David Lister: When David didn't meet David – and why he should have done

The Week in Arts

Share
Related Topics

I'm looking forward to David Hare's drama Page 8 which is being screened on BBC2 tomorrow night.

The interview that he gave to Radio Times this week about it made it sound an interesting departure for the eminent playwright. But reading that interview, I was pulled up sharply by a surprising and rather depressing statement from Sir David.

He mentioned that he was recently invited by David Cameron to discuss the arts, but declined. He told the interviewer: "What's the point? You can see what the Tories are going to do. We've seen so many prime ministers come in and say they're going to do something for the arts, and all [Cameron's Culture Secretary] Jeremy Hunt has done for the arts is cut them. You know when prime ministers get into office they're not interested in the arts."

Well, I suppose I have the advantage on David Hare in that case. I have discussed the arts with Jeremy Hunt. I have been into Downing Street to discuss the arts. Actually, in the case of Jeremy Hunt, I found that he was genuinely interested in his brief and wanted to hear a range of opinion. The meeting was at his instigation, not mine.

To refuse such an invitation, particularly from a prime minister as Sir David has done, seems to be not just throwing away an interesting opportunity; it seems, if Sir David will forgive me for saying so, a little high-handed and a little unfair on the rest of the arts community.

Sir David might just have changed the other David's mind; he might have convinced him of the central place of the arts in British society; he might have informed him about the present state of theatre, the need for funding to be maintained, the need for government advocacy to the electorate in cultural matters. He presumably wasn't just being invited as David Hare, nice bloke; he was being invited as David Hare, major figure in the arts with views worth listening to.

In saying why he refuses to meet Cameron to discuss the arts, Hare does go on to say that any difference he makes will be in his writing. And there is much truth in that. A playwright's greatest and lasting chance to affect, and possibly change, society lies in his work, not in any private meetings with the powerful. But the effect of a play or film script is long term. It has to be written, staged, produced, and its message takes time to get across to a relatively small part of the population. A meeting with a prime minister can have short-term, even immediate, effects, especially when the advocate is influential and eloquent. Culture needs its champions.

A fitting tribute to Camden's queen

A giant portrait of Amy Winehouse by the acclaimed young artist Johan Andersson was unveiled at the late singer's local Tube station, Camden Town, this week. The picture has considerable impact and it is good that it can be seen by passers-by in the buzz of Winehouse's own urban locality rather than in a gallery.

Andersson, a previous winner of the Jerwood Contemporary Painters Prize, says his portraits display "an ambiguous and awkward underlying tension".

I'm not wild about artists analysing their own work. I belong to the school of thought that artists should create the work and leave it to the critics and spectators to reach their own conclusions. But in this case his analysis is correct, and the portrait is a fitting tribute in a fitting location.

The Hour's last anachronism

Tuesday nights won't be the same without The Hour, the best drama on TV for a long time, with a superlative cast. The anachronisms in the script, to which I have drawn attention in recent weeks, can't detract from the gripping nature of the show and the wonderful acting. Allow me one last anachronism, though, sent in by Independent reader Edward Odim.

Mr Odim is a whisky broker, who also happens to be a former BBC producer. He tells me that he became very animated when the character played by Anna Chancellor came into a room carrying a bottle of single malt whisky – a single cask bottling of Glengoyne. Mr Odim is adamant that people did not drink single malt whisky in the 1950s. Single malt whisky bottlings are a relatively modern phenomenon.

To make matters worse, he says, the programme had Dominic West walk into a bar and ask for Glengoyne. "It's just all wrong," declares an exasperated Mr Odim. "Back then it would have been a blended whisky on offer. Scriptwriter Abi Morgan may as well have had Mr West ask for a Bacardi Breezer."

It's enough to drive a viewer to drink, though I'll be drinking to another series.



React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee