David Lister: All this culture was going on anyway. So why make an Olympiad out of it?

The week in arts

The Cultural Olympiad fascinates me. There it is in all its multi-million-pound glory, its London 2012 festival officially launched to tremendous fanfare a matter of days ago. Events announced included Jeremy Deller's "Stonehenge as a bouncy castle" and Martin Creed's Work No 1197 (this entails all the bells in the country being rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes).

The Cultural Olympiad launches are themselves works of art. The most recent was presided over by the beleaguered Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, at the Tower of London. There's a picture worthy of the Turner Prize. And what a panoply of cultural jewels the Cultural Olympiad has under its lavish umbrella. Certainly, there's the bouncy Stonehenge and the like, but it also boasts The Proms, the biggest classical music festival in the world; it delights in the David Hockney exhibition. Some might remark that the Proms happen every year. Others might remark that Hockney was commissioned by the Royal Academy well before Britain even won the Olympics bid.

That is to misunderstand a Cultural Olympiad. What are The Proms, Hockney, without that all-powerful logo? The real jewels in the crown of the Cultural Olympiad would have taken place this year, Olympics or no Olympics. That's all fine and quite nifty, but at £100m, it seems a little cheeky. No wonder research by Westminster University shows that the public has struggled with the concept of the Olympiad.

It would have been a lot cheaper and a lot more comprehensible simply to direct visitors to Britain to the wealth of artistic events happening anyway, the art exhibitions, the plays, the gigs, the festivals, the opera and dance which contribute to the cultural golden age we are rightly told we are living through at present in the UK. We have become besotted with these fancy titles. "Cultural Olympiad" sounds so grand, so darn cultural, that it seems almost churlish to point out how much was happening already, and how much money has gone on turning it into a "festival".

But there is a solution, a potentially unforgettable festival to celebrate culture in Olympics year, an arts festival that we would never forget. Why don't we put on a festival of the projects rejected by the Cultural Olympiad team? For example, there was the idea of dragging a glacier from the Arctic to the west coast of England, or the project by Olafur Eliasson involving an installation Take a Deep Breath, in which participants breathed on behalf of a "person, movement or cause" and recorded it for a website.

Yes that would have made a Cultural Olympiad to savour. See a glacier from the beach at Newquay, then take a deep breath for animal rights. Or, go and see the Proms and the myriad of arts events already scheduled. And keep the £100m for good causes.

 

Theatre should be an education in itself

The Hampstead Theatre in London has announced that it is will close its education department, as part of its financial cutbacks. No doubt the proper reaction to this is a wringing of hands, but I'm afraid I can't say that I see it as the end of the world. Arts venues have gone a bit education-mad in recent years. In one small area of London you can walk from the South Bank Centre to the Young Vic theatre to Tate Modern to Shakespeare's Globe, and find an education department in each venue. The lucky children of Southwark and Lambeth must be the best educated on cultural matters in the country. Surely the main aim of an arts venue should be to put on a great show. That will do more to encourage schoolchildren to love theatre/music/art than any number of education departments.

 

Now that's what I call method acting

My favourite arts story of the week was of the two stars of a Cuban film travelling to New York for the premiere at Tribeca film festival. The film tells of a teenage brother and sister who flee Cuba for the hope of a new life in Miami. The two 20-year-old actors playing the pair missed their connecting flight in Miami and decided to defect to America – one of them missing receiving the best actor award at the festival.

I wonder how their discussion went as they were sitting in the airport lounge waiting for a connecting flight. "Hey, you know the movie, isn't it Miami where...?" "Funny you should say that, I was just thinking myself..." It reverses the whole method-acting process. But in a good way.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

@davidlister1

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game