Yesterday, we asked whether our arts
bureaucrats are earning their keep. It seems that some cultural
madarins are keeping it in the family. Symphonic sources direct us to
the relationship between the managing director of Symphony Australia,
Derek Watt, and his wife, Catherine Brown-Watt, the Australia Council
bureaucrat responsible for doling out taxpayer funds to – orchestras.

According to the Symphony website
Derek Watt is still running the show, but we are informed he has
recently moved on, with the Symphony on the verge of being radically
re-organised in the wash-up of the Strong report into orchestras. His
wife has been director of the Major Performing Arts Board for the past five years, including the Nugent inquiry into the performing arts.

No
doubt Watt & Brown-Watt never talk shop at home, but the state of
arts bureaucracy doesn’t impress some subscribers. Meikamona suggests
slashing the red tape by cutting out the middle men: “Let artists do it
on the dole, awarded by the lottery perhaps. It would be cheaper and
more accurately allocated…”

While James Bradley writes: “I
don’t think it’s any secret the arts in Australia are in a desperate
state, though the sheer scale of the problem may surprise some. The
film industry is dying (at least if you think there’s a distinction
worth making between providing technical skills for B-grade American
blockbusters and making our own movies), the energy of the theatre
scene is visible in the near-constant attendance of St John’s at the
STC to resuscitate geriatric subscribers, and the literary world is
increasingly fragmented, the publishers chasing smaller and smaller
returns on fewer and fewer books.”

Sadly the solutions are
unglamorous and old-fashioned: “Local drama doesn’t need new thinking –
it needs more money; Australian writers don’t need more reports on how
little they make, they need places to publish their work and support
for schemes to sell it, same as any other industry. And the problem, as
ever in Australia, is that we want quality but we don’t want to have to
pay for it. Like education, the arts are expensive and not usually
terribly profitable, but as with many things you get what you pay for,”
says Bradley.

Check out the feedback on the site here.

Peter Fray

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