large deficits, and large deficits mean large subsidies; but this would be true of almost all new and unfamiliar products unless they were skilfully introduced and at considerable cost. Manufacturers know that they have to spend much more on advertising a new product than on an established favourite. The reverse seems to be the practice in the Arts. The money available and the expertise required to promote and advertise the new works or new orchestras or new conductors are often, by all the experience of the commercial world, so inadequate as almost to guarantee failure. So I was very glad to learn that the Arts Council are planning to set up a publicity service and to give some aid to clients who, for one reason or another, cannot adequately promote themselves.

In this field of new Art it is bound to be difficult to know what to support. It is a matter of taste which has not yet had time to settle down; but I think that the taxpayer is entitled to ask that the quality of performance should be one essential test. A test that, for example, the London Sinfonietta and the Contemporary Dance Trust would pass with flying colours. The mistake which it would be easy to make is spreading the butter too thin, so that quality of performance and the money needed to publicise the product have to be cut below the level that makes sense. That said, I feel bound to add that, as at Newmarket, one cannot always back a winner. Once it is clear that a horse has only three legs, it is better to transfer one's investment on to another animal.

My Lords, I should like to say a word or two about the cinema. We owe a great debt to Mr. Denis Forman, the Chairman of the British Film Institute, who has carried through a considerable reorganisation with great tact and skill. It is quite clear that films made as an art form are immensely attractive to the young; that is to say, films made like a poet writes a poem or an artist paints a picture are, I think, likely to offer the most sensitive, moving and most easily understood interpretation of the joys and griefs, tensions and contradictions of our society. It seems clear that their appeal is wider than that of the other Arts. It is more immediate, and perhaps it is closer to the nerve and heart of the average television viewer. The British Film Institute has more money now to make such films, and I recommend to your Lordships Bill Douglas's "My Childhood." I cannot believe that life in a Scottish mining village could be better or more finely expressed through any other medium.

I should now like to say something about the National Film Archive. Neither the British Film Institute nor I are satisfied with its progress. At the present rate of transfer of nitrate film on to a safe acetate base it will take forty years to complete the transfer. As your Lordships will appreciate, a film in an archive is not the same as a book in a library. The master copy cannot be used for anything except making prints, which are then shown and studied: and the making of the prints is highly expensive. Further, too many of the films given to our Archive are in a poor condition and are not suitable for copying. The fact is that if we want our unique Archive (and in many ways it is unique) to be developed and acknowledged as the best in the world—and that we could do—we shall have to give it more resources; and we must consider a right of statutory deposit under which the Archive can select the new films it requires and get them in good condition. This is an important problem, and the longer we leave it unsolved the worse the trouble is going to be.

My Lords, there are many other aspects of the Arts which I must leave. I want, in conclusion, to return briefly to the essence of our policy. As I listened to the noble Baroness, I thought it would be fair to say that when a Government first decide to support the Arts they are very likely to develop their policy in three stages. They will begin by concentrating subsidies on their national companies in order to enhance the country's prestige in the world at large. Inevitably, that means favouring the Arts in the metropolis, which then provide increasing variety and enjoyment for the thin top layer of the population who are able and willing to go to the opera or the National Theatre. Secondly, they will try to extend performances of metropolitan standard to the Provinces, in this way catering for similar audiences for similar events. You only need the will and the money to carry out both these stages more or less satisfactorily, although in Britain we have a long way to go in regard to the second stage. But after a fair start has been made on stage 2, the policy has to be reconsidered if the Arts are to be extended to the great mass of the public who are not sufficiently prepared to move straight from no contact with the fine Arts to the appreciation of works of classical and modern masters. At this point there appears to be a choice. It is commonly believed that you can either go on directing all the available resources into enlarging the audiences, however slowly, for the highest art, or, in despair of ever being more than marginally successful, transfer your attention to popular Arts of, frankly, lower quality. You then try to adapt your methods to the culture of the working-class (as it was called), which is seen as something permanently distinct from metropolitan culture.

My Lords, when this Government came into office this choice was not posed. There was little discussion about the need to encourage other standards than metropolitan standards. It seemed to be assumed that to subsidise, for example, brass bands must be at the expense of the symphony orchestra. I could not accept this. I hoped that a new dimension could be added to the work which the Arts Council was already doing, and doing well, and that the new dimension would in the event prove to be a natural extension of the old. Without trying to define working-class culture, I do not believe that it is now so walled off and separate from middle-class culture as, say, Richard Hoggart would have us believe. I suppose some acquaintance with the maintained schools since the war taught me how much less there is to-day between the social classes compared to 50 years ago. Anyway, in 1973 everyone watches the television, and the television is producing a more unified culture. Of course there are distinct features in the popular Arts, in amateur Arts, and in the crafts, and there is life in these more humble manifestations which can nourish metropolitan culture. Equally, there is quality in metropolitan culture which the popular Arts need, and it should not be all that difficult to bring about a fruitful interchange.

Anyway, my Lords, this policy requires some re-organisation and extension of the operations of the Arts Council, and this the Council has in hand. By this time next year your Lordships should see the first results of the new regional and publicity department which is now being set up. We shall be moving towards a better balance between functional organisation of each art with its expert panel stemming from the centre, and territorial organisation of each region with its officers encouraging that mixture of all the Arts which awakes renewed interest and enjoyment in the life of a local community. My Lords, I have spoken for too long, and I apologise for that. I will stop now and, with your Lordships leave, rise later and answer the questions.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, join in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, for having introduced this subject this afternoon and having spoken so well on it. I say quite sincerely that I only wish that I had the eloquence to deal with this subject as I should like to. I think that we have been well served in this country by our Ministers and chairmen of various institutions, including Covent Garden, and by the Arts Council, its Director General, its Chairman and servants. They have done a really first-class job and I say that without my tongue in my cheek or any attempt to "butter them up" for a grant the next time we run a festival at Saddleworth.

May I comment on one or two of the things that the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, said. I would back him up on V.A.T. Are we going to start all over again the tiresome representations to perhaps an unsympathetic Government that we used to make for years about the reduction in entertainment tax? I sincerely hope we are not going to start that all over again. The noble Earl also made the point about overseas touring bodies. During last autumn I made an extensive journey to the Far East, Australia and South Africa, and I heartily endorse what the noble Earl said about the responsibility being firmly placed on the Arts Council or upon the Minister for the Arts for the arrangement of overseas tours by representative performing bodies from this country. To do this on the basic principle of sending quality overseas, instead of trying to make an impact on countries abroad in either a political or a trade sense, would carry a lot more influence and prestige with it.

Turning now to the touring of the Royal Ballet, I do not want to throw a spanner in at this juncture, but the last time the Royal Ballet came to Manchester I had great misgivings—not about the quality of the performance, which was superb—but on a more mundane and ordinary level. Do you know, my Lords, that some of those girls had only £17 a week and they were given £13 for maintenance during the week they were in Manchester? Moreover, thy had to find their own lodgings! I heartily endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, said about this factor. It really is time that we started looking at the more humane aspects of this matter, because unless we do there will always be a reluctance to tour in the Provinces.

The noble Baroness asked why there was no opera house in Manchester. I will try to explain. She was quite right in drawing attention to the activities of Sir Maurice Pariser. He had the right ideas at the time and he was able to make an impact on people connected with Manchester City to support the project of an opera house. Sir Maurice died and the idea lapsed. When I was Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, seeing the bulldozing that had gone on and the shifting of populations from one part of the country to another, the upsetting, of communities, undermining stability, I recognised that the Arts can have the most powerful influence in stabilising and in the settling of communities and getting people to work together. The noble Viscount, Lords Eccles, spoke about this man began to built and was not able to in part of his speech, when referring to the impact of technology and science and what we in this questioning age are doing to help the quality of living, part from the material aspects of it.

I drew together the Manchester City Council, and the Councils of Lancashire, Cheshire, and Liverpool. The first meeting was to follow up the report made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and the noble Earl, Lord Harewood, I believe, in 1969, when they suggested that Manchester would be an admirable place for an opera house. We did a really thorough investigation into the possibilities. We did our sums as regards audience prospects and we also went to a lot of trouble to find out how many people could get there; what parking facilities would be available, and so on; what impact the new roads, M.62, M.63, M.61 and the A.508 would have on the ability to get there. Then the North-West Arts Association came into the picture—I was not president then, though I am now—and they called a seminar which was chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Hare-wood, to examine the same prospects but laying much more emphasis on the practical aspects about setting up a company before building. My committee was then given the job of evaluating the evidence. The seminar had decided it would be better to start with a company for this purpose; and may I say that the state of play at the moment is that Manchester City, Lancashire County and Cheshire County are all agreed and are willing to back the project of the formation of a company. Liverpool at the moment is thinking it over and I am not going to say anything more about that, but I may be called upon at any time to go and address Liverpool council on the subject. Perhaps the less I say at this stage the better. They are very keen to come in too, but there are some very special things which need to be taken into consideration as far as they are concerned.

Now as to the building of the opera house, as I have mentioned before in your Lordships' House there is a quotation from verse 25, chapter 7, St. Luke's Gospel, where it says: which of you intending to build a Tower sitteth not down first to estimate the cost lest the neighbour should laugh saying "This man began to built was not able to finish"? At the time the opera house was mooted the cost was likely to be £½ million, but I could almost guarantee that it would be more likely £9 million to-day.

