It both easy and in many cases justifiable to look back on the Golden Era of Lottery Capital projects with a very critical eye.
Some of the financial disasters have been spectacular ones, including the ill-fated Arc in Stockton on Tees, Sheffield?s Centre for Popular Music and the Centre for Visual Arts in Cardiff.There has also been a long history of budget overspends, and much wringing of hands amongst government spin doctors as the Audit Commission has poured scorn on the planning and management skills of those charged with the development of Lottery-funded projects across the country. But as our contributors this week point out (pp 5-7), and as the Arts Council of England?s latest publication ?Pride of Place? illustrates (p4), there?s been a lot more to it than has ever hit the headlines. Lord Attenborough, who was closely involved with two major Lottery projects as Chair of RADA and patron of the Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts in Leicester, really summed it up when he said ?? there were times when I questioned whether it was all worth it. But I wholeheartedly believe now that these projects and others like them, which are providing people across the country with renewed opportunity to enjoy the arts, will make a profound and invaluable contribution to our cultural heritage.? In other words, a bit like childbirth, however painful the process has been, the outcome is very welcome. And just like raising children, we now have to face up to the fact that keeping those fledgling organisations on the straight and narrow is a challenging task, but one that will hopefully reap rewards (as at Channel Theatre, p6, and Aberystwyth Arts Centre, p7).With over £1 billion invested in the arts over the past 5 years in England alone, many fewer artists and arts managers have the age-old excuse of ?crumbling buildings? to fall back on when they fail to attract audiences. For those with completed capital projects under their belts, the main barrier that now remains to wider public access to the arts is the competence of those who create and deliver that experience, and time alone will tell whether they?re up to the job.