Saturday, January 12, 2008

Changes at the British Council

The British Council (BC), which is not actually part of the British government (officially), but a charity, is undergoing changes yet again. It's not the Russian Question where they are forced to close all regional representations. According to the Guardian it's changes in the arts department: 'The British Council is planning a radical shakeup in the way it delivers arts abroad, and part of that will entail scrapping its long-established arts departments, including visual arts, theatre, film and dance'.

Note that music is not mentioned, but the track record of BC on music has been hip hop rather than classical in recent years. That's great marketing to countries like Lithuania, where the establishment, as well as many young people (viz last night's standing room only performance of a Gluck opera) is still into classical music.

In Lithuania, too, we will have changes. In about 2003 BC moved into a very nice, modern building, with a stunning, state of the art designed library and information centre - which is also where I used to sit my OU exams. Just before Christmas I received a letter saying that:
'BC will no longer offer public access information services in most of our offices in the European Union. Information Centre in Vilnius will be closed to re-open in our partner institution' (which seems to be an arts centre somewhere in the Old Town). Will they be able to transfer the internal glass walls from a 2001 building to a building of the 17th century or so?

The overall, strategic changes have caused uproar in the British arts establishment - make that the fine arts and acting establishment. I don't think I've spotted one musician in the list of 120 signatories of the letter to the Guardian (in the olden days one used to write to The Times...). Have musicians given up on BC long ago?

So who can British classical musicians rely on for marketing abroad (pop musicians market themselves). British ambassadors? It would make a cat laugh! I know one ambassador with an abiding interest in classical music, but the rest? Oh dear, oh dear.....

Keep looking after your agents!