Arts are useful

Robert Dow couldn't be more wrong in his predictable attack on "dance development officers or environmental drama therapists" (Letters, 28 June).

Easy targets, of course. But far from being an airy-fairy indulgence, such personnel and the tasks they perform, offer the possibility for individuals and communities do discover that the arts have something positive to offer them.

And there's plenty of evidence of the beneficial effects of engaging with the arts, not least in the severely deprived Raploch area of Stirling, where young people, who might otherwise have been drawn to substance abuse and vandalism, have become enthusiastic explorers of orchestral instruments and their music.

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Anyone who doubts the efficacy of the scheme can check the resounding success of the Venezuelan Sistema project, on which it is based. There have also been several recent reports of theatre and music projects having a marked effect on the attitudes of inmates in a womens' prison and a young offenders institution. Our stereotypical view of incarcerated young hardmen is not of their deep and enthusiastic commitment to singing in a choir, but it's happening.

Nor is such a positive learning curve exclusive to criminals, actual or potential, as can be testified by citizens of all ages who discover the satisfaction of shaping clay, drafting (and re-drafting) a poem, teasing a tune out of an instrument, or any number of creative activities that can contribute to the individual's sense of self-worth. In most cases, it may induce a sense of fun, well-being, therapy even, while bringing together people who might otherwise be existing in depressive isolation, and that itself may be enough. It can also enable people to discover talents they hadn't previously been aware of, or at least hadn't explored, and that can be very exciting.

Perhaps Mr Dow should join a dance class or drama group to find out what really makes them tick. It might get himself ticking as well.




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