David Lister: It's a funny old job but someone's got to do it

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The Independent Online

The new Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw was spotted at the Latitude festival last weekend, dancing to Grace Jones.

What a sight it was, as he stripped to the waist in the pouring rain, gyrating and fist-pumping. This week it was revealed his department, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, had a £100m black hole – a budget overspend that will probably mean the postponement or cancellation of arts projects such as the Tate Modern extension.

Private Eye magazine could probably have had some fun on its cover with the juxtaposition of that story and a half-naked, gyrating Mr Bradshaw. It certainly looks as if he lost his shirt in more ways than one. I rather welcome the fact that the Culture Secretary knows how to enjoy himself. It's essential for doing the job. And a funny old job it is. The one thing that the Culture Secretary has precious little influence on is culture. The funding of one or two grand projects, yes, and the national museums. But most of the spending and decisions are taken by the Arts Council, an unelected quango.

The best role a Culture Secretary can take – at least until he abolishes the Arts Council – is to be an ambassador for culture. He is meant to love the arts, even if he can't influence them much. That's why every new Culture Secretary is asked, as Mr Bradshaw was by Independent readers in "You Ask The Questions" this week, what their favourite film/ album is. It's a weird question when you think about it. Education ministers aren't asked who their favourite teacher was; health ministers aren't asked for their favourite hospital.

Of course, every Culture Secretary will have half an eye on their street cred when they name their favourites. They tend not to say they watch He's Just Not That Into You followed by a blast of Girls Aloud. Nor must they seem too remote from the people and claim to watch art-house films every night at the Institut Français. Mr Bradshaw made his choices with commendable political nous, Bob Marley and Casablanca. If you had to find a musician and a movie that manage to be eternally cool, accessible and popular, well, there you have them.

We await the Culture Secretary with a big majority to choose "anything by Lars von Trier" and drum'n'bass. Meanwhile, let Ben Bradshaw gyrate with the best of them. He can't only be at pop festivals gyrating madly, of course. He must be culturally impartial. I expect to see him shouting bravo at the theatre, and at the opera. He can keep his clothes on, but he must enthuse. It gives out the right signals about British culture. And he might discover that, in his job, there's a not a lot else to do.

A degree of elitism at the Royal Albert Hall

My hackles always rise when I hear people say that classical music is elitist. If anything disproves that, it is the Proms. Indeed, the Proms director Roger Wright wrote in a newspaper article that "the Proms can continue to be a beacon of hope about the power of classical music and its ability to touch and inspire audiences, whatever type of Britishness they represent".

So I am a little bemused by last Wednesday's Cambridge Prom, celebrating composers and virtuosi who are graduates of that university. The Proms programme gets itself into a bit of a twist over this, admitting that one of the featured composers, Ryan Wigglesworth, actually attended Oxford, but now lectures at Cambridge. Phew. We can all breathe more easily in that case.

It all seems a bit irrelevant to me. Do those of us who did not attend Cambridge, or even Oxford, get an evening at the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate our alma mater?

This is the end – or is it just the beginning?

It's good that attention is being paid to the way television casts off older women. The BBC has, with increasing ineptitude, discarded first Moira Stuart from reading the news and now Arlene Phillips from judging Strictly Come Dancing.

It was also good to see the redoubtable Joan Bakewell adding her voice to those of the critics. Joan's experience would enrich many a programme. But I had to do a bit of a double-take when I saw that one of the people voicing her angst was Mariella Frostrup. She said: "I'm 47 now and I'm probably near the end of my screen career because of my age."

Aside from her many sidelines as a voice-over artist, a national newspaper agony aunt, the film critic for Harper's Bazaar and a radio presenter, she is very regularly on television as the presenter of The Book Show on Sky Arts, and during the Hay literary festival she hosted a live 10-part series. It must be awful to be so ignored.