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.