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LONDON WILL FEATURE IN VENICE

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AGENDA

People are already getting their knickers in a twist about next year's Venice Architectural Biennale. The brouhaha centres on claims that London practices are being banned from the event.

Irate commentators are demanding to know why our beloved capital won't be waving the British flag at this international showcase.

The short answer is: it will be. It just won't be in the British Pavilion this time.

The decision by the British Council not to include London among the featured cities in its own show was undeniably a brave move - especially when the biennale's wider theme focuses on meta-cities.

The pavilion will look in depth at the British regions, a move orchestrated by the council's competition jury, which included Deyan Sudjic and Foreign Offi ce Architects' Farshid Moussavi.

However, that doesn't mean London won't feature at all - a point missed by some critics and, it seems, by the capital's mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Armed with only half the facts, Ken threatened to 'reciprocate' this lack of support and pull the British Council's £182 million grant 'paid for by London taxpayers'.

Unfortunately for him, the mayor doesn't have this power, because the council receives its money from the Foreign Office.

With some understatement, a British Council spokesman branded his response 'snipey'.

So what is the truth?

According to Ricky Burdett, the biennale's director, London will not be left in the shadows. Far from it.

He said: 'The issue is very straightforward. One element of the biennale is the international exhibition. It is a very large exhibition in the Arsenale (pictured) - and London will feature very significantly there.

'There will probably be more on London in the international exhibition than could have been done in the British Pavilion.' Burdett, a leading urbanism authority at the London School of Economics, knows architects will have strong opinions about the British Council's exhibition.

He said: 'There is a point to be made about what will be in the British Pavilion but there is a bigger picture.

'There are equally interesting processes in cities like Leeds and Edinburgh - and that's where the majority of people live.

He added: 'What is interesting is the debate this has raised. It really cuts to the core of architects' relationships with these cities.' No doubt the bickering will continue but it could be overshadowing one problem that has not been addressed.

Earlier this month, it was announced in Italy that the government would be making widespread cuts to its culture and arts budget.

A spokesman for the Italian Culture Ministry acknowledged that if the spending proposals do get parliamentary backing in December it would be 'difficult for the biennale to sustain all its activities'.

Let's hope they don't, if only to see whether the British Pavilion representatives succeed without their normally dominant cousins from London.

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