Maureen Lipman laments arts ministers’ lack of competence

 

Maureen Lipman has described Culture Secretary Maria Miller as a “nightmare” and complained that most recent arts ministers know nothing about art.

In an interview with The Independent, the stage and screen actor – known to millions as the ology-obsessed Jewish grandmother from the 1980s BT adverts – claimed that governments preferred to invest in buildings rather than the people who actually create art.

“We never seem to have an arts minister who knows the slightest thing about it. They seem to pick someone on the grounds that they were in a school play. This woman [Ms  Miller] is a nightmare,” Lipman said.

“Who was the last arts secretary who actually bothered to go to the theatre I wonder? Lord Gowrie or someone. So we always fall foul of the cuts.”

Lipman is the biggest name on the bill at London’s newest theatre – the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. Challenged about the virtues of opening a new playhouse when so many other arts ventures are struggling, the 67-year-old said: “Do we need new theatres? That’s a good point. I have a theory that you can always get money for buildings, but not for people. That applies to hospitals and schools. Or The Shard.” Cue that oh-so-familiar, slightly mocking voice: “A very useful addition to the City. But can you get money for people? No.”

As if to illustrate her point, she insinuates that even designers of swanky new theatres have to be prodded to remember the needs of the people actually using them. “I had to insist on having a window installed in my dressing room because I thought I was going to be suffocated in there. They’re taking grants away from all the existing companies… There are more places to work, but no reps: nowhere to learn your trade.”

Not that the new Park Theatre has had to worry about penny pinching from Ms Miller. Jez Bond, its artistic director, tapped wealthy luvvie luminaries for the £2.5m he needed, with donations from the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Celia Imrie.

Lipman said she was “probably” among those who stumped up some cash, adding: “What I give is purely instinctive and on the spur.” Much like her comments on the state of the arts, she said, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

“Art is essential in a society but it’s the easiest thing to cut because, as you see from Czechoslovakia and everywhere, if you cut it down, if you repress it, it will come out at the sides, like a pressure cooker. So there will always be art.”

The same goes for fundraisers:  “There’ll be more excerpts from shows packed in on Sunday nights. More Barry Manilow. Liza will fly in and Michael Ball will compere, and they’ll somehow raise the money.” Again, that same droll, slightly nasal tone that is indisputably Lipman. Pressed on whether those who have made it big have any sort of duty to cough up – something Lord Browne, the chair of the Tate, thinks is a given – Lipman was blunt. “Should we have a sort of Bill Gates Fund for rich actors? Oh God, no… The problem is, actors are so surprised by success and they know it’s so temporary. They know that it’s Monday and Tuesday, and by Friday they’ll be happy to get a fried onion commercial.

“Even if you’re Gary Oldman or Kate Winslet you’re looking over your shoulder because nowadays Andy Warhol got it right: 15 minutes of fame. So you can’t ever really relax and say I’ve earned enough to help this theatre out, although we all do. But you couldn’t make it compulsory – there would be uproar.”

You could say she’s doing her bit simply by taking on the roles. Her turn in Old Money at Hampstead Theatre earlier this year was a sell-out. And the auditorium was packed for the first preview of Daytona, which opens officially today. She insisted all the line learning is hard work these days, although having well-written prose is a boon. “A lot of the time in television you’re forced to say things that you can’t even learn because they’re so badly constructed.”

Arts ministers under fire

Maria Miller

Lipman is far from the first to criticise the culture minister, right. Sir Timothy West said: “I can’t remember the last arts minister who really knew anything about the arts or cared - it seems to be a sort of parking place for them before they get moved on to something else.”

Jeremy Hunt

The previous holder of the title came under fire for his handling of library closures. Children’s author Julia Donaldson said Hunt, below left, refused to respond to letters and invitations from campaign groups.

Tim Renton

Conservative arts minister Tim Renton had a David Hockney piece displayed in his office and asked the artist if he could provide another to make up a set. Hockney refused on principle, saying he was not particularly enamoured with the government of the time.

Lord Gowrie

The exception: the  1980s minister was an intellectual polymath  who in his various incarnations was author, poet, cabinet minister, chairman of the Arts Council and chairman of Sotheby’s who had the respect of more of the art world than his successors.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

News
The Bounceway, designed by Architecture for Humanity
newsLondon to add 'The Bounceway' to commuting options
Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
tech
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - West Yorkshire - Ashdown Group - FTC 2017

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car allowance (£5.5k)+ benefits: Ashdown Group: Ma...

Opilio Recruitment: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£15k - 18k per year + Benefits & OTE: Opilio Recruitment: Digital Media, Mob...

Recruitment Genius: Sales People & Team Managers - UK Wide

£67200 - £96000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Self-employed Sales People and ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - IT Outsourcing - £70,000 OTE

£30000 - £40000 per annum + £70,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital