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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Prince launches culture crusade
Prince Charles talks to Joely Richardson
A host of celebrities are backing the prince
The Prince of Wales has launched a campaign to introduce children to culture and drag them away from their televisions.

Buckingham Palace was swarming with schoolchildren as the prince launched "a call for action" to find ways of exposing them more to dance, opera, theatre and the visual arts.

Designed to "broaden the creative stimuli of today's youth", the Prince of Wales Art and Kids Foundation was the prince's idea.


The arts are not an optional extra for young people

Baz Luhrmann
It was taken up by Art and Business, which promotes co-operation between the arts and business communities, of which the prince is president.

One of the foundation's aims is to get 10,000 children to see a theatre performance by the end of March 2003.

The Prince was joined by a host of celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Griff Rhys Jones, Joely Richardson, Richard E Grant and Baz Luhrmann.

Children and professional performers put on a show for royalty, celebrities and business people.

'Fundamental reality'

Performances in the Palace ballroom included the Royal Opera House orchestra and children from the Hackney Empire in east London.

Baz Luhrmann, who directed Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom, is one of the driving forces behind the campaign and told the gathering: "The arts are not an optional extra for young people."

Prince Charles talks to young performers at the Palace
The prince is worried children becoming couch potatoes
He added: "It doesn't matter whether you end up working in the arts or not, every single child as a fundamental reality should be exposed to that which reveals to them who we are and what we are."

The Prince later drew laughter when he referred to Luhrmann's comments about humble beginnings.

Charles said: "Baz said he was born in a little house in the middle of nowhere. I was born in an enormous house in the middle of somewhere and look at me - look at him. He's much more successful."

He added: "The arts have the power to shape lives, provide inspiration and awaken talent. They should not be seen as an optional extra for children, or as an exercise in elitism.

"I strongly believe that every child, whatever his or her circumstances, should have the chance to be exposed to excellence.

"The arts are a window on the world that can capture a child's imagination and let it grow.

"We should all have an opportunity to look through that window."

Cello inspiration

Charles said his fascination with the arts was fired when his late grandmother, the Queen Mother, took him to see the Royal Ballet when he was seven.

He also saw a performance by cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and was inspired to take up playing the instrument, "but I had to give it up when I joined the Navy - the ship was too small for my cello", he added.

The foundation will begin with a 1m grant from the Millennium Commission and its first corporate partner, Powergen.

The first project will be designed to encourage reading and develop the art of storytelling.

See also:

01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
07 Mar 02 | Entertainment
07 Jul 01 | UK
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