We could not get the same kind of tourist trade coming to Manchester to see an opera house they are getting in Sydney. I will come to the question of the alternative to this in a moment. If I do not mention the Sydney Opera House I hope somebody will shout at me and ask me to do so. I am convinced that we shall get off the ground with a North-West opera company, but the local authorities need encouraging and bringing along during this difficult period before the 1974 changeover. Anybody who has had anything to do with local authorities lately knows that many are bewildered and in difficulties from many points of view, and that to have got as far we have with three authorities saying that they will back it gives me the feeling that the venture will succeed. The Arts Council have been absolutely superb; they have been encouraging and generous in their offers. I am not going to say what they offered in case there may be a queue outside their offices in Piccadilly tomorrow morning.

What do we do when we have an opera company? How do we house it? This is all part and parcel of the problem. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, put his finger on it, and I think it was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, too. We ought to make use of the resources that we have. We have two theatres in Manchester, one holds 1,995 people and the other 2,115. There is very little in it between them. I believe there is only room commercially for one; attrition in the commercial field can be slow. Somehow or other we have to speed up a decision as to which theatre is going to survive. We have carried out a theatre study. We know what the touring companies such as Glyndebourne and the Festival Ballet, and all the national companies, think about the accommodation. With a reasonable amount of money these theatres could be put into shape.

Sometimes we have an exaggerated idea of what Covent Garden wants when it goes out into the Provinces. Covent Garden, we think, is a Mecca for opera lovers. But we do not want them to become élitist. Do not patronise us in the Provinces. Do not let long-haired people think that we cannot appreciate the more humbler forms of opera. The noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, talked about her father. My father was just the same; he earned no more than 26 shillings a week at any time in his life, but—my word!—he did know opera. And so did my grandfather. My grandfather could transpose an opera from a score with 103 parts for a brass band. He could do that as fast as anyone could write, and he never earned more than thirty shillings a week. These things are deep-rooted in the North-West. The Turner opera companies and Moody Manners and Carl Rosa used to tour these areas; and they put in something that we ought to be drawing on now, because it is still there. How are we going to do it? The first thing from our point of view is to get going with our opera company. We need the touring companies.

If a modest amount were spent on refurbishing one of the theatres, then in time, as Manchester became (shall I say?) the sophisticated centre of a large populated area, after 1974 they might get round to building an opera house. Manchester has had a terribly difficult time since the war. They have been finding their feet again. For instance Manchester had a satellite town of 120,000 people at Wythenshawe. There was not a single public building of any consequence there after thirty years which had to do with housing the Arts until twelve months last September, when they opened a precinct which cost £2½ million—and a fine building it is! It is expensive if you try to impinge Art on people; and I would draw attention to this absolutely first-class comment on page 26 of the Arts Council's report and accounts. The Director General says: The Arts cannot by blueprint plans, by subsidy or business promotion methods be legislated or coaxed into existence. It is the Council's function to give some national resources and encouragement whenever quality reveals itself, and to make the results available to as many people as possible". Everybody ought to have that as a reference. Where is the quality? Well, anybody who looks at the B.B.C. television programme on a Saturday afternoon, "We Want to Sing", at five minutes past five, can find some. If you have any loss of faith in the future of our people in this country, or your area or region, you can get a little hit of a fillip by watching that programme. It is what this debate is all about too. The quality of those children is really fantastic and wonderful. They are not hand picked for the programme. But watch the programme and I need not tell you about it. Those children go on to secondary modern, grammar or comprehensive schools. Have you heard the youth orchestras? Have you seen them performing? There is not a town that does not have its school orchestra or brass ensemble in the length and breadth of Lancashire. Their quality of technique is first class.

I want to make a plea, but I do not know where or how to make it. This is what I should like to have guidance on. We have this wonderful education for children until they leave school. You see them come on the concert programme with great assurance—the way they tune up and begin playing. Then what happens to it all when they leave school and hand their instruments in? They are handing back their hopes; they are handing back the thing they are good at. The living of many professionals in future will depend on the education of and appreciation of other young people who also have technical skills. Can this follow through be done by adult education? Can it be done through the Colleges of Further Education? I should like to have a view on this, because I believe if we could avoid thwarting the effort of scholars and teachers by enabling them to continue their music-making when they leave school, we shall be doing a service to the country. There are many more things that I should like to speak about, my Lords, but I have been on my feet too long. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, to follow my noble friend Lord Rhodes is difficult because he speaks with such enthusiasm that one really is carried away and one feels that if ever any county is going to end up with what it needs, it is Lancashire. I am sure that we shall see an opera house there before we have finished. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, asked me to make his apologies because he has been summoned away. Your Lordships will be sorry not to hear him, not only for his own sake but because you will be hearing only three and not four directors of the Royal Opera House this afternoon. That gets the proportion rather wrong. In view of the number of opera directors who have spoken, I shall not speak about Covent Garden, but I should like to take up one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes. Of course one does not want to nip in the bud the enthusiasm of the youthful musician by making him hand in his instrument if he is one of those who has reached a standard which can earn a living for him later on, but I think we have something very near over-production of absolutely first-class musicians. There is an enormously high standard in this country orchestrally at the moment—


My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will forgive me for interrupting him, I was not speaking about making professionals of them; I was speaking about their ability to express themselves in the way in which they have been doing at school.


My Lords, I accept that and it is a perfectly sound answer.

Two years ago we had a debate on the Arts and I came prepared with tremendous ammunition to defend my noble friend Lord Goodman against attacks which never came, so I had to scrap my speech and I made a different one. Rather the same thing has happened to me to-day: I came here, having worked out a lot of figures to prove what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has accepted as being already part of everybody's philosophy, which is that phase one must be to build up the centre, and it is not until we have done that that we can get on to phase two. So it seems that I can scrap that piece of information which I was going to give to your Lordships.

I think we have underestimated the incredible difference between what happens now and what happened forty years ago when many of us were in our most active concert-going time. Forty years ago Lilian Baylis had started opera for the people at the Old Vic. My first Figaro I saw there with Clive Carey and Stewart Wilson. I was still at school but I remember it vividly. Then came John Christie at Glyndebourne in 1934. I went to the second night. There were 30 people in the house and John Christie said, "It's perfectly all right; I shall be turning them away next year"—and he did and has been doing so ever since. Sir Thomas Beecham started the British National Opera Company, which was rather more ambitious and worked on a wider field than Glyndebourne; but while Glyndebourne flourished with its rather select audience the B.N.O.C. went bankrupt quite soon, and so did Sir Thomas. That was rather a setback, but not for him, because he denied any liability on the ground that neither moneylenders nor the Inland Revenue really counted—which is a point of view many of us share. Those three pioneers were the last people in this country to try to run opera without public subsidy; Glyndebourne succeeded and the other two failed. The Old Vic failed in the sense that it failed to get the public trust quickly; the British National Opera Company failed altogether, but Glyndebourne has managed until very recently and I am glad to say has now joined the fold on a small scale, particularly in relation to touring.

I was not until the War, when the troops went to Italy, that the impact of Italian opera on the troops, when there was nothing else to go to, made it clear how ordinary people respond to the chance to hear opera if it is made easy for them to do so. This response has grown and has been nurtured and nourished by the Arts Council. In this House we have the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge. This House has played a large part in the building up of opera, and I should like to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, what a wise appointment I think he has made in the present chairman, who is one of the few people who could carry on the dynamism shown by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in an effective way.

Exactly the same story is true in ballet. Dame Ninette de Valois persuaded Lilian Baylis to let her start a ballet with really no resources at the Sadler's Wells, and this built up to the Royal Ballet, which is perhaps the greatest in the world—anyhow, equal to any other. Meanwhile all the opera houses are full; the touring companies, the Scottish in the North and the Welsh in the West, play to large capacities—not quite full, but very nearly. There are a number of smaller companies, like the Phœnix, Ben. Britten's English Opera Group and a number of smaller ballet groups, all of which are doing well. And the exciting thing is that the musical director of Covent Garden is an Englishman; of the Welsh National Opera is an Englishman; of the Scottish National Opera is a Scot and of the London Coliseum is an Australian. Without being jingoist, we have not got a foreigner in the place; and when that is compared with what happened in earlier days it is a most extraordinary situation.

There are only two criticisms; one is, that there has been too much for London, and the other is, that there has been too much for opera and ballet. I shall not say anything about "too much for London" because I think that point has been well covered. On the other hand, we have not spoken much about the share that opera and ballet ought to get of the whole, and it is worth looking at. If we take ballet, it is really a separate Art, and if we look at the latest figure from the Arts Council we find that £350,000 is spent on the smaller ballet companies, including the Festival Ballet Company, and a share of the large figure which goes to Covent Garden goes to the Royal Ballet. I will not put a figure on that, but as the figure in that year was £1,600,000 it is certainly somewhat less than half. The total figure spent on ballet is probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of £1 million. I do not think anybody would think that considering the amount that happens outside London this is the least unreasonable.

Of course, opera is a more difficult problem, but it is a part of music and no assistance to music which excludes opera can be taken seriously, because Wagner and Verdi never wrote anything but opera and they are perhaps two of the greatest composers there have ever been. So one cannot just laugh opera off. It has to be dealt with and the only way it can be dealt with is by paying, and paying through the nose. This we have proved, and the Arts Council, supported by successive Governments, has allowed us to do so. It is perhaps worth noting that there are something like 1,000 artists (by which I mean performers on the stage and not behind it) in opera—not ballet—who are earning a decent living to-day. As it takes nearly as many men to keep one man on the stage as it does to keep one man in the front line, one can say that about 4,000 jobs are the result of the figure which the Arts Council spend on opera, which I reckon, if we deduct notional figures for ballet, works out at something not much more than £2½ million. That has to be compared with the £35 million which the Government pumped into the Upper Clyde to preserve 4,300 jobs. I think that is a useful comparison. We do not have to apologise all that much, my Lords.

