The Spectator

Letters | 21 March 2009

Spectator readers respond to recent articles

Art for money’s sake

Sir: It is hardly surprising that Olivia Cole (‘How to put children off art’, 14 March) found so many schoolchildren in the National Gallery and that they seemed to be learning little about art from their visits. The Gallery, like other public bodies, has a funding agreement with its sponsor department, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The agreement for the current financial year is not on the Gallery’s website but for 2007/8 it was set a target for the number of children aged 15 and under visiting the Gallery in ‘organised educational sessions’, of 105,000, which it exceeded. There is no target for the benefit that the children gain from these visits.

In the agreement the Department states that ‘The National Gallery’s ability to show measurable improvements in service delivery, the achievement of Funding agreement targets and its contribution to the delivery of Government Policies will be factors in the Secretary of State’s decisions on future allocations.’ In other words, get the schoolkids in or we’ll cut your money.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that these funding agreements which seek to manage our national museums and galleries as if they were Soviet factories were introduced at the insistence of Gordon Brown’s Treasury.

Charles Williams
London W8

Inside knowledge

Sir: I was impressed that Charles Moore is able to tell the time, to within 15 minutes, without recourse to a watch (The Spectator’s Notes, 28 February). When I was a jackeroo in Western Australia in the 1960s there was an aboriginal stockman who told me he could do this. If you asked him the time, he’d raise his hat above his head, glance at it, then look at its shadow on the ground. He could then tell you the time to the second. One day while he was asleep under a tree after lunch I had a look at his hat.

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