Friday, March 14, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I wonder if our politicians have ever been to the Royal Albert Hall of a summer evening. You'd think people in certain positions should have:
The culture minister, Margaret Hodge, will today criticise the Prom concerts as one of many British cultural events that fail to engender new common values or attract more than a narrow unrepresentative audience.
I doubt she'd know culture if it bit her on the bottom. And what on earth are "new common values"? She hasn't made the speech yet, but here is the money quote:
"The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events - I'm thinking in particular of the Proms - is (sic) still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this.
"I know this is not about making every audience completely representative, but if we claim great things for our sectors in terms of their power to bring people together, then we have a right to expect they will do that wherever they can."
Aside from the hideous jargon of "sectors", you have to wonder what she's on.
I'll accept that the Proms are probably still dominated by a white middle-class audience, and the Last Night is a jingoistic horror show with Union Jack-toting public school arses at their worst, but over the past decade or so there has been a real effort by the organisers of the concerts to make them more diverse and inclusive. Most observers would actually say the Proms are trying to bring people together wherever they can.
Although traditional classical music still dominates the Proms' programme each summer - quite rightly I might add, it is the world's premier classical music festival - there are also several late night proms which feature all types of world music. These regularly attract a more representative (read: less white) audience, as well as introducing the white middle-classes to a broader range of music. In addition to this, there are concerts for young people, such as the Blue Peter Prom, which help spread interest in classical music to a new generation of fans.
Furthermore, the Proms are very accessible in terms of price. Whereas many will associate classical concerts with the ballet or opera and tickets of £40-50 and up, you can get into the Proms and enjoy the concert for about a fiver, much less than some traditionally proletarian pastimes such as watching football. Finally, the Proms are now shared around the country, through the Proms in the Park initiative. There are simultaneous outdoor concerts for the Last Night in places as far-flung from London as Glasgow, Belfast and Swansea.
So, if Margaret Hodge had half a brain, she would see the Proms are not just accessible to an elitist, white, middle-class, elderly, south-east-based audience. If people from any background want to see they Proms, they can, without prejudice. Her ignorance really winds me up, as it aims at a (wrong) target merely to play to stereotypes some of those on the left have about classical music. From the so-called culture minister, that's pretty unforgivable.