I am not going to use my carefully prepared argument not to take money away from London, because I do not think that anybody is going to. So may I turn to an absolutely different subject which I believe is very important and which the noble Viscount touched on in a most encouraging way (and my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Hampstead and I will hold the noble Viscount to this); that is, the question of archives. Only in the last year or two has it been possible to keep records of the performing Arts at all. We have nearly perfect records of the written word. They are not always very easily accessible, but they are all there, perfectly catalogued and perfectly available. But we are building up in the National Film Archive, to which the noble Viscount referred, and in the British Institute of Recorded Sound, which his Department also subsidises to some extent, very comprehensive archives of both television and film material, on the one hand, and discs and tapes on the other. Neither archive is complete and both are daily becoming less complete, and that is what is worrying. I am here to ask the Minister to give immediate and special attention to this question because it is slipping through our fingers in a way which is really dangerous.

Archives are concerned not only with the performing Arts but also with contemporary events as history, particularly with newsreels, current events, interviews with great men and with the man in the street, discussion programmes and even political speeches. These combine to make up what is known as "oral history". In addition to that, the British Institute of Recorded Sound has a remarkable collection of wildlife sounds: recordings of 220 birds, 19 mammals, 8 insects, 3 amphibians and one reptile. Any classical scholar who wants to compare the "Brekekekex koax koax" of Aristophanes with the real thing is welcome to go to Exhibition Road and for no fee he can put on the amphibian record.

The Minister referred to compulsory statutory deposit. This is a very difficult subject and is more difficult in the context in which he was dealing with it, which is films, than in that of records and sound recordings. My noble friend Lord Lloyd of Hampstead has specialised in the subject of films and will deal with that when he comes to speak. I would only say that to have compulsory deposit of records or tapes is not expensive or difficult. It can be done quite easily. At the moment, it is worth noticing that the film archive gets less than a third of what it would get if it were able to select what it wants. As the noble Viscount also pointed out, there is a great deal of current work to be done in copying films which otherwise cannot be used. An archive of material which people cannot look at is rather less than totally useful. One might go so far as to say that it was totally useless, but that is not quite so, because it is an essential archive but it is nothing more. It is rather like the Treasury view, "Never spend to-day what will cost more to-morrow", that we should put ourselves in the position of spending a lot of money, and building up an archive which is about 80 per cent. efficient and which nobody can use. It may be all right, but I doubt it; and I doubt that the Minister thinks so. I feel that there is something to go for here.

Another thing which is very important is that both these mediums suffer violent changes. In records, there was the change from 78 r.p.m. to 33 r.p.m. At that stage the commercial companies found that they had stacks of records on their hands which were no longer saleable, and they dumped them. If the British Institute of Recorded Sound had had a fund on which they could call they could have bought these records for virtually nothing and preserved valuable archive material. The same applies with films, with the change already referred to from the nitrate film to the cellulose tri-acetate film. And there is also the advent of colour.

I want to say one word about the British Institute of Recorded Sound. My noble friend will talk about the British Film Institute as he is a director. I am a director, though an almost incredibly non-technical director, of the British Institute of Recorded Sound. This has been a one-man band for much of its 25 years' life, conceived and achieved almost single-handedly by Mr. Patrick Saul. He now has powerful help in the formidable chairmanship of Sir Frank Figgures and has a powerful Council which can give him the kind of aid and support which he needs; and above all the B.B.C. have been consistently helpful and promised to go on being helpful. We house some 250,000 discs and tapes which is really quite a large quantity, and we have space to expand owing to the foresight of the Institute in buying a site for a very small sum of money but which is now worth a great deal. That action caused more trouble than anything else they did during the whole of their 25 years, but we are now all the best of friends and the potential profit has produced forgiveness and we are very well pleased.

The sums required to put these two things on a proper basis are not large. Each archive should be required to prepare a phased plan. I believe both are already doing so. That plan should be to bring them up to a state of total efficiency, equipped to take their places as integral parts of a national archive system. That involves a considerable and obligatory service to the public of the kind which the National Film Archives cannot give because they cannot produce their films. What we want, and what I am specifically asking the Minister for, is a firm hand to iron out the problems and to see that these two archives, which are both on the verge of becoming what we want, do not slip through the mesh. There are a number of problems, but none is one which the Minister cannot solve quite easily if he had the time and a little money. The cash is quite small in relation to the figures we are talking about. Both these archives are on the verge of what we want to see, but let there be no doubt of the artistic and historical importance of live performances of the performing Arts and oral history, a record of current events.

In spite of the marvellous legacy of Greece and Rome, how much more complete would our understanding be if we could not only hear but actually see Socrates during his dialogues with Plato. The mind boggles at the thought. Or even if we could see a newsreel of the Ides of March. These are the things which in relation to today we are actually letting go and I regard it as extremely important that it should be accepted as the duty of a civilised society to spend this small amount of money to preserve these records.

I have only one more point to make and it is quite a different one. It must be the duty of the Arts Council to foster and encourage original contemporary work of all kinds. The reports shows that they are not backward in this respect and that in relation to opera both London houses have commissioned modern works from contemporary Englishmen. They have not always been entirely successful, but they are slowly building up a public for this sort of thing. We ought to urge the Council never to let themselves be driven into a position of censorship. They must draw the line between supporting what is new and original and what is ridiculous or obscene, but they must do it by backing individuals and giving them a free hand. That may well lead them to situations which are extremely embarrassing to defend, and that is why the chairman must be a man of courage and independence. I feel sure that the chairman is such a man and that this will be all right. But it is something which we have always to look at.

Looking at the thing as a whole, we are not asking for large sums of money. The Arts Council expects to spend £14 million in the coming year and the total expenditure on the Arts, which includes museums and galleries, is put at £41 million. This is 0.16 per cent. of the total Government expenditure. It is hardly more than half the spending on libraries. We are not asking for much more, but to keep up with what we already have means a considerable increase due to inflation. We are asking that we should maintain our standards; that we should give new money to the Provinces and we ask for a modest addition on archives. Before sitting down I would thank my noble friend—if I may call him so from so far—Lord Drogheda, for introducing this debate. It has been very interesting.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my own tribute to my noble friend Lord Drogheda, not only for giving us the opportunity of having this debate but for the characteristically masterly manner in which he opened it. At a time when our minds are very much on the disturbing scene of the international situation, on Ulster and on the industrial front, it is indeed refreshing to be able to turn to a subject more peaceful, and yet still vitally important, not only within this country but also as a great export potential. Several years ago I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House on one of the Arts Council's reports, and I then coined a phrase, "Penicillin before Puccini"—and I still stick to that phrase. Of course, if one looks at the matter from a financial aspect, our hospitals, our housing services, our roads, all essential services, need money; and there are those who say, "Well, are the Arts an essential service? We can perhaps do without Puccini and the great operas, but we cannot do without the essential medicines." Of course, in theory this is true, and yet the Arts in this country have been one of our greatest attributes for many years.

There have been in this debate a number of distinguished speakers who are far more intimately concerned with the Arts and far more knowledgeable than I. I can claim only a small role as a trustee of the relatively new Thorndike Theatre at Leatherhead in Surrey. We have had the honour of visits from both my noble friend Lord Eccles and the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge. I should like to echo the tributes which have been paid to them. I think the noble Baroness in her term as Minister for the Arts really did a sterling job, and to her team and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, certainly I know Miss Hazel Vincent-Wallace, the very dynamic director of the Thorndike Theatre, and others, are eternally grateful.

I might perhaps mention one aspect of this theatre. I do not want to be out of order in carrying on an advertising campaign but a new venture is about to take place. A performance of Arthur Sheridan's great drama The Rivals is currently taking place at the theatre. Shortly, it is going out to America, to the Bucks County Play House at New Hope in Pennsylvania, which also has, as I understand it, a fairly small but excellent repertory company. This company will shortly be coming over here, to Leatherhead, to perform one of Thornton Wilder's well-known plays, Our Town. I mention this because I believe this is the first time that a repertory theatre in this country has taken on an exchange visit of this kind, and one can only hope it will be the forerunner of many. There is no doubt that through the medium of the Arts a very great deal can be done in improving not only cultural relations but also international relations. I may say that the theatre itself is thriving. Not only does it put on some very resourceful plays, but some very fine Sunday night concerts.

While on the subject of repertory theatres, may I turn for one moment to Scotland, which has not yet been mentioned. Last year my family and I paid our first visit to that very splendid theatre at Pitlochry in Perthshire, the Theatre in the Hills, surely one of the loveliest settings for a theatre, and there was a really splendid company there, too. I think one of the great attractions, particularly to tourists, is that the kilted manager comes to greet each person on entering the theatre. As one who is indirectly concerned professionally with public relations, I believe this is an important factor.

