David Lister: Why must it be a culture-free election?

The Week in Arts

Related Topics

The party leaders' debate two nights ago took place in an art gallery. It was, according to one wag, "possibly the only time the arts will really take, or provide, the centre stage during this election".

That remark would be mildly amusing, were it not for the fact that it was made, in his weekly blog, by Ed Vaizey, the Conservative Party spokesman for the arts. One might have hoped that he would have done his best to ensure that this was not the case, rather than accept defeat so easily.

But perhaps Mr Vaizey is a realist, though he is a little unfair to his own leader. David Cameron did allow the arts to infiltrate his campaign, launching a nationwide talent contest with Take That singer Gary Barlow. It would involve an annual schools music competition, with the winners progressing to regional heats and a national final. The Conservative manifesto, however, disappointingly has nothing to say about culture apart from "restoring the National Lottery to its original purpose", which would imply more money going to the arts.

Labour has a reasonably chunky section on the arts in its manifesto, and promises cheaper theatre tickets, maintaining free admission to national museums and galleries, more lottery funding, more children learning to play musical instruments, and lifetime library membership for every child from birth.

The Lib Dems proclaim that "the arts are a central part of civic and community life", and make a few promises that would directly affect cultural life – such as helping live music by introducing an exemption from licensing for venues of up to 200 people, and removing the higher rate of tax relief in gift aid.

Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party don't mention the arts at all in their manifestos. And though some parties emerge better than others as far as manifesto mentions of culture are concerned, the word is still pretty much absent from the hustings, as it is from the TV debates and party leaders' press conferences and interviews.

Of course, much of the arts runs itself quite happily and does not need interference from politicians. But other areas do demand publicly stated interest from politicians, especially in an election campaign. Is there really nothing to be said about the state of TV, public libraries, museums or ticket prices?

It does not even need grand policy statements. I attended a meeting in Downing Street shortly before the election was announced along with the directors of a number of key arts institutions. The Chatham House Rule prevents me from giving any detail of the meeting. But what was clear was that the people who run the arts, and individual artists, want to see advocacy and engagement from all the party leaders and senior political figures. They want them to go to arts events, to talk about them and, by example, encourage the nation.

The irony is that in these cash-strapped times, that wouldn't cost anything at all.

Daisy knows how to spin a yarn

When the Orange Prize longlist was announced a few weeks ago, the chair of the judging panel Daisy Goodwin (or chaise longue as she describes herself) made it clear that too many female novelists wrote depressive fiction. This week, as the shortlist was announced, Ms Goodwin hinted at a dispute among the judges. Later she let slip that she was worried that judging panels for book prizes were too incestuous with literary figures either settling scores or favouring friends. A few more non-literary celebrities on book prize panels would be a good thing, she concluded.

Who knows? I do know that if I were launching a book prize, I would want Daisy Goodwin to be the chair, chaise longue, or whatever the former TV executive and public champion of poetry wishes to call herself. How she performs in the privacy of the judging room I have no idea, but as a literary spinner and publicity gatherer for a prize that was looking a bit tired, she has few equals.

Let's think of Britain before Broadway

One of the greatest plays (and greatest performances) of recent years comes to an end tonight as Jerusalem, starring Mark Rylance, finishes its London run. The stirring lament for a lost sense of individuality, rebellion and even anarchy has had packed houses not just giving standing ovations, but asking themselves questions about identity and Britain.

The plan is to take the production to Broadway. But I wonder if that is a good idea. It seems perverse to mention the words "Jerusalem" and "failure" in the same sentence. But I'm not at all sure that New York audiences will "get" Jez Butterworth's play with its idiosyncratic West Country jokes, a touch of morris dancing and an anti-hero who is a drug addict and a paedophile.

American humour it ain't. The theatre world always makes the assumption that Broadway is the logical next step for a London success. But, wouldn't it be wonderful if this London hit could now entrance audiences across the UK, not least in the West Country, where the play is set. Broadway is not the be-all and end-all. We should think of our own theatre-goers too.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power