New arts council head and culture secretary appointed in reshuffle

Sir Peter Bazalgette has been named as the new chairmen of Arts Council England, succeeding Dame Liz Forgan. The press had been speculating about Bazalgette’s possible appointment following the government’s decision to not re-appoint Forgan earlier this year.

Bazalgette is widely known for the creation of globally successful television format Big Brother. He serves as chair at ENO, acts as president for the Royal Television Society and is a non-executive director of the department of culture, media and sport.

He said of his new role, due to begin in the new year: ‘2013 will be an excellent time to join the arts council. Sustaining our vigorous arts and cultural sector is admittedly a challenge, but one I greatly look forward to.’

Arts Council chief executive, Alan Davey was clearly pleased with the decision, describing it as ‘an excellent appointment’. He went on to describe Bazalgette as, ‘a great philanthropic contributor to the arts; an enthusiast who has done amazing work with English National Opera and has helped the arts council over the years to develop our digital thinking. We look forward to working with him.’

Bazalgette’s appointment was one of the last decisions to be made by Jeremy Hunt, with the prime minister’s approval, in his role as culture secretary. David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle involved the appointment of Maria Miller to succeed Jeremy Hunt as secretary of state for culture, media and sport. The MP for Basingstoke and former advertising executive will also undertake a role as minister for women and equalities. The Guardian described Miller as ‘a relative unknown for culture professionals’. Her new position will be Miller’s first cabinet role.

Arts Council chair to step down

Dame Liz Forgan will not be returning as chair of the Arts Council, after being asked to step down from her role by ministers. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt decided not to reappoint Forgan when her term ends at the beginning of next year.

Forgan, 67, became the first woman to fill the post, when she was appointed by Labour in February 2009. The news of her departure came as a shock to many theatre industry insiders. Director of Tate Modern, Sir Nicholas Serota said he was, ‘deeply disappointed’ by the news. He said: ‘She has led the council with real verve and conviction through a period in which cuts to arts spending could have resulted in the loss of major parts of our cultural landscape.’

Artistic director of the Young Vic, David Lan said: ‘I’m really shocked. She has done really well, and is popular with people it’s not particularly easy to be popular with. She was doing really well but had only just got going. It’ll be a big pair of shoes to fill.’

Former chairs of the Arts Council have seen their terms extended, many had expected Forgan’s term to be extended until 2015. The search for her replacement is expected to start after Easter. Potential candidates are rumoured to be former Tory cabinet minister, Michael Portillo and former Endemol chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette.

Arts Council chief executive, Alan Davey said: ‘Liz has been an outstanding chair and will be much missed. I have valued her passion, insight and strong leadership as we worked together through challenging times to deliver a sustainable future for the arts in England and to maintain their world standing.’

Forgan responded to Jeremy Hunt’s announcement in a letter, in which she said that it had been: ‘a privilege to be the first woman to the lead the arts council, and to do so in challenging times.’

She said that she was, ‘extremely sorry to leave before the job is completed but the essence of the arms-length principle, which I wholeheartedly support, is that ministers must be able to make their appointments as they see fit.’

Dame Liz Forgan will officially step down from her position as chair in January 2013.