If I may turn for one moment to opera, which has been mentioned, some years ago I had the pleasure of going behind the scenes at Covent Garden with the late Sir David Webster, prior to opening a debate on the Arts in your Lordships' House. There is no doubt that conditions for the artists and the staff are most inadequate, and one can only hope that with the redevelopment of Covent Garden and the theatre this will be put right. There is no doubt that Govent Garden has a tremendous appeal to international artists. I had the pleasure recently of talking to Kiri to Kanawa from New Zealand, and another fine artist (who was here for a time this afternoon) Martti Talvela, from Finland, and some very fine singers have come from many parts of the world to Covent Garden, despite the fact that faci- lities backstage are not all they might be. Standards are extremely high notwithstanding that. I would also endorse all that has been said of the Coliseum Theatre. Here opera, offered at somewhat less expensive prices than at Covent Garden, still maintains the highest standards. And, of course, we have these very fine Opera for All companies which go to many parts of the country and give performances of a really high standard. Those who regard this country as lacking in musical talent should really go and see some of these small performances.

Turning for a moment to our orchestras and concert halls, some years ago my friend, Mr. Basil Cameron, one of our finest conductors in his heyday, told me in no uncertain language of the shocking conditions in most of our concert halls in this country. I think, in fairness, since then there have been some improvements. Nevertheless, there is much room for improvement, and I hope that at least some of the outcome of the Housing of the Arts documents, which are now almost in the archives but nevertheless still very vital, are put into operation. I may say here that when I was in Finland three years ago I went behind the scenes in the then new National Theatre in Helsinki, and the storage space for props and other items struck me as being almost as large as, if not larger than, the auditoriums of many of our leading theatres.

Of course one must compare like with like, and Scandinavian countries have very much more room to build than we have, but it is something which, if we are going to maintain really high standards, must be looked into. My Lords, sonic of our provincial orchestras do from time to time undergo great financial crises. Bournemouth has this problem, and yet both in the concert hall and in the recording studio they work wonders, and under the late Constantin Silvestri from Roumania, and under their present Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund, they are going from strength to strength.

Last Sunday my family and I went to the Royal Albert Hall to hear the great Mahler Eighth Symphony. It was performed not by a professional orchestra but by the Cambridge University Music Society under that marvellous conductor, David Wilcox. I cannot recall a more moving musical experience and I think it proves one thing, that among the young people in this country—and I bear in mind, too, the fine National Youth Orchestra—we have some really fine up and coming musicians, not only in the orchestra but in voice as well.

My Lords, I hope that this debate will be widely read and studied by those in the various art professions. I think one thing is quite certain. The Arts Council is doing a very fine job. However, I think that some of our local authorities, despite the other priorities which face them at the present time—and they do have enormous social priorities—could do more. If there is one thing in which this country really excels I think it is in artistic talent; this cannot be said too frequently.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with practically everybody else who has spoken in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, for having initiated this debate. It is not a subject which often gets an airing in your Lordships' House and I am very grateful that it has done so to-day. I think possibly that I should declare a few minor interests in that I am a composer, a member of the Composers Guild, a full member of the Performing Rights Society and also a director of one of our leading chamber orchestras, Philomusica.

My Lords, may I turn first to the problems of the orchestras. I do not think the general public as a whole realise what their problems are. I do not think they realise that it is impossible to-day for even a major orchestra like the London Symphony or the Royal Philharmonic to put on a concert without incurring a loss, and if it were not for the support they have from the Arts Council, of course they would not be able to perform at all. The expenses are terrific—the hire of the hall, the printing of programmes, the fees of the players themselves are all heavy burdens—and they just have to do what they can, but they generally end the season "in the red".

Many have said that the Arts Council are doing a splendid job. I agree that in many ways they are; but they are absolutely tied and shackled by the fact that they have not got enough money and if they have not got the money to give out to the orchestras nobody can blame them. I only hope that one result of our entering Europe—perhaps the only good result—will be that the comparison between what we do with what other countries do will so shame us that we will make a better effort. Support for the provincial orchestras comes partly from local government, as does that for the four London orchestras. Incidentally, before I leave the London orchestras, I should like to say a word about some grumbles that have been voiced about there being four major orchestras in London. There is nothing wrong in that. They do not play only in London. They are national orchestras; they travel over the whole country, and abroad. In fact, I was reading only the other day of the London Philharmonic playing in China and having an enormous success there. Although their head offices may be in London, they cannot be regarded as London orchestras, any more than can the Halle whose head office is in Manchester. But orchestras' travel over the country is limited to a certain extent by a lack of concert halls. Here I would join most heartily in what the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, said about the need for more building. As a professional musician, I was very glad indeed to hear her speak to-day. I think most of us feel that we owe more to her than to any other Minister who has been in charge of the Arts, because she really made a very great effort to help performing artists.

My Lords, we want more concert halls, and, incidentally, of a better quality. Even the Festival Hall behind the scenes was, until a short time ago when it was rebuilt, a very bleak place indeed. In fact, I remember once when I was in the Bach Choir going to the choir changing room—a very barren, large room where one had nothing except a peg on which to hang a hat and coat. There was nothing else there at all. Those behind-the-scenes quarters could be made much more suitable for artists who are about to perform.

Regarding the provincial orchestras, they, as I say, get help to a certain degree from local government. One particularly lucky orchestra is the Liverpool Philharmonic which gets splendid support from the Liverpool City Council. But they have a hall, and there are only a few major halls throughout the country which are big enough for a large orchestra to give a concert. The question is not one of sound or anything like that; but merely a question of expense. Unless you have a large hall, you cannot recoup enough from the number of tickets that you sell. Many have said that it would be a good thing if we could spread our four London orchestras throughout Greater London. Admittedly, that would be quite a good idea. But where are they to go? Where are the concert halls? One idea that I have been very keen about is the preservation of Alexandra Palace as a concert hall. That would make an excellent concert hail. There have already been some concerts there and, although there is a determined effort in local government to knock the whole place down, I think it is very well worth preserving. It is not at all a beautiful place from an architectural point of view, but it would be extremely useful for purposes such as the giving of concerts.

I should like to turn from the practical and financial aspect to look at the matter from the composer's point of view, because without composers the orchestras would have nothing to play. To-day, it is very difficult indeed for the average composer to get his work either heard or published. It is especially difficult for him to get it heard if it is an orchestral work, because the orchestras all know that they have only to include one unknown work in their programme and a quarter of the hall will be empty. There is no doubt that the British public do not want to hear what they do not know. This is an area in regard to which television could do a very good job indeed. Of course, I must grant that there is an enormous amount of music being written to-day which is not worth the paper that it is written on, but that cannot be said of the whole of it. There is some very fine music being written, and it is up to those who have any sense of selection at all to find out which is good and which is bad. Sometimes it just has to prove itself, by whether or not it lives to have a second performance.

As regards the publishing side, the publishers are in a bad way. One very good job that the Arts Council could do is to give publishers a subsidy for publishing new works. At the moment, practically the only publishers who are really doing any live work in London have said that they cannot take on anything that they do not think will make a good sale. I offered to them an oboe quartet. Naturally, that would not have a very large sale and, though they liked it as a musical work, they would not take it on, because they said that the sale would not be large enough. That wipes out practically all chamber music, with the possible exception of string quartets or piano trios. Therefore, the composer is in a very difficult position indeed in getting his work published. There has been a memorandum on this subject by the Composers' Guild, suggesting that there might be a change in the law of copyright, so that it would be possible to have composers' manuscripts photographed without transgressing the law of copyright. I only hope that that change will come about, because at the moment I cannot see any chance of the publishers ever getting on to a sounder financial basis. Their expenses are going up the whole time, and there is so much new work that they are finding it very difficult to choose which to accept.

I end on one subject which is very close to my heart, and that is music in the church. Having been an organist, I am very sad indeed at the fact that choir schools all over the country are closing down, right, left and centre. The result is that the supply of choristers for the various cathedrals and churches is becoming more difficult. There is also the fact that a choir school gives one a musical education which is never forgotten. One is taught to read music from a very early age; it teaches one the value of music and how to judge between good and bad. Many who have attended choir schools have become professional musicians in their later lives. Therefore, I feel that it is very sad indeed to see all that going by the board. I am afraid that the present trend in our church services does not help to encourage choral music. I only hope that some attention will be paid to what is happening and that these schools will be given some support, so that they may go on giving what they can to young and musically gifted people.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I have to begin by declaring two interests. First, I am a member of the Arts Council and a member of a new committee on regional development, on which I shall keep your Lordships for only a few moments. Secondly, I am employed by the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, to write pieces in the Financial Times, so he is able to dismiss me if I say anything which he thinks is inappropriate. However, we all thank him for introducing this debate. I do not think I can remember a discussion in your Lordships' House which has been more generally harmonious, and that harmony I do not propose to disturb. There have been one or two fashionable stereotypes trotted out which I should like some private words about, but they are not important and, in general, we are all agreed.

We are all agreed on one or two very fundamental points. The first is that the concept of public subsidy for the Arts is now not controversial. That is beyond debate, and we all agree that that has to happen. There is no question about it, it is settled, the public accepts it, all opinion accepts it. Further, I would think only very foolish people quarrel with the fact that we subsidise ballet, opera, and works which do not command very large audiences. All Arts are minority Arts, except perhaps certain programmes on television and professional football. But if we are to be reduced to certain programmes on television and professional football, because that is all a large public requires, then we shall really be cutting our own throats and we shall deserve whatever fate befalls us. That would be egalitarianism gone mad. In fact, if you went to countries in Eastern Europe they would think it egalitarianism gone mad even to question the idea that one should pay for ballet and opera, simply because there is no other way of producing it. They do it themselves on an enormous scale, very expensively, although their standard of consumer living is of course far lower than ours. So these major problems are already settled. We need not worry about them; they are all right.

The problem which the Arts Council is concerned with is more local, more definite and, in my view, of considerable importance. It is: how do we get Arts out of London? Again, there is no discussion that there should be these great companies in London. That is fine, and they have reached a standard which is a credit to this country. But there is a lot of this country outside London, and somehow we have got to see that people are not starved of the higher standards of Performing Arts if they happen to be born in Kidderminster. This has been a question on the minds of everyone concerned for the last ten years. It is not something new. Again, there is a consensus of opinion—and I do not know anyone who dissents from it—that this has to be done by hook or by crook. It is not entirely easy. The Arts Council has been at it since 1965–66 and the present Government are deeply committed to it—and there is no conspiracy between the two; they happen to agree. They agreed in the time of the noble Baroness, Lady Lee, and the agreement is still complete. As the noble Baroness said, in fact the actual percentage of money spent on the major London company has gone down very considerably, from just under half the total subvention to the Arts Council in 1965–66 to rather under a quarter to-day, and that is at least an earnest of good intention.

There are other promising aspects. There are something like fifty working repertory companies, largely helped at least, and in some cases largely supported, by the Arts Council, in full and effective operation. As the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, reminded us, there are something like twenty university theatres working and active, but not supported so far as we know by anybody, except remotely of course by the State. Also some very good school theatres have started. We want considerably more than this, for one good theatre in a provincial town can make an immense difference to the general life of that town. It does not matter very much that it will attract only a moderately small fraction of the community. It is usually an active part of the community; a part of the community which talks about things, which works at the Arts, is at least a passive supporter of the Arts. Those are the people we want to link in any sort of general national artistic community.

Here I think I must give a faint dash of cold water. It should be possible—I am sure it is possible; and we are some distance towards it—to get a participating sense of interest in audiences and actors all over the country. It is unrealistic to imagine that we shall get regional art in the full creative sense. If anyone thinks you can produce regional art in a country this size, as the Americans have done in the South, he is completely misjudging how art springs. Southern America had a different history, almost a different culture, from the Northern American society. We have had nothing like that except in Wales and Scotland. It would be possible to produce an indigenous creative art in Wales and Scotland which it never would be in the rest of the British Isles in the narrow sense. The last regional artist of any consequence that this country produced was Thomas Hardy, and he was writing about a region he invented for himself existing at least thirty years before he was born. Since then, there has been nothing anyone could possibly call regional art. So let us not pitch our hopes in that direction too high. But we can, rightly and urgently, commit ourselves to getting Performing Arts effectively represented both in the communities and as a result of reciprocal touring or whatever you like to call that which the noble Viscount mentioned and which I think we are all extremely eager to see in full operation.

The noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, cheered us up—or, at least, cheered me up—by making a kind of statement of intention that the ballet company and the opera company hope, at least, to tour slightly more extensively than they have managed to do. I am sure he knows this, but we should all like to impress on him that this is something we actively wish to see. I know that in modern conditions touring is extremely boring. People like playing in the houses they are used to; and they like—and this is an important fact—London audiences. Just as London acting is some of the best in the world, so are London audiences some of the best in the world, and they do not like being parted from that very much. But the noble Earl used the word "duty". It is a very old-fashioned word, but there is something in it. Remember, any performers or any artists of any kind—actors, writers, whatever you like—really ought to consider themselves given a great grace if they can make a living out of doing something they very much want to do. It is a grace not granted to many people. It is not, one knows, granted to many actors. Many actors would give their ears to be employed by the large London companies, and I presume many dancers and singers would do just the same to be part of the ballet and the opera company. Therefore they ought to pay for this, and I think "duty" is not too harsh a word. They ought to consider this as part of their lives, and be prepared to pay a certain sacrifice for it.

Again, they may learn something from their colleagues in Eastern Europe. There is no question there of people saying, "Conditions are not entirely wonderful, and therefore we cannot go to Novo Sibirsk", or wherever it is. They just do; it is part of the artist's life. It is part of a writer's life in Russia to go to remote public libraries and make a speech. He is not paid. He gets his expenses, but nothing more. Even a foreign writer, if he is known in the Soviet Union, is expected to accept such an invitation. Not to do so would be distinctly bad manners, if no more.

Here I would put in one plea. The noble Baroness, Lady Lee, made an eloquent statement about housing the Arts. Again, there is nothing between us on this. We all think this is very important and that it must be done. But in demanding good conditions it seems to me important not to forget that sometimes one has to improvise. This country is very bad at improvisation. We congratulate ourselves on how frightfully good we are at it. In fact, we are worse than almost any country I know. We like to have every button stitched and everything perfect before we think any action is possible. This was one of our real troubles in fighting the Germans in the last war. They were masters of improvisation; we were not. We ought to be prepared to put up with a bit of difficulty. We also ought to be prepared to put up with a certain amount of negative improvisation. Here I support very warmly what the noble Lords, Lord Annan and Lord Somers, said. It is rather foolish, when we are desperately short of decent places in which to act, to pull down theatres in which it is possible to act. For instance, to pull down the Coronet Theatre is a ridiculous thing to do. It is a nice theatre; it could, with very little expenditure, be made an admirable part of North London. Alexandra Palace was mentioned. Let us do a little sensible negative improvisation there. Further, I should like to put in another plea to the noble Viscount to support what the noble Earl said about conceivable changes in taxation. We could get support from private citizens all over the country if the tax law for this kind of benefaction was something like the American one. At the moment we are in danger of getting the worst of both worlds: the worst of private enterprise, which does not give the money, and State subsidy which has not enough money to give. It is a foolish way of handicapping ourselves.

Finally, I should like to give your Lordships comfort. On regional development, the Arts Council are totally committed. We have already a new directorate of regional development under Mr. Neil Duncan who was head of one of the associations, the Southern Association I think. We have an active committee which many of us are sitting on including the panels, and a great deal of thought, energy and devotion is already going into it. I am sure we can make it a success and this discussion ought to help us to do so.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I want to correct one or two small points. On the question of touring and the duty of Covent Garden, I was speaking in the context of ballet. I think the noble Lord, Lord Snow, mentioned opera and ballet. In fact, opera has not been expected to tour from Covent Garden since about 1960—I am not sure of the exact year. The other point I want to correct was when he said that he was employed by me. It was a tremendous distortion of the truth: we were both employed by the same employer.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, one of the most interesting aspects of the noble Viscount's speech was his emphasis on the inter-relationship between the different kinds of Art as one of the most significant features of the Art world at the present day. Certainly there is no aspect of the Arts where this is more manifest than in the case of the film. Yet, surprisingly enough, one finds the art of the film is still somewhat undervalued and underestimated in this country. This is a pity and there can be no doubt that the British Film Institute has performed an immensely valuable service in seeking to promote that art. I am glad that the noble Viscount has paid a very well deserved tribute to Mr. Denis Forman for the skilful leadership he has provided at the Institute in the last few years and which has been of such immense value in enabling them to face the many pressing problems, indeed, the many challenging problems, which they have had to meet in recent years and which they are now fairly well equipped to face.

We have had the advantage of a Minister very sympathetic towards the problem of the British Film Institute, as we had in his predecessor, the noble Baroness, Lady Lee. That sympathy has been expressed in the most practical way by an increase in the financial grant. This is not to say that such an increase has thereby solved all the financial problems—by no means. Nevertheless, it has enabled some progress to be made. I should like particularly to welcome the matter to which the Minister referred, the increase in the grant to the Film Production Board which is a part of the British Film Institute and which has put them in a better position to encourage the making of experimental films. The importance of such films is made sufficiently manifest by the example which the noble Viscount himself mentioned, the film by the young and very promising director Bill Douglas, My Childhood, which was applauded not only by esoteric film critics and film festivals round the world but also by the general viewing public.

One of the most important branches of the British Film Institute is the National Film Archive. Here again I am extremely glad that the Minister has selected this particular aspect of its work for mention, because the National Film Archive, as he indicated, is in a somewhat anomalous situation from the point of view of its acquisitions. A very large amount of capital has been invested in the National Film Archive yet it has to this day no acquisition grant whatsoever. It has no money specially placed at its disposal to enable it to acquire the films it needs and therefore it has to rely on gifts. What it does, if I may use the phrase that my noble friend Lord Annan used in our debate on the Arts last year, is to avail itself of the begging bowl. It must appeal for gifts of selected films. This is a rather extraordinary way of trying to build up an archive of films which represents, quite apart from their artistic worth which is in many cases considerable, part of the living fabric of our society. One is perhaps tempted to recall the words of Hamlet when he referred to the players: … let them be well used; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time:". That could be said about the film, the film which chronicles our times and records it in so striking a way and which, if preserved, will be of immense value to posterity.

My Lords, once a film makes its way into the Archive it is used with loving care, but unfortunately that loving care is often bestowed upon an object which is hardly deserving of it. Without wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth I must say that the reason for this is that the gifts of film bestowed on the Archive are frequently extremely badly worn copies which no one would think of storing in an archive if there were any possible alternative. Unfortunately, in addition, many makers, producers and owners of films decline requests for copies. They may have excellent reasons. There may be no copies in existence but in many cases it may be merely a matter of policy. Be that as it may, copies of much of this material are not forthcoming. As far as television material is concerned, copies are practically never available; so there are enormous gaps in an archive of this sort. Year by year a highly selective list is drawn up by an extremely competent committee, but of that list only a fraction is obtained and of that fraction the bulk is in very poor condition. Surely that is not the basis on which one wishes to develop a great national archive.

What, then, is the answer to this problem? I venture to suggest that the only possible answer is a statutory right to acquire copies of any film or taped material which has been exhibited or broadcast to the public. Although the analogy is by no means very close, a similar situation arises with regard to printed books and the British Museum and other national libraries. In fact, a Bill for statutory deposit was introduced in the other place in 1969 by Dr. Kerr, but for various reasons it did not make much progress. I should like to emphasise that it is not the desire of the National Film Archive to preserve everything, after the manner of the British Museum which takes a copy of every printed book; they wish to continue their policy of selecting material. But it is important that this selection should not be limited to national film productions. It would be an absurdity to have a film archive which contained merely British films. After all, film is a great international art. One has only to mention it to realise how ridiculous it would be to exclude from a National Film Archive the most significant United States film productions over the last 50 years. That would indeed be Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. A National Gallery limited to British artists, however meritorious such artists might be, would be a mere ghost of a National Gallery.

But, my Lords, the main problem here is that of cost. I must point out that though my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge rightly drew attention to the somewhat similar problem with regard to the Institute of Recorded Sound, and emphasised that there should be no particular difficulty in giving that body a statutory right, nevertheless, from the financial viewpoint the problem is very different. Tapes and discs which embody the recorded sound that my noble friend desires to record—and indeed has effectively stored in his great archive of recorded sound—are comparatively inexpensive. One could envisage a statutory right to call for copies on rather similar lines to the book situation, and this would not cost the producers of tapes and discs very much money. But when dealing with film you are dealing with an expensive product. It costs a great deal of money to produce a copy of a film, particularly if it is a coloured film. Therefore one could hardly expect the cost of doing that to be borne by the producers and distributors of films in this country, and more particularly in the case of foreign film producers and distributors.

It is not much good having a statutory right of deposit in a National Film Archive unless there is some financial resource to back it. Otherwise you may be worse off than before, because you would have your statutory right but you would have no money to pay for what you need; and having that right might even have the effect of causing the gift system, on which hitherto reliance has been placed, to dry up altogether. Looking at the thing realistically, one needs, not a vast sum, but a not inconsiderable one, to back the statutory right of deposit; some kind of acquisition fund comparable with that given to one of our great museums.

As I have said, it was extremely gratifying that the Minister should indicate that he is alive to this problem. One can only express the hope not only that he will support the introduction of some form of legislation which will create a statutory right of deposit, but also that in some way or other—I do not seek to enter into any detail at this stage—he will make available some kind of acquisition fund which will enable the British Film Institute, through its Archive, to obtain a reasonable proportion of those films which are selected year by year. If that is done, we shall reach the stage when we may regard ourselves as possessing not only an important National Film Archive but also one of such significance that it would be in the forefront of the great film archives of the world.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, will forgive me if I do not follow him in dealing with the National Film Archive. It has been dealt with by a number of speakers and I do not think that I can add anything to what has been said. I am in a difficulty at this late stage in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who spoke some way ahead of me, said that many of the arguments he had prepared were used before he spoke and so he had to destroy his. He also said a rather odd thing: that not long ago he had come to a debate on the Arts with arguments prepared to defend the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, which also he had to destroy. I was, of course, not surprised to hear that, because if ever a man could defend himself it is the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. If one prepares arguments to defend him I think that one should be prepared to scrap them at an early stage.

Nevertheless, my Lords, I think it will be difficult for me to make any new points. Many of the points that I should have liked to make have been made already, but I hope that I may be able to embellish one or two of them and even manage to contrive one new point. If I do, I shall precede it by explaining that it is a new point. I had to leave the Chamber for a short while and it may be that during my absence the point was made. In which case I hope that your Lordships will say, "Not original", to which I shall reply, "Yes it is", and you will say, "No it is not" and so at this late hour in the evening we may introduce a little theatrical excitement into the proceedings.

We are very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, for giving us an opportunity to discuss the progress of the performing Arts in this country. I am particularly pleased that it was the noble Earl who tabled this Motion. As we all know, he is the distinguished Chairman of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and, as he explained, he and his team are experiencing some difficulty in sending a major company of the Royal Ballet on tour in the Provinces. Here I should declare my various interests in this area. I am Chairman of the Yorkshire Arts Association and Chairman of the Planning Conference of Regional Arts Association. Both these bodies are concerned with the touring of major national companies. I also serve on the Arts Advisory Committee of the Gulbenkian Foundation, and over many years the activities of that Foundation have been directed towards the development of cultural activities in the regions. Your Lordships can imagine, therefore, how pleased I was to hear the noble Earl say that the Royal Ballet Company and the Arts Council were looking again at this question of touring. He said that one of the main difficulties which prevented a major production from being toured is that we do not have the facilities outside London, such as the size of stage and so on, to accommodate a major production. I agree that there are major difficulties in this respect and I very much hope that they are difficulties which can be overcome in due course.

It seems worth pointing out, my Lords, that until a few years ago the Royal Ballet was touring a major production of The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake and these productions were reasonably received. The noble Earl mentioned a figure of 70 per cent. attendance. If a production were toured to-day, I believe that he would find the attendance would be somewhat larger. I believe that Covent Garden is going to continue touring its new group. This is the group which includes a substantial amount of modern work in its repertoire, new choreography and so on, a repertoire in which I have a considerable interest. But I have a suspicion that the interest of the ballet audience in the region is probably in the performance of the classics, and that the Royal Ballet will build up its support in the country more effectively by touring a classical programme. I do not want to make an issue of this point; I merely mention it in passing.

My final point on the touring of ballet is that there is not in existence any full-scale regional ballet company. So far as opera is concerned, we have the Scottish Opera and the Welsh National Opera; but with ballet we have just the major companies, the Royal Ballet, the Festival Ballet, and that is it. The Festival Opera, I know, maintains an extremely extensive touring programme, and this is very welcome. However, I believe that it would be most unfortunate if the Royal Ballet were to cut down on their touring activities; I do not think there is sufficient opportunity outside London to visit the ballet as it is.

I believe it is planned that the Royal Ballet will visit Buenos Aires later in the year and I close my remarks on the difficulties of this company touring major productions in this country by extending my warmest wish for a successful visit to South America. We in Yorkshire (and I think I can speak for the 5 million or so Yorkshiremen who in one way or another support the Royal Ballet) are proud that we have built up in this country a company of such quality and enterprise that it has achieved so magnificent a reputation throughout the world. We are proud that this company contains the talents of artists born and bred in Yorkshire, such as David Blair and Patricia Ruanne, both artists who always come back and tour in Yorkshire whenever they can. In expressing my sincere best wishes to this company in its tour of Buenos Aires, may I also express the wish that the South Americans will derive as much satisfaction from that tour as we have done in the past, and which I hope we shall enjoy in the future in Leeds.


My Lords, I want to say just one thing to the noble Lord, Lord Feversham. Alas! the ballet company are only going to Brazil. We were going to Buenos Aires, but a short space of time ago we were told that the stage hands there were on strike, and the company were told that they could not go there. So we are going to spend rather more time in Brazil. Just for the Record, the noble Lord had better substitute Rio de Janeiro for Buenos Aires!


My Lords, I am delighted that the company are going to Brazil. I think it is a pity that they cannot go all over South America, but I am sure that in due course they will, and all over the world.

If I may turn for a moment from the ballet and look at the opera, the Royal Opera House Company of course ceased its major touring operation some eight years ago and the burden of touring devolved upon the Sadler's Wells Company. I should like to mention here how pleased I am to have seen the efforts of the Sadler's Wells Company during the past few months to encourage its supporters in the region. Not long ago this company held a conference attended by a wide spectrum of interests in Yorkshire to explain the arrangements which had been made for touring in that county during the spring and summer. Those who attended the conference were, I hope, able to contribute a few suggestions which may be of some assistance to the success of this tour. Certainly they expressed a great deal of pleasure at being able to discuss the tour with the national company involved.

With regard to the theatre and the touring of productions by our national companies, the National Theatre used to tour. They have not done so for a number of years. I very much hope that they can be persuaded to do so again. I do not wish to labour these points further, but I think they may demonstrate that over the past few years we have seen the scaling down of touring by our major national companies. I believe that there is an unfortunate trend, and I think that we must seek to find a way of reversing that trend. There has been of course a body of opinion—we have not heard from it to-day, and I hope very much that it does not exist any longer—which holds that no part of the United Kingdom lies beyond a five-day camel ride, and that because of the difficulties and the expense it is neither practicable nor desirable for our national companies to appear outside London. I will not attempt to argue with a logic which rides on camels, but I will attempt, if I may, to support my belief that taking our national companies out of London is desirable and that ways must be found to achieve what is desirable.

In putting my case, my Lords, I think that it is most important to take a broad view of the Arts in this country in the past few years. As has been said by a number of noble Lords, we have aimed high, and with great success, achieving superlative standards both in the performing and in the visual Arts at the centre in London. We have fine national companies and galleries. We have established such standards as are the envy of the world, and I hope that we can continue to do so. In saying that, I should like to join all those who acknowledge the excellent efforts of the Arts Council over the years, and link with these sentiments an acknowledgment of the progress made in recent years under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and of course to join with all the acknowledgments that have been made to the the two Ministers for the Arts that we have had in this country.

