Janet Street-Porter: You've got the wrong target, Margaret

Related Topics

Margaret Hodge, the Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, attacks the Proms, claiming they do not make people from different backgrounds "feel at ease", and whingeing that the world's biggest classical music festival does not strike the right note in multi-cultural Britain. This is presumably because the audience is overwhelmingly white and the televised antics of those dinner-jacketed twerps on the Last Night send around the globe completely the wrong messages about our cultural values.

True, the last concert is an embarrassment. There is a great party atmosphere but it is the kind of rave most of us wouldn't want to be seen dead at, populated by the plain, geeky spec-wearing single men I avoided like the plague in the 1960s and would still cross the road not to talk to now. There is a strong case for completely changing the way that the Last Night is ticketed, bussing in schoolchildren, giving away tickets by a lottery and revamping the repertoire to excise most of the hallowed "favourites", which are merely excuses for a drunken bout of classical karaoke.

I'm not surprised that the Prime Minister distanced himself from Ms Hodge's remarks, because overall the Proms are a huge success. If you look at the extraordinary range of events over the eight weeks of the season, they reflect every single kind of musical taste, featuring young musicians from South Africa and Australia and artists of the first rank from around the world. It is one of the only opportunities to hear specially commissioned work by new British composers, as well as lighter fare like reggae, jazz and musical theatre.

Margaret Hodge is an embarrassment as an arts minister and her politically-correct outburst is all about colour and nothing to do with cultural values and accessibility. What she means is that Proms audiences are too white. She praises Coronation Street as an excellent example of a cultural institution reflecting contemporary society. Utter tosh – Corrie is about as realistic a view of Britain as The Archers. Both are highly crafted, utterly compulsive soaps, written to entertain rather than inform but I am sure that Ms Hodge will have little time for The Archers because it takes place in rural England, where the ethnic community is a bit thin on the ground, rather than in small terraced houses in an inner city.

Going to the Proms as an inner-city schoolgirl changed my life. It introduced me to music that I would never otherwise have experienced and that is what the concerts still do today, mixing the popular and accessible with the challenging and difficult in the same programme, and offering tickets cheaper than those at most football matches.

The free Proms in the Park concerts have attracted a new family audience to classical music. When I go to the Notting Hill Carnival, I don't feel marginalised because the majority of the performers are black yet, by Ms Hodge's reasoning, every major cultural event in Britain has to tick all the right boxes and attract exactly the right proportion of black and brown faces.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of life in Britain is multiplicity of cultural choice. If you don't fancy the Proms, you can sample dance at Sadler's Wells, open-air sculpture in Yorkshire or avant garde music performed on farm machinery in Sussex. I thought the debate about Britishness had progressed beyond skin colour, but then Ms Hodge is a dinosaur from another era.

Still erotic after 450 years

Lucas Cranach is a magical painter and the exhibition of his work opening this Saturday at the Royal Academy is unmissable. It is amazing that, more than 450 years after they were painted, his nude goddesses are still so erotic that London Underground initially refused to allow one of the posters advertising the exhibition. It lifted the ban after widespread ridicule, and a banner with the "offending" nude proudly hangs on the front of the Academy, thrilling passers-by.

Cranach's women are small-breasted and wide-hipped, with rounded stomachs and enigmatic smiles. They wear heavy gold jewellery and filigree snoods. Even the menagerie surrounding Adam and Eve is doe-eyed and sensual rather than ferocious.

* The new television series about the American advertising industry in the early 1960s, Mad Men (as in New York's Madison Avenue) could – on the basis of this week's first episode – deliver just the fix we've been missing since the end of The Sopranos. It's an orgy of smoking, packed with sexist comments spewing from the mouths of male execs, and subservient secretaries hoping to bonk their way up the career ladder.

The suits look sharp, and the leading man is a dish – cheating on his wife out in suburbia with a sexy illustrator up in town. This is sophisticated drama that isn't politically correct, and I'm sure that if Margaret Hodge had anything to do with it, the BBC would never have been allowed to buy anything so joyously amoral.

The first episode – about launching a campaign for cigarettes and avoiding the fact that they kill you – was absolutely spot-on. Funnily enough, the Mad Men office seemed awfully like quite a few in media land I've worked in over the years...

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent