Bring Back Ideas and Argument

By Sutcliffe, Tom | The Spectator, November 1, 1997 | Go to article overview

Bring Back Ideas and Argument


Sutcliffe, Tom, The Spectator


Something deep down inside me revolted when I first heard employees of British Rail referring to passengers as 'customers'. It wasn't just conservatism about language. I felt, without knowing quite why, very suspicious of the implicit change in relationship. Henceforth, travellers on trains were no longer citizens who had gained access to a familiar system of travel, a distinct world and culture (with its own gritty slightly antiquated romance) which was a communally owned and conveniently extensive public service. Instead, we were consumers of a travel facility, soon-to-be-provided-for customers by a heavily subsidised private firm at a phoney market price.

Consumerism is a term of abuse. But the change of attitude, represented by the transformation of the travelling public from passengers to customers, is not just a factor of a new (no doubt more efficient and in that sense healthier) business ethos within the railway system. It runs through everything, and has affected fundamentally the area of journalism in which I have worked since the age of 25: arts journalism. And along with the consumerisation of arts journalism has gone growing editorial uninterest in (if not contempt for) the performing arts. And that has been matched by an ever-increasing precariousness of existence for performers, for companies engaged in the performing arts, for the whole extravagant culture associated with the entertainment of `it'll be all right on the night'.

But aren't the arts in Britain a great national success story with everything blooming in the garden? Isn't Lord LloydWebber the King of Broadway? Journalism may be in decline - newspapers have changed for the worse. But, in fact, there are more pages about the arts and culture in newspapers now and bigger pictures which are a sort of culture in themselves. Who wants to read dreary so-called authorities banging on about what we ought to think? And anyway you can't exactly complain when the poor bloody taxpayer has voluntarily forked out 78 million for the new Royal Opera House to provide for wealthy patrons, most of whom will never buy a Lottery ticket as long as they live.

Let me start at the beginning. I got into journalism because I was asked to write a promotional piece about a concert of Monteverdi etc. that I was organising for a group called Musica Reservata at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was 30 years ago, and I had gone to the editors of Music and Musicians magazine to see if they could carry something about what Musica Reservata was trying to do. Those were pioneering days in the early music business. As a countertenor I was pretty pioneering myself. They said, if you write it, we'll print it. So I did. And they did. It was a puff disguised as information. We sold out the QEH after I'd done a lot of legwork, placing posters in shop windows in South Kensington and so on.

Well, not many people read Music and Musicians, but I was leaving no stone unturned in my publicity campaign. A year or so later I was selling space for M&M, one of the Seven Arts group which disappeared 15 years ago when its bankrupt publisher committed suicide. When I became editor in 1970, I found out that the 15,000 circulation figure I had been quoting was really about 7,000.

Fast forward 30 years, and where are the little arts magazines on which tomorrow's critics can sharpen their teeth? No Scrutiny. No Score. No Criterion. No reviewing in the New Statesman of performing arts. Laura Cumming, the arts editor, decided that there might be articles about concerts and opera performances in advance of the event but there wouldn't be any reviews to let the reader know whether it had been worth paying any attention to the intelligent puffery to which the magazine had lent its authority. Who, indeed, are today's critics? The Observer, the paper for which William Glock wrote with distinction in the 1940s, found that it simply couldn't accommodate Andrew Porter, who in his days on the New Yorker was regularly referred to (with Anglo-Saxon blinkered hyperbole) as the best music critic in the world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Bring Back Ideas and Argument
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.