I have always believed in the policy which aims to raise to the highest standard the various art forms. That must be right. By aiming for the very highest in art, we can construct the summit of the pyramid of our culture. But having said that, let me say that you cannot leave it there: you cannot have the peak of the pyramid suspended by some magical act of levitation above the desert and the camels. The rightful place for the peak of the pyramid is set firmly upon broad and well-engineered foundations, and if those foundations show signs of crumbling or of erosion, then they must be seen to and corrected. In this area I was particularly interested in what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, had to say. I think it would repay many of your Lordships, and certainly it would repay me, to read carefully in Hansard what he said. When he looks at culture or the Arts he always presents an analytical mind, and when he was talking of the merging of the art forms and television and of multi-purpose art centres, feeling out for a key for spreading the higher art forms to a wider public, I think he may have touched on something. But I hope that I can add to that analysis, and also to the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Snow, which I fell in with very closely.

We all agree that a society without a culture is a sick society. Here I think we should consider our great cities in this country and the many urban problems which confront them. The old slum street, the small community, had its own culture, based perhaps on the pub on the corner and the weekly "knees up". Down came the slums and up went the great towers of flats, conceived in the wildest dreams of the town planners, set in assorted patches of polluted grass or acres of concrete desert, pedestrian precincts filled with litter swirled round and round by impetuous winds created by carefully planned wind funnels. Your Lordships may feel that I exaggerate. But that is how I have seen this, and I have seen it a number of times. I have seen so often how the community spirit, and with it the culture of the old slum street (I do not know whether this is Lord Eccles's working-class culture; I do not like these definitions of working-class culture, middle-class culture, Fine Arts and so on, and I think we must bring these definitions down) has been incarcerated in such Concrete prisons and allowed to die. Henry Livings, the Northern actor and playwright, left London and returned to the North because he saw and felt the strain of urban life. As he put it: he actually saw people in the Tube train cry out in distress.

I believe that we must look to cultural needs at the very roots if we are to pursue any worthwhile policy for the Arts in this country. We have strong cultural traditions. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, talking about Lancashire. If anybody gets up and talks about Lancashire, I think somebody has to get up and talk about Yorkshire. Take Yorkshire, and take the Yorkshire miner. This man had a feeling for music and a need for music. All day long he hacked coal at the pit face, and his hands were roughened by the work. The miner's hands were not the hands of a violinist, so he sang and blew brass, and he made his music in any way he could. Here is the power of man's basic need for the Arts. Never mind your working-class culture, your middle-class culture, your Fine Arts, or whatever you care to call it; these are the foundations of your pyramid. If you do not take care of these foundations, then you can forget about the pinnacle. The performing Arts at their highest level—indeed, all the Fine Arts—cannot flourish in a society which does not deal with cultural needs from top to bottom. That is a view taken by the regional Arts associations. It is why the regional Arts associations have formed and grown in recent years—because the need was there. We believe that we can help to build on the foundations, and we believe that this work involves making available to as wide a public as possible the highest standards of performance which we can bring into the regions. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, said that this matter of taking the Arts out of London had been concerning us for 10 years. I must say I have been attending debates on the Arts in your Lordships' House for perhaps six years and this is the first time that I have heard a majority of speakers in this Chamber taking this matter seriously as an accepted fact, and suggesting that we should get down to considering how it might be developed.

There have in the past been a number of interests concerned: there have been those concerned with professional work and high standards, those concerned with amateur work, those who are interested in London, and those who are interested in the regions. The whole subject, as I think one or two speakers have said this afternoon, has been knitted up with definitions and boundaries. This is most unfortunate, because as has been said, we have to consider the whole picture of the Arts if we are to arrive at a constructive policy.

I should like to revert for just a moment to points outlined by the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lee. I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness said about the desperately inadequate state of our buildings outside London. It is very much a matter of finance, because large sums of money are involved. If we are to have a worthwhile policy for the Arts then we are going to have to spend more money and we are going to have to spend a large proportion of it on housing the Arts. I am most grateful to the noble Earl for having drawn our attention to the priority in the regions in this respect—this was a particularly unselfish act in view of the pressing need for a second auditorium at Covent Garden. It is a priority which is supported by that excellent report produced by the Arts Council in 1970 entitled, The Theatre To-day. It is a priority for the Government and for the great cities of our country. It is a priority at a time when rates are going up and there is roaring inflation. It comes at a time when many may ask: Can we afford a constructive policy for the Arts? It is not a question I can answer: it is a question which must be answered by the Government and the cities. But let me say this: if a society without a culture is a sick society, then can we afford not to have a constructive policy?

Let us look at the question of V.A.T. which is to be levied on the Arts. I do not want to labour this, but is it a sign of a constructive policy for the Arts? I had lunch in Sheffield last week with a number of steelmen to discuss support for the Yorkshire Arts Association by the steel industry. I was told, "Well, of course, we are a largely nationalised industry and the nationalised industries are not anxious to assist the cultural aspects of the areas in which they operate." I do not know whether that is true, but that is the gist of what they said. Is that a sign of a constructive policy for the Arts in this country? What signs have we seen from successive Governments to encourage private industry to deal in these areas? One can make similar points concerning the local authorities, but it would take too long. Let me say in this respect that we shall soon have a new structure of local authorities in this country and I very much hope that these new authorities, when they come together, will address themselves seriously to the cultural problems with which they are faced.

Perhaps I might also touch on the opportunities open to us by joining the Common Market. I was very glad to hear that the Minister and the Arts Council will be assessing the opportunities and seeking to make the best use of them. It has been said by several speakers that most of the other European countries, including Eastern European countries, subsidise the Arts to a much greater extent than we do. An interesting situation has already arisen whereby it is cheaper to book foreign orchestras for concerts than a British orchestra. For example, the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra might cost less than one of our own orchestras. The fees are often the minimum allowed by the Visiting Orchestras Consultative Association. This is a matter of some concern, I should have thought, to British musicians and to all those who are concerned with our policy for the Arts.

I hope that we can continue to build a constructive policy for the Arts in this country, and I hope we shall develop a policy which looks to the wide field of our cultural needs. So far as the Performing Arts arc concerned I hope that our national companies will continue to tour out of London and that we can improve our facilities for accommodating them. I hope, too, that we can step up our support for rational companies located out of London, such as the Scottish and the Welsh National Opera Companies. I hope, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has suggested, that we can import more of what is good and is taking place in the regions to London. The two-week visit of the Nottingham Playhouse to the Old Vic last year was an encouraging example. Perhaps one day we may arrive at the situation which I understand has occurred in France, where the title of Théâtre Nationale Populaire was shifted from a company based in Paris to a company based, I believe, in Lyons.

However, all this will take time and money to achieve. I believe there is still some cause for concern at the present time at our broad policy for the Arts in this country. We have made rapid progress in the last four years. Through the Arts Council and through the regional Arts associations we have the machinery on which to build further achievements. I hope that we shall make good use of that machinery. Speaking for the regional Arts associations, I hope that our support from central Government will continue to grow. But more important to us is the support of those whom we serve within our regions. We cannot make progress unless our new local authorities, local industries, private individuals and everybody within our regions, recognise the cultural requirements of our society and the part of the regional Arts associations in meeting those requirements. And unless we can meet those requirements I would say that we shall not create a society in which the Performing Arts flourish in this country.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, with your leave, I will just try to answer some of the very interesting points raised during the debate. I think that my noble friend Lord Drogheda must be satisfied with the large number of interesting hares which have been started this afternoon, and I can promise him that we shall follow them all up as best we can.

I start with a gloomy subject. My noble friend and also the noble Lord, Lord Snow, talked about tax relief for gifts and subscriptions to the Arts. Of course I cannot help agreeing with them that although it is better to have done something for the dead than not to have done anything for anybody—and we have done a lot for those who are leaving their works of art to museums or who, for that matter, sell them to museums during their lifetime—we have not yet been able to do anything for the ordinary subscriber to some society whose object is to further the Arts. This is a very broad subject and it would be almost impossible for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to select the Arts as one form of charity, if he could find the resources to do anything, and not do it across the board for charities. Once one gets into that area it is very large and the definitions are not very easy to draw. However, with the help of Members of your Lordships' House we could perhaps go on trying.

My noble friend raised a very interesting point, which was also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes: that is, the question of whether we should make some change in the whole organisation for support for touring within the European Community. I can only give your Lordships my own views at present, because this is a matter which has to be discussed with a lot of people; but of course the British Council has built up very great knowledge on the mechanics of sending companies, orchestras and individual artists abroad and on receiving them and looking after them when they come here. One could not, without damaging the system, I fear, transfer that from them, because it is by no means an easy task and they have learnt a lot over a long time. The British Council has operated mainly under bilateral cultural agreements; that is to say, a pair of countries, one of which is ourselves, negotiates an exchange of culture frankly in order to promote the prestige of their own way of life in the other country. This is highly suitable in dealing with countries, for instance, of a different political complexion from our own, where the role of the artist is not the same as it is in this country, and where promotions of almost all artistic kinds are frankly political. In those circumstances, the bilateral agreement has proved its value and the negotiating team which the Foreign Office and the British Council put on do very well.

The problem is that when we join the Community one might say that the political reason for sending an orchestra or theatre company, or a film or art exhibition, to a member of the Community, does not or ought not to exist. Once we join the Community we ought to be exchanging each other's forms of art because we believe that there is a common culture and because we believe our artists are extremely good ambassadors and can learn a great deal by joint productions in other countries, and so on.

