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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 16:35 GMT
Foot-and-mouth crisis affects the arts
Author Louis de Bernieres due to speak at Hay Festival
Louis de Bernieres is due to speak at the Hay Festival
Organisers of the prestigious Hay Festival have revealed they are keeping a close eye on the foot-and-mouth crisis before announcing its 2001 programme.

The news comes in the wake of concerns that rural museums could face ruin if the outbreak worsens.

The 10-day Hay book festival, which attracts visitors from around the world, is held in the town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh-English border.

The area has been badly hit by foot-and-mouth as communities are surrounded by farmland.

The Hay Festival is due to start on 25 May but organisers are still waiting to find out whether the disease will be under control by then.

Van Morrison
Van Morrison is poised for a Hay gig
Festival secretary Peter Florence said they would be taking advice from the authorities before publishing its 2001 festival programme in April, when a decision will be made on whether it can go ahead.

Compensation

Authors already booked to appear this year include Louis de Bernieres, Margaret Atwood, Nick Hornby and Frank McCourt.

Van Morrison is due to give a special concert on 1 June.

Organisations representing rural museums are lobbying the Government to take them in account when the question of compensation for foot-and-mouth arises.

Musuem lobbying groups have expressed concern about the effect the outbreak is having on rural economies.

Museums that have so far been affected include the North of England Open Air Museum in Beamish and the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

The Weald and Downland Museum in Surrey has closed down for four weeks to help contain the spread of the disease.

It estimates it has lost 24,000 in revenue and if it is unable to open soon, it could close permanently.

Closure

The chief executive of Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, Neville Mackay, said: "A large number of these museums are deeply rooted in their local communities and provide employment opportunities and a community focus.

"They also make a significant contribution to the rural economy, however they often operate on very narrow financial margins.

"Many of the museums affected are independent and receive little or no public subsidy, rely instead on income from admissions, retail and catering to sustain their operations.

"The current crisis in the countryside is placing many of the museums on the brink of permanent closure.

"While these museums are but part of a bigger picture we are concerned there is a danger their plight may be overlooked."

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