David Lister: The Week in Arts

A silly feud between aesthetes and athletes
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The Independent Online

It's not often that the invitation to a party proves as intriguing as the party itself. But I was taken aback with the wording on the invitation to the Arts & Business summer party at the spanking new garden in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

First, the party itself. It was a jolly nice do in a lovely venue (this new garden, complete with fountains, is a wonderful addition to London's cultural spaces). The party was attended by plenty of well-known people. Arts & Business, run by the king of cultural movers and shakers Colin Tweedy, attracts all the great and the good of the arts world.

Now to the more interesting stuff. The invitation that was e-mailed to guests turned into a mini-essay from Mr Tweedy. It said: "As sport moves more and more to the centre stage, it is vital that Arts & Business, working alongside all of you, is able to make sure that the arts too are placed at the heart of the United Kingdom.

"There is much to do, but we must all strive to make the arts as fundamental as sport is currently perceived to be and ensure that the arts are seen as a solution, an economic driver and not just a glamorous extra.

"I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday evening."

Phew. That's what I call an angst-ridden invite. I half expected to read: "RSVP only if you're not athletic." Sent in the aftermath of the victorious Olympic bid, as the invitation was, it could almost be called curmudgeonly. Mr Tweedy's metier is sponsorship and his world that of the rich business sponsors. The implication of his invite is that he fears that the rich sponsors might now see the best place for their money something connected with the Olympics -- or the World Cup or promising young tennis players, or cricket or rugby -- anything but theatre, opera, music and dance. Mr Tweedy is privy to the sponsorship figures, so maybe he already sees a downturn in private funding of the arts, or maybe he has looked into his crystal ball and does not like what he sees.

The invitation, of course, went to Tessa Jowell, whose portfolio includes both the arts and sport; so maybe the angst-ridden invite was less a general cri de coeur and more a personal plea or rebuke to her. Either way, it resurrects a conflict I had hoped to have been long buried: the war between sport and the arts.

This battleground tends to start at school, where it is convenient to divide students into sporty or arty. And it never seems to end. But it is wrong. One should be able to be passionate about both sport and the arts, either as participants, spectators or indeed sponsors. It should not be a case of either or.

And the Government can itself make that clear by announcing what the funding is going to be for the cultural festival being organised by the theatre director Jude Kelly to run alongside the Olympics. Tessa Jowell can give a rebuke back to Mr Tweedy by showing that she values arts and sport just as highly as each other in her portfolio.

There's no need to argue which is the more deserving or "glamorous". We need to take part in, watch and fund, both. Nobody gains by setting up the one in opposition to the other, even if it does make for unusually philosophical and tormented party invitations.

We should be so lucky, Kimberly

I am one of Fleet Street's inadequates, having once had lunch with Kimberly Fortier and ... nothing. No flowers, no phone calls, no e-mails.

But despite being left out in the cold, I have some sympathy with Ms Fortier at the moment. She is having to endure the prospect of three different actresses playing her. I've always suspected that people in causes célèbres who are instantly portrayed on stage or screen are less worried about their story being fictionalised than about who plays them.

Ms Fortier or her character can currently be seen on the London stage. There is some prospect of her featuring in a musical; and there is certainly a TV film in the offing.

However over the top the portrayals of her in play and musical, the TV film brings better news. Here she will be played by Victoria Hamilton. Miss Hamilton, pictured, is one of our most outstanding and intelligent actresses, with an understated beauty about her. We should all be so lucky. Kimberly Fortier might feel things are coming right at last.

* It was widely reported that all London's theatres closed on the night of the bombs. Actually, one stayed open, as was widely unreported. The National Theatre closed two of its three auditoria, but the Cottesloe, which was running the Shell Connections Youth Theatre season, did stage the scheduled performance. The two companies of youngsters had travelled from Newcastle and Cambridge to stage their shows. The young actors pleaded for the show to go ahead, and the NT management under artistic director Nicholas Hytner could not bear to disappoint them.

Part of me thinks that when in times of crisis the police urge people not to travel unless absolutely necessary, theatres should help by closing down. Another part of me thinks it would have been awful to deprive these young actors of the chance of a lifetime - appearing on the stage of the National Theatre. That part wins. The National did the right thing.

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