Cultural Olympiad ‘will be a fiasco as big as Dome’, says Tory spokesman

Author: By Arifa Akbar, Arts Correspondent

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Vaizey said that while he was a “big fan of the Cultural Olympiad”, he had reservations about the £80m project. He particularly questioned whether it was suitable for Tony Hall, the director of the Royal Opera House, to run the Olympiad part-time.

“I would want to ensure that it would not become the next Millennium Dome, there’s always that fear. It’s important that the opening and closing ceremonies have a clear vision. What I fear is that it becomes a dome, an event-by-committee,” he said.

Mr Vaizey is concerned that Tony Hall, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House, who was appointed as chairman of the Olympiad in July, won’t be able to give the role his full attention. “We need a full-time person doing this job,” Mr Vaizey said.

However, a spokesman for London 2012 said the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Locog) was in the process of finding a director to work alongside Tony Hall.

“We are currently recruiting the director of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad who will work closely with Tony Hall and the Cultural Olympiad board,” said the spokesman. “This is a full-time role for Locog within the culture, ceremonies and education department which is directed by Bill Morris.”

The spokesman dismissed suggestions that the Olympiad may suffer the same ignominious fate as the Dome (now the O2 arena), in south-east London, which caused political controversy when it failed to attract the anticipated number of visitors and was burdened by financial problems.

Commissioned by Tony Blair’s Labour government, it was deemed to one of the party’s biggest disasters. But the spokesman said there was no danger of the Olympiad becoming the Dome, and that funding was already in place for all the Olympiad’s major projects, including £16m from the Olympic Lottery Distributor.

“We are making great progress with all the 10 major London 2012 Cultural Olympiad projects ? a number of which have been launched this year, and the rest will follow at the start of next year,” the spokesman said.

Mr Vaizey also criticised aspects of the Arts Council (ACE). “There are certain changes I would like to see it making. I would like to have annual email exchanges of letters to the chairman and chief executive of the Arts Council,” he said.

He felt that ACE was “missing an opportunity” by not joining up arts institutions so they could work together on fundraising strategies. “ACE can do more for arts development. It should be seen as a resource for the entire arts community … I don’t think there’s enough best practice shared among institutions.

“The Arts Council does not do enough to bring similar organisations [together]. It needs to teach people how to fundraise. If should do a survey of which of the organisations raised the most this year and talk to them about how they did it,” he said.

As an example of how arts groups could be more efficient if they worked together, Mr Vaizey suggested that temporary walls created for exhibitions should not be destroyed when the event is over, but passed on to another group or gallery to use.

An ACE spokesperson said: “We agree with Ed Vaizey that partnerships are crucial to success in the arts and Arts Council England already works hard to encourage partnership working and sharing of best practice in the arts sector.”

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