The Evil Imp

Night is Day

For reasons past understanding the Guardian newspaper decided to give Arts Council England Chairman Peter Balzagette a nice long promo for a book he has written called “Is The BBC In Crisis?”.

The quick answer to that particular question is YES! One of the reasons being that the best the BBC can come up with in terms of original programming is ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’ but on that subject we shall say no more.

For the most part the piece concerns itself with partnerships and why they are a good idea and one of the biggest partnerships that ACE struck up with the BBC was The Space. Right about now we imagine you are rolling your eyes and screaming “not again”. Bear with us though.

Mr Balzagette says this;

“This is the idea behind the pop-up arts portal, the Space, established as a joint venture between the BBC and Arts Council England. It operated in “beta” form during the Cultural Olympiad in 2012 and will be relaunched this spring as a fuller service. What it does is fund artists to create content, help train them in production skills and provide a branded outlet for the programming.”

Within that one paragraph Mr Balzagette lays bare the lie that was The Space and the fundamental problem that ACE, as an organisation, just cannot tell the truth.

If we look at the dance output on The Space we see the following. DanceXchange’s film of ‘Spill’ was nothing more than a commission from a production company. They paid somebody else to make a bad film of a dance piece despite the fact they already had a perfectly good film of it already. Lessons learned; how to use a phone, how to create redundant content, how to waste money.

DanceEast, under the leadership of the now departed Assis Carriero, created ‘Come Dance With Me’, a dire series of films about dance presented by the chuckle brothers New Art Club. The production skills they were taught apparently did not involve how to use a USB thumb drive or create backups because Dance East have no idea where these very expensive films are. Lessons learned; how to waste money, how to use a phone to get somebody to come and make really bad films for you, how not to keep reliable backups of digital data.

The Breakin’ Convention produced a seven hour long telethon of their show at Sadler’s Wells in London. Unfortunately for them nobody watched it. Lessons learned; How to commission a production company that would rather take your money than tell you that a live broadcast is both really hard and really unnecessary, how to let ego get in the way of common sense so you run a seven hour long, live dance show.

We could go on and on about Rambert Dance Company and their complete inability to film a live dance performance properly or Russell Maliphant’s perfume commercial ‘Eberus’ but we won’t because we’ve all suffered enough from this nonsense.

Lies On Top Of Lies

We asked you to bear with us and since you have we shall now furnish you with the point of this particular piece.

Mr Balzagette’s writing in the Guardian sums up not only the man himself but also the organisation he represents. They simply do not tell the truth about their schemes and their scheming.

The Space did not teach people who work in the arts “production skills” or anything else for that matter. Also, it wasn’t a “beta”. We don’t think Mr Balzagette knows what that word means.

ACE and its Chairman adopted the principle long ago that if you just string enough words together in the right order then it will sound like you’re saying something when in fact you’re not saying anything at all.

Their mantra is “say something often enough then people will usually start to believe it”. We imagine said mantra will be translated to Latin and etched in stone over the entrance of the funding monoliths new HQ in London.

This is what happens when you run an organisation via press releases and staged “debates” like the up and coming ‘No Boundaries’ events that are nothing more than ‘State of the Arts’ with better branding.

Here in TheLab™ we implore you to examine as closely as humanly possible what the folks in charge are saying and ask yourself why are they saying it.

Is their agenda to help the arts or to help themselves and their friends in high places keep a hold of their salaries and their pensions?

Are they working for you or just trying to keep you quiet so you will run along and play like good little citizens? Big changes come not from being polite but from, literally in some cases, getting in somebody’s face.

It’s time to stop pretending you can be everybody’s friend.

[ Peter Balzagette in The Guardian ]