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UK: It Seems it Ain’t Art if it Ain’t Ethnic

The council spends nearly half a billion pounds a year and, so far as I can tell, in 2007 most of that was given to Benjamin Zephaniah and others in exchange for some ditties about how awful the slave trade was and how everyone in Britain ought to commit suicide.

by Jeremy Clarkson

Here in Chipping Norton, there is a picture-perfect little theatre exactly the same as a London theatre, with a balcony and a bar, only it’s much, much smaller. You really do feel, as you perch on your primary-school chair, gazing on the Punch and Judy stage, that you are locked in a Cotswold-stone dolls’ house.

It’s an enchanting place and everyone round these parts is very proud of it. So consequently everyone is very cross that the Arts Council recently announced it would no longer be supplying £40,000 a year to help fund it.

And Chipping Norton is not alone. Even though the Arts Council has just received a £50m income boost from the government, it has sent letters to 194 mostly provincial playhouses, galleries and so on, saying they no longer fit with its “agenda”.

“Hmmm,” I wondered, “and what might this agenda be?” So I checked, and it seems that to get funding these days what you’ve got to be is black or mad or preferably both. For instance, the Arts Council has recognised that there are very few people from ethnic minorities in senior positions in the arts, but instead of thinking: “Aha. This shows that very few black or Asian people are interested, so let’s concentrate on the white middle classes”, it has now become involved with several schemes to get inner-city kids out of their training shoes and into an Othello suit.

There’s more. The Arts Council has never offered to translate my books into Urdu. Or Jilly Cooper’s. But it “remains committed” to spending a fortune supporting ethnic-minority writers. Indeed, it claims to have six priorities in place at the moment. And of course “celebrating diversity” is one of them. Not at all surprisingly, “celebrating Mrs Thatcher” isn’t one of the others.

The council spends nearly half a billion pounds a year and, so far as I can tell, in 2007 most of that was given to Benjamin Zephaniah and others in exchange for some ditties about how awful the slave trade was and how everyone in Britain ought to commit suicide.

But wait. What’s this? It seems there was some money left over to send a bunch of kids from Calderdale to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is a field full of what look like big bronze sheep droppings. It’s not my cup of tea but no matter – the droppings were sculpted by Henry Moore, so that sounds fine.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/jeremy_clarkson/article3215284.ece

2008-01-21

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