ARTS / Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
Two weeks ago I quoted Lord St John of Fawsley as having said that 'the most important event that has occurred in the world of the arts and architecture in Britain in the past 50 years' was the founding of the Department of National Heritage. (The same day, the Secretary of State ran into a spot of trouble, but that's another story.) I poured a certain amount of scorn on St John's remark and invited readers to say what they considered the most important event.

Mrs E Horton, of Halstead, Essex, nominates the arts foundation course of the Open University, 'which opened the door to interest and enjoyment in the arts for so many'. G A Elwes of Kingston upon Thames suggests the first performance of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, in 1945; he does not give a reason, perhaps feeling that none is needed.

Tim Byard of Rochester reckons it's a three-way tie between the Beatles' appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in 1963 ('when working-class heroes were somethings to be'), the launch of Channel 4 in 1982 ('where would Colin Firth be without it?'), and last year's opening of the Birmingham Symphony Hall ('Shake, Rattle and roll up for a corking evening of Martinu, and let's not hear a word against Birmingham again'). Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Simone Waller ignores the Symphony Hall, feeling that it has to be the RSC: either their Nicholas Nickleby (1980), 'the best thing ever', or the first time they toured the provinces (which an RSC spokesman says is hard to date, but no matter) - 'a genuinely important cultural event, tapping a huge reservoir of interest in good theatre outside London and Stratford'. This week's bottle of champagne is on its way to her. Any more thoughts?

ITN HAS a couple of middle-ranking jobs to fill on Channel 4 News - political correspondent and economics correspondent - and has been advertising them in the papers. 'Both positions,' they tell us, 'require the ability to work under pressure and the capacity to produce stylised and distinctive longer reports.' Hang on a minute . . . stylised and distinctive reports? I can just about see the need to be distinctive, although in news reporting I would have thought it was more important to get the facts straight than to express your individuality. But stylised? If it means anything, stylised means mannered or conventionalised - the opposite of distinctive. It is seldom used as a term of approval. Do they really mean stylised? Or do they mean stylish? Does this tell us quite a lot about the puffed-up way television newspersons see themselves, or is it just a slip by the personnel department? Enlightenment gratefully received. (If you reckon you have what it takes for one of the jobs, the closing date is Friday.)

IN A letter in last Sunday's paper, David C Pick of Direct Entertainment took us to task for inconsistency, on the grounds that we ran a competition for The Ultimate Opera Collection, the CD version of which costs pounds 13.49, while continuing to campaign for cheaper CDs. I'm glad you raised that, David. The point is that this disc runs for 74 minutes, which is nearly twice as long as the standard pop album. If it was available on vinyl, which sadly it isn't, it would be a double LP. So pounds 13.49 doesn't represent bad value, although naturally we would like to see a price that was more in line with that of the cassette ( pounds 8.99). Regular readers, of course, will know where to find it for less. Results of the competition, by the way, will appear next week.

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