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What the Arts Council wants to know is nobody's business

PUBLISHED: 11:04 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:54 07 September 2010

IF you ve always believed that an individual s sexual preference was a private matter, you might be surprised to find that this is not necessarily so, at least as far as our increasingly bonkers Arts Council is concerned. Here is an organisation with an i

IF you've always believed that an individual's sexual preference was a private matter, you might be surprised to find that this is not necessarily so, at least as far as our increasingly bonkers Arts Council is concerned.

Here is an organisation with an important job to do, making decisions that can make or break not only amateur theatre groups, but great national institutions.

Yet if you are ever in the position of having to apply for one of its Fagin-esque handouts, be prepared to ask some very personal questions of the people around you.

I've just seen a copy of the application form for the first time, and it's enough to make your toes curl. Of course in this day of overbearing political correctness, it requires applicants to identify the nationality and/or ethnicity of members of its management committee, board, governing body or council, for the purposes of 'reporting to the government' (all a bit Big Brotherish, but at least the council doesn't share the Orwellian vision that 'ignorance is strength' - it seems the more they know about you, the better they feel).

This bare-faced prying extends to seeking information on how many of your members consider themselves to be disabled or non-disabled, and then comes the sucker punch.

For some reason, best known to itself, the Arts Council also needs to know the sexual orientation of these selfsame members of your organisation. Why on earth would it need to know that?

Even if there was a legitimate reason for asking, how, for example, is the secretary of the Tunbridge Wells Church League's Ancient Fife and Drum Appreciation Society supposed to supply an accurate response without actually delving into the private lives of fellow committee members? Imagine the scene: ''Oh hello there, Mrs Perivale. I'm filling in a form for the arts council application and I just need to know if you are bisexual, gay, heterosexual or lesbian - or any combination of the above.''

These, mind you, are questions that must be filled in. That being the case, every arts organisation in the land should list the race, creed, nationality and sexual orientation of all of their working members under 'not known'. What has any of this got to do with deciding which organisations are worthy of grants for artistic endeavours? It's none of the council's business, or the government's, for that matter.

The Arts Council went off the rails years ago. It needs to get back on track quickly before it loses any remaining credibility.

Consigning this ridiculous and offensive form to the wastebin would be a start.

Geoff Martin


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