Whether that means that we should have a different organisation both for subsidising export of art from here to the Community, and, in return, for looking after artists coming from the Community here, is by no means an easy problem to solve. It is noticeable that the Commission in Brussels has a section that deals with almost everything you can think of on a Community basis, but not culture. In time it is possible that that may change. My own view is that when we are as close to the countries as we are to those of the Community, the initiative of going there and coming here should be with the artist. I do not think that we want a semi-political body, or anything of that kind to fix these things up; it would be far better if the artists initiated it themselves. I was talking the other night with Mr. Peter Hall the director-designate of the National Theatre. He already has ambitious plans for alternating the National Theatre Company with famous theatre companies in Europe so that they work in one with the other. That is excellent and has to be started by the artists and theatre managers themselves.

The problem is this: if they need to have some subvention to whom should they go? If they need to have some help in fixing up travelling arrangements (which are not always simple) to whom should they go? At present they would go to the British Council, and the British Council has done these things well in the past. But there may be a case for some modification, and I am grateful to my noble friend for raising the matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, and also the noble Lord, Lord Snow, rightly pointed to the way that money can be made to go further by refurbishing existing buildings as well as, and in some cases instead of, starting from the grass roots. We found that that was only too true in schools. The minor works programme was one of the most powerful programmes in making accommodation do more than it otherwise would while one was waiting to rebuild new schools. Looking at the list of projects assisted by the "Housing the Arts Scheme" the Arts Council have had a pretty good minor works programme. I know that they are now thinking that they might do more, particularly with making the accommodation in the larger theatres and concert halls rather better.

The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, as I hoped, gave us a splendid description of Manchester's dreams, and we all wish him great success. As I understand it, the accommodation (if I may call it that) that he and his Committee have come to with the Arts Council for, as it were, testing the water, looks like being successful, and I certainly hope that it will be successful. He said that the local authorities needed some encouragement. This was a point that was taken up by my noble friends Lord Auckland and Lord Feversham: local authorities should be encouraged to do more than they are now doing. I entirely agree. I am getting a little worried at the proportion between the grants from the Arts Council to the Regional Arts Associations and the income they get from local authorities.

If I remember rightly, we used to say that the ideal was one-third from the centre, one-third from the local authority and one-third from private sources. We never received the one-third from private sources. But there was a time—and then of course the figures were much smaller—when contributions from local authorities were much nearer those from the Arts Council. The estimate for 1973–74 is £1,150,000 from the Arts Council and only £350,000 from the local authorities. That is not good enough. It is not in the self-interest of the regions that they should let the Paymaster General become so largely the one source of finance. I hope that when the new local authorities get into their stride we shall be able to have a successful campaign and that their proportion will come nearer that which is coming from the Arts Council.

The noble Lords, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and Lord Rhodes, had a small argument about young people leaving school and then having no instruments to play. This is a serious problem. We are spending large sums of money through local education authorities on arousing the artistic and creative interests of children at school. In many cases the schools have bands; they have instruments, they have painting materials; they have kilns for their pottery, and so on; but when the children leave school they do not find the facilities to carry on what they have learned to appreciate at school. The let-down is extremely serious. There is no doubt that one of the places where the pinch is felt is in brass instruments, the price of which has escalated, like the price of almost everything else one can think of; and the cost of buying a set of instruments for not too large a brass band today runs into thousands of pounds, and the instruments do not last for ever. Therefore this is the area in which we have to do something more through the Arts Council.

As my noble friend Lord Feversham said, if you do not attend to the base of the pyramid the peak is always at risk. The base of the pyramid, whatever some of the professional artists may like or say, largely rests on the amateurs. It is through amateur art that the audiences come for professional art, and, very often, professional artists themselves. There is no doubt that although our society is much richer than it was before, it is not as good a collective patron as you would expect it to be for the amateur Arts. We seem to have been seduced by consumer goods, and as a rich people we do not seem to have the same form of patronage as when we were much poorer. Then eccentric people with money did a great deal for the Arts. It is a curious phenomenon and we have to make the public as a whole assume the duties of patron.

I was delighted that the National Film Archive was mentioned both by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead. As I tried to say previously, this is extremely important and it is one of those cases which one can see in many of our archives and our museums, where really it is not right to allow the existing collection to deteriorate because you prefer to spend money on acquiring something new. This is happening, and here is a real case where we, the Government, have not spent enough money to prevent a great collection from serious risk of deterioration. If we get—and I would favour it if I could persuade others to join me—legislation for a statutory deposit, and if the National Film Archive at current prices selected what they tell us they would select, and if we had to pay 100 per cent. of the cost (and copies of colour films are very expensive), it looks like £400,000 a year. That is a lot of money suddenly to attach to an archive. I would suggest to your Lordships that in this country we have centred in the British Library that is coming now, the finest archives of the printed word and manuscripts anywhere in the world; and it always seems to me to be right to build on what you already have. I think it would be a great mistake not to try to make great archives of sound and film and also stills. The National Archive has over a million still photographs and posters, and other collections also exist, but because we are so rich in our printed archives it seems a thousand pities that we should not add the other sources of information.


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Viscount because I have not been able to be present at this debate, but the noble Viscount will realise that this is a subject in which I have been very much interested for many years. I would only suggest to him that films are peculiarly ephemeral and they can be so easily destroyed. In this they differ from the printed word, and therefore if one does not acquire at a time when one has an opportunity to acquire they may be lost for ever, much more easily than printed books may be.


My Lords, I entirely endorse what the noble Baroness has said. It is heartrending to me to learn that in the case of some of the best news bulletins the film is scrubbed and used again and no copy is kept. It is things of this kind we have to turn our minds to, and we will, but it is complicated because interests are few and strong and we have somehow to meet them in what looks to me like legislation.

I was glad to hear the tribute paid by my noble friend Lord Auckland to the theatre at Leatherhead. It certainly is one of the best repertory theatres around London.

My noble friend Lord Somers is quite right when he says that symphony orchestras are extremely expensive. The Arts Council, through the London Orchestra Board, does its best to look after them. It may be some consolation to him to know that when one looked at their last four annual reports one expected them to show, when brought together, a large deficit but it was not so. Therefore, we cannot say that, given the present expenditure—they may well say that they would like to have higher salaries, or something like that—they are "in the red". The four orchestras are not "in the red". I find that the public demand is now for the smaller orchestras and that British composers to-day are not writing much music for the full symphony orchestra; they seem to be writing much more music for the small group which is specially prepared for that kind of music, but I cannot claim to be an expert. In regard to choir schools the situation is very sad. One of the things one learns in Europe is that the great tradition of Church music is dying out. The Minister of Culture in France was saying only about two months ago that Gregorian chants were almost extinct. This is very sad, and I do not quite know what any Minister can do about that.

I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Snow, mentioned the new regional department. Mr. Duncan looks just the man to be the director. The chairman of the panel is Professor Roy Shaw of Keele University and he knows as much as anyone I have ever met about this interesting problem of communication between one kind of culture and another and how one can introduce, by stages, art to people who have not been fortunate enough to have a home background where art was encouraged. I think we shall see some interesting things in that connection.

I have nothing more to say to your Lordships, except to do one blatant piece of advertising.


Not for the first time, my Lords!


It is to ask your Lordships, if you have a quarter of an hour, to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum and see the exhibition of the crafts. This is the first time that British crafts all over the country have had an exhibition at our greatest museum of decorative arts, where practically everything you can think of is represented, but only by very well selected pieces. I assure your Lordships that the crafts in this country are about to have a great renaissance, but they need of course a public, an instructed public, who will not only give commissions and buy these things but raise their status and make the craftsmen feel that the old division between the arts and the crafts is no longer one we can support.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all of your Lordships who have taken the trouble to come here to-day and those who have taken part in this debate, particularly our past and our present Ministers for the Arts who have given us most interesting speeches. I was very much encouraged by much that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said. I do not seem to have got very far with him on the question of V.A.T., but I suppose I did not really expect to. He said that so far as Europe was concerned this was more a question for the individual managements and the artists, but I cannot help feeling that there is going to be a bit of pressure behind us to encourage us to do things. I do not think it should be left entirely to Covent Garden or Sadler's Wells or wherever it may be. There should be a conscious policy of sending our cultural attractions abroad. I am not too happy with the idea of leaving things exactly as they are with the British Council. In fact the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has a relatively open mind on this question, and we may see certain things developing. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, expressed the hope that the debate would be widely read and studied, and I am bound to say, "So do I"; but we do not seem to be able to get Hansard very easily just at present. No doubt we can get a duplicated copy.


My Lords, may I suggest to the noble Earl that we might rely upon the Financial Times?


My Lords, they may put in a few lines, but there has been an emergency debate in another place, I think, which would command even more attention, even in the "Pink Paper".

I was delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said about the exchange of visits with New Hope in Pennsylvania. That is an admirable thing and I should like to see more of that happening. I was grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for saying that he would speak to the Secretary of State for the Environment on the subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, about the possibility of some kind of super authority to watch over what is to happen in the Covent Garden market area. As to taking the Royal Ballet out of London, we are deeply conscious of our duties—I have used the word myself; it has been rubbed into me—and we shall do everything we possibly can about it, but we have responsibilities in London and we also have responsibilities to go overseas. It is very hard to divide the company up into small pieces, but we shall do all we can. I feel that bricks and mortar is a tremendously important thing and I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Lee of Asheridge, made some powerful points under that heading. I am very grateful to your Lordships, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.