David Lister: There should be room in the arts world for people of all political persuasions

The Week in Arts


I don't really want to end the year by blowing Tracey Emin's trumpet, as she's no slouch when it comes to doing that for herself.

But you had to feel for her this week, when she revealed that she had been abused and made to feel an outsider by the art world, because she was a supporter of the Conservative Party.

The art world would not just dislike the fact that its very own enfant terrible was a Conservative; it wouldn't begin to understand it. Conceptual artists are not meant to be Conservatives. Neither are actors, playwrights, novelists or rock stars (until the millions or the drugs really kick in). It's against the natural order of things.

Opera singers can fraternise with the Tories, dancers, too, maybe the odd mime artist. But those at the cutting edge of contemporary culture have to be on the left. It's why only one in a thousand "political plays" is written by a Conservative or anyone right of centre, why there are no rock festivals to support coming out of Europe, why the right has never produced a Billy Bragg, much less a David Hare.

Emin has moved the goalposts and it's disconcerting for many in the arts. In a small way, I slightly know what she means with the outsider talk. I'm not a Conservative voter, but I have in recent times argued that this government shouldn't be demonised for making cuts to the arts, as the sector wasn't totally devoid of scope for some economies. I also voiced the opinion that we should have a sophisticated rethink of free admission to national museums and galleries, perhaps to find a way of continuing to let UK residents in free and charging tourists.

On both occasions, arts world worthies made clear that this was not right thinking, or even worse, it was "right" thinking. I've long found it disappointing that the one area in British life where one would hope for real debate and openness to different views and genuine independence – the arts – can be an area so homogeneous, so in thrall to a party line that attending any arts conference is often to hear speaker after speaker saying the same thing to ever more rousing applause.

The arts are going through a golden age; there's no doubt about that. But if there is one way we could make it even more golden, it would be for this country's culture to represent and speak to all sides of the political spectrum. I would love to be surprised by some different viewpoints on stage, or on canvas or in song. The Royal Court could put on a right-of-centre play; the ICA could hold a debate about coming out of Europe, and Tracey Emin could be allowed back into polite society. The arts (and artists) are too big to be limited by one political ethos.

Let's hear it for the little people

The latest BBC version of The Borrowers received only middling to poor reviews. Nothing against the fine cast, but I have long wondered why the corporation hasn't repeated its excellent adaptation from a couple of decades ago featuring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton – a cast to die for. That utterly superb version told the story from the perspective of the Borrowers, ie the little people, with the human beings as giant figures. The new version was told from the perspective of the human beings, with the Borrowers as tiny.

An insider tells me that the BBC never really liked the idea of telling the story from the Borrowers' perspective, and that is why it has been reluctant to repeat it. Now it has got its way and told the story differently, to little acclaim. Meanwhile, I still hope that it will repeat the other, utterly enchanting version for a new generation of viewers.

Another fine idea soon up for the chop

So who should we hiss and boo in appropriate pantomime style at this time of year? I nominate Westminster Council. First it threatened to introduce parking charges at night and on Sundays, which would have neatly decimated audience numbers for theatre, film, concerts and art galleries. It stayed its hand after an avalanche of protest, but still aims to impose the charges after next summer's Olympics.

But you can't keep a philistine council down. Now it wants to curtail the concerts in Hyde Park, as it has had 130 complaints from residents about noise. In the context of the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy some of the best rock gigs of the year there, and the hugely successful Proms in the Park, I don't think 130 complaints is excessive. Most of the concerts are over soon after 10pm. But carry on Westminster. End the Hyde Park concerts next summer, and then impose the parking charges. You might just achieve your ambition of making London one of the hardest capital cities in which to enjoy the arts.

d.lister@independent.co.uk // twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HE Dyslexia Tutor/Study Skills Tutor P/T

£21 - £22 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education has been help...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently seeking dy...

IT & Business Studies Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT & Business Studies Teacher f...

IT Support Engineer (1st and 2nd Line) - London

£22000 - £24000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer (1st...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The app is due to be launched in San Francisco initially, with other 300 people currently on the waiting list  

Is it too much to ask that people turn up to meet you when they say they will?

Simon Kelner
Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in New York aged just 39  

All this Dylan Thomas fever is telling us only half the story

John Walsh
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?