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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory