Dear Diary, next year remind the politicians to make a date with the arts

What will 2013 bring? Plus: Bridget Jones is back, I'm still in love with 10CC and who the hell is Hilary Mantel?
  • @davidlister1

As we look ahead to next year, there is little doubt that it is going to be a tough one for the arts. Cuts will bite, there is a secretary of state who does not, shall we say, fully empathise. And there is likely to be an artistic as well as financial hangover from the Cultural Olympiad and 2012's stunning year for culture.

But there are also good things to come. I'm personally looking forward to the return of Bridget Jones. Helen Fielding is bringing back her creation, who started life in The Independent, in a new book. She will now be well into middle age. Will she be married with family, on the shelf and on the chardonnay, has she suffered a Spice Girls style falling out with her dearest girl-friends? I'd like to see her as a woman at the cutting edge of the arts, starring in a cross-gender production of Twelve Angry Men, or submitting a video installation of one of her karaoke evenings for the Turner Prize.

My own wish list for the arts includes a change to awards ceremonies. Thanking endless lists of names should be outlawed (I have never fully got over the trauma of seeing Vanessa Redgrave burst into tears as she thanked the stage carpenter). All acceptance speeches must be devoid of thank-yous and must contain at least one joke and one revealing anecdote. It would spice up some long evenings.

Top of my list, though, has to be an end to booking fees. Having campaigned for this for a decade now, I will not let up and neither will readers of this paper who continue to email me saying that it is their biggest irritation about the arts in Britain. The leaders of the arts world should take note. The people who pay their wages are more concerned about how they are exploited by booking fees, handling charges and the like than they are by government cuts to the arts. Yet where are the speeches by arts leaders on this topic? Where is the action? If an end to booking fees could be announced in 2013, it would show that those who run the arts truly care about the people who see their shows, and might even move the Culture Secretary Maria Miller into showing that she too will take action to show that she is on the side of consumers of the arts.

Talking of which, my other wish is for government to show that it feels that the arts are important. It's is not just a matter of money, even if money is understandably what the big names in the arts tend to talk about. Nor is it a