Magazine article The Spectator

Charming Concepts

Magazine article The Spectator

Charming Concepts

Article excerpt

The quote at the front of Labour long-delayed cultural policy document, finally launched this week at a rather muted news conference, is well chosen. It is from John Ruskin. 'A person who every day looks upon a beautiful picture, reads a page from some good book and hears a beautiful piece of music will soon become a transformed person - one born again.'

I say well chosen because, like the document, it is filled with charming concepts. But nowhere in the document will you find the joint authors Jack Cunningham and Mark Fisher saying precisely what they will do and what it will cost should Labour win the election. Let me give you some examples. On film: they will ensure that the British film industry's case is properly addressed. On the Lottery: they will review the requirement for matching funding. On public libraries: they have a vision of a revitalised library service for the new millennium. On museums and galleries: they will review admission charges.

While Jack Cunningham may be a new boy in the arts, Mark Fisher has been Labour's arts spokesman for ten years. Surely by now he knows exactly what his policies are and what they would cost. One thing is certain, though. There will be no extra money on the table for the arts.

Sir Peter Hall's first 40-week season of plays which has just opened at the Old Vic (review of Waste on page SO) could well become the most significant theatrical event in London since the launch of the National Theatre - also at the Old Vic back in 1963.

While Sir Peter has, understandably, chosen six classics for production during this period, including Waiting for Godot, The Seagull and King Lear, he has also chosen six new plays. It was a bold decision. Conventional wisdom has it that new playwrights, if they are extremely lucky, get their work put on at tiny fringe theatres such as the 100-seat Bush, the new Soho Theatre, in a converted synagogue, or out of London at the Traverse in Edinburgh or the Peacock in Dublin. If a minor miracle happens they might get to the Royal Court or the Cottesloe or the Donmar. To have a season of new plays in a 1,000-seat theatre of the importance of the Old Vic with the support of people of the stature of Sir Peter and his partner Dominic Dromgoole, former director of the Bush, is a huge leap of faith.

The first of the six, Hurly Burly by an American writer, David Rabe, joins the repertory on Monday. …

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