I have a lot of sympathy with the views expressed by Austin Williams in 'Ticking the right boxes' (AJ 26.8.04). His pieces generally demonstrate a straightforward approach to things, but in this case I wonder if he has considered less straightforward interpretations of the tendency towards tick-box culture and the vaguely Orwellian phrases that emanate from parts of the public sector ('best value' and so on).
If you think it would be nice if classrooms had bigger windows, how would you persuade a beancounter? If a bit of academic research with footnotes does that job more effectively than an appeal to the merits of the 'magnificent play of masses brought together in light', then why not?
Everyone at CABE (not that I'm saying Williams had us in mind) knows we are struggling with intangibles. But we think quite hard about our audiences and how we go about making our case (evidence versus rhetoric).
Williams is right to say that 'the arts world seems to have lost faith in its ability to promote 'art for art's sake', and hence tries to validate individual projects using spurious social 'meaning'' - although to some extent it's probably using the strategy suggested above to secure public funding. But he and others might be cheered up a bit by reading a recent piece on the subject by culture secretary Tessa Jowell, 'Government and the value of culture', on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website, www. culture. gov. uk. Let's hope she sent it to the Treasury.
Peter Stewart, director of design review, CABE