The Evil Imp

The Lost Arts

The Guardian newspaper published a by the numbers puff-piece last week based on a press release from the BBC proclaiming that the publicly funded broadcaster was going to champion the arts or, you know, whatever.

Said press release, loosely translated by John Plunkett (totally made up name or what? Ed!), proclaimed that;

“Nearly £3m extra will be spent on arts programmes across TV, radio and online in the coming year, with BBC director general Tony Hall, the former chief executive of the Royal Opera House, promising “more arts on the BBC than ever before”.”

Alarm bells immediately start ringing because Tony Hall is a former over-paid bottle washer from the subsidised arts sector who is now an over-paid bottle washer at the BBC.

“The arts really matter. They are not for an elite or for a minority. They’re for everybody,” said Hall. “I worry the arts could become more marginalised unless we do more to reach out to children and young people. To inspire them.”

It’s always lovely when very wealthy people who can afford to do anything they want tell the rest of us that we can have everything they have and it’s all thanks to them despite the fact that the “rest of us” are the ones who paid them all the money to become wealthy in the first place. But we digress.

Of course, when Mr Hall says “the arts” are for everyone he doesn’t actually mean all of the arts. What he means are the kind he oversaw when he worked at the Royal Opera House. The really “big” arts with all the posh costumes, big orchestras and big venues. The kind of arts run by his well funded friends.

The advisory group being put together to inform this shake up of arts coverage includes Nicholas Serota from the Tate in London and Nicholas Hytner the soon to be ex-AD of the National Theatre , also in London. Outlined for coverage by the BBC will be a lot of Shakespeare, Glyndebourne Opera and stuff made by folks like Sam Mendes (director of the last James Bond film).

There is little or no room at all for any of the scruffy regional folk working in dance companies that receive less than £1Million per year in annual support. Just so you know, that’s pretty much all of them. We feel sure that the usual suspects will appear somewhere at some point if they happen to do something for The Royal Ballet.

Also set to return is The Space, the ill-advised and massively expensive media channel for the arts run by the BBC with their partners in crime at Arts Council England. Given their track record of appalling dance coverage and profligate spending we see no reason to expect anything different when it re-emerges from the swamp once again to impress absolutely no-one.

If they’re lucky some dance companies may get a few scraps from the table after all the “licensing” and admin money has been spent.

No Surprises

None of this should come as too much of a surprise to folks in the wide world of dance or the arts in general. Mr Hall was appointed to the top job at the BBC just because. There was no open application process or even an interview, he got the job because he used to work there before working at the Royal Opera House and his old friends gave him a new job with a bigger pay packet.

Once installed in his new position Mr Hall appointed at least two employees with no open application process or interview. Anne Bulford, who worked with Mr Hall at the Royal Opera House, was given a £395,000 per year job in finance. Former Culture Minister James Purnell secured a £295,000 role with a job title that sounded completely made up.

It is this mentality that pollutes the commissioning process for what will be featured in the new BBC push for greater arts coverage.

There will be no Motionhouse, Candoco, 2Faced, Scottish Dance Theatre, JV2, Verve or so many others because they don’t have friends in the right places. They have no history with Mr Hall and his cronies and as such, they simply do not exist.

Of course the irony is that the companies that would benefit the most from some national exposure on a national broadcast television network are the ones least likely to get it.

Perhaps the “regional” arts folk can make do with the utterly incompetent and thoroughly patronising local news coverage that always makes everybody cringe when it goes to air. Scraps from table dear readers, scraps from the table.

This favouritism has always been the case and it won’t change as long as the same people are given the same jobs because they do have friends in all the right places.

We have mentioned the rapid onset of a two-tier arts system in this country before and if this nonsense doesn’t stop soon, aided and abetted by the faux arts media, then the poor will just keep getting poorer.