In a week when every newspaper has reviewed the year, culture in 2007 has been rightly celebrated. It has been an invigorating year artistically. But there have been, shall we say, the occasional misjudgement. So, after all the bouquets that have been handed out, let's also hear it for those moments of cultural idiocy. Here are my arts raspberries for 2007.
The British Film Institute and its director Amanda Nevill: for changing the name of the National Film Theatre to the horribly bureaucratic and meaningless BFI Southbank. To take a household name with wonderful memories for film fans and change it to something so ugly and uninformative is not just stupid; it is cultural vandalism.
Ditto the South Bank Centre. A vast sum of money was spent changing the name South Bank Centre to the preposterous Southbank Centre, and changing all the accompanying literature and signage. And every single day of the year, the bizarre aim of chairman Lord Hollick and his team to lose the definite article is defeated by reviewers who refer to it as The Southbank Centre. Public money was spent on this silly affectation. Please, Lord Hollick, tell us how much.
Robert Redford: His film Lions for Lambs had a title that was an allusion to the famous First World War saying. But that was, of course, lions led by donkeys. Lambs didn't come into it. It speaks volumes about the deference of Hollywood studios that Redford got through the whole of shooting without anyone alerting him to that fact.
English National Opera: putting on Kismet, a musical about fun and romance in Baghdad, showed not just poor timing but crass insensitivity. Giving it more performances than any opera this year showed a disturbing loss of nerve for a subsidised opera house.
The Proms: ditto re loss of nerve. An evening of songs from the musicals delivered by Michael Ball is not a bad thing in itself. Ball is a genuine talent. But this is meant to be the world's biggest classical music festival. And that was not classical music.
EMI: ditto, I'm afraid. The record label, whose classical division boasts such august names as Sir Simon Rattle, released a classical compilation with a cover picture of a naked woman tweaking her nipple. Could the EMI marketing department please explain the thought process that will encourage people to see that cover and sample Schubert?
Desperately Seeking Susan: the producers thought there was easy money to be made by putting the music of a popular rock band on the West End stage. But they failed to realise that Blondie, the band in question, remain too cool for a song and dance extravaganza, and their fans aren't interested. Early closure followed.
The Lowry Centre in Salford: the northern institution mounted an exhibition of great northerners past and present, which included B-list northern celebs such as Melanie Sykes and Vernon Kay, and left out those A-list northern celebs the Brontë sisters, William Wordsworth and, er, Lowry, a name that should not have been that difficult to remember at the Lowry Centre.
And finally in paying tribute to Tessa Jowell who moved from being Culture Secretary halfway through the year, I hope she will forgive me for mentioning a rather wonderful speech she gave, in which she looked back on exhibitions that commemorated the 200th anniversary of the "Islamabard kingdom". The audience wondered where this kingdom was. Then Ms Jowell turned the page and corrected herself. It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Liverpool loses out
Next week sees the start of Liverpool's year as European City of Culture. A key reason why the Tate announced the winner of this year's Turner Prize at its Liverpool gallery a few weeks ago was to help to publicise the 2008 year of culture in the city.
The Turner Prize announcement and its winner Mark Wallinger (pictured) had masses of publicity, not just here but also across the world. I read a full account of it in The New York Times.
But neither in the foreign press nor barely at all in our own press did I see a mention of Liverpool, European City of Culture. Wouldn't it have been a lot more sensible for the Turner Prize announcement to have been delayed just a few weeks so that it could have been made at the start of the new year to launch the year of culture?
That way, both the prize and Liverpool could have received publicity here in Britain and also in Europe and America. Both the Tate and Liverpool missed a trick.
I see that next year the two theatrical giants Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber are to work together to find stars for Sir Cameron's revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver! on the West End stage. Working together, of course, now means being judges on a reality TV show. This one will be called I'd Do Anything, the title of one of the songs in the show, and will presumably involve the now usual TV panel and viewers' vote deciding which unknowns will find celebrity.
It was fun for a while, but is every big West End musical now going to be cast on Saturday night television? Young actors who have learned their craft at drama school must be wondering whether it was all worth it. If this method of casting is to become the norm, can we not have something a bit more informative perhaps a televised session of the new stars' agents negotiating salary levels?Reuse content