Bragg v Tusa: more hostilities

Melvyn Bragg (Letters, 21 June) has just failed the Corporal Jones test: "He doesn't like it up him!" I am trying hard to get him to do two things. One is to start thinking about the arts, instead of toeing the new Labour line on how the last funding settlement put everything in the arts world right. The second is to stop misrepresenting what I wrote in my book Art Matters.

If Bragg finds Philip Hensher's neo-Thatcherism about the arts congenial, he is welcome to it. But he cannot state that my book advocates "total unlimited" subsidy, when my essays are filled with warnings that there is no "ought" or "should" when it comes to funding the arts. The arts must make their case, a new case, and that is what I make my own attempt at doing.

From his review and now his petulant reply, you would not guess that the subjects I address in Art Matters range from the relationship between arts and marketing, the nuts and bolts of running an arts centre, the need to introduce new television technology into concert halls, the future shape of concert-going and the balance between arts and entertainment in society to the contribution arts can make to European integration and the urgent need for the arts world to fashion a new intellectual case for funding through a new contract with society. All of these subjects are based on my experience of running major institutions in broadcasting and the arts. Somehow these chapters seem to have escaped Bragg's attention, perhaps because they are so far outside his own direct experience. But that is no excuse for ignoring them.

What is revealing is that when I challenged him to draw up a defence of the arts without resort to phrases drawn from the latest Department of Culture handouts, Bragg did not even try. Come on, Melv, such a great defender of the arts can surely manage that, can't you?

John Tusa
Managing Director
Barbican Centre

This article first appeared in the 28 June 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Buy your home and kill a job