This week Fiona Lindsay talks about the people who live the arts and how to be knowledgable in it you have get your hands dirty...
“All you get from sitting on your hands is cramp!” - Mae West
Last week I attended a pre-election occasion designed to appeal to all of us working in the creative industries. #CultureDebate was hosted at the Royal Opera House and streamed live throughout the land by BBC Arts.
The whole experience turned me into an uncharacteristic ranter and I left spluttering my disbelief and frustration to my poor colleague Robert who’d sat beside me as I huffed and puffed and held my head in my hands.
What brought this on? Well, let me try to explain without having another episode.
My main frustration was brought about by two factors: the sorry lack of real debate and the even sorrier lack of proper representation from those that earn a living in the arts.
Fairly early on in the session Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey had the audacity to insult his fellow panel members and the audience by complaining how boring the whole occasion was. What was more boring/concerning was his lack of knowledge and detail of the very subject he represents and his sweeping statements about a business of which he has the privilege of enjoying without getting his hands dirty.
All of us who make art know that you have to get your hands dirty, that it’s a sweaty job and not for the fainthearted. It takes years to become brilliant at theatre, dance, music, painting, sculpture etc. Those who do it do so because they can’t help themselves. Because it’s ingrained. A propensity to be creative emerges for a myriad of reasons and those that sustain a life in art do so through a combination of luck and tenacity.
It was also insulting to listen to one member of the House of Lords cite Eton as she did (I’ve nothing against it per se) and in one fell swoop write off all those schools and teachers who motivate and inspire despite their challenging circumstances. Blood boiled at this point.
It was the final question to the panel from the chair that left me reeling, though, and them exposed. I’ll try to recreate a moment of it here.
Chair to panel: What was the last creative thing you did before coming here?
Member of panel: Well I went to gym this afternoon and then I watched the Kardashians!
And herein lies the problem. What hope do we have of laying a sure and solid foundation stone for the future of those that practice in the arts and in turn secure our culture economy, if those who make the decisions about budgets think about it in the same way they do a reality TV show?
It was a wasted opportunity from start to finish. Hosting it at the Opera House in London at 7:30pm only went to emphasise the London-centric bias that is felt north of the Watford Gap and the panel were not match fit enough to impress any significant points on the subject of culture or being creative.
Why not let those that do it, live it, make it and know it, speak it? It would have been exciting to debate with a panel made up of people in the industry who share knowledge of its practice but perhaps differing political sensibilities.
Passion fuels creativity. It’s also persuasive and enables healthy debate. Next time there’s one on Culture I hope those who make it and are invested in it are given proper voice.
Rant over. I’ll sit on my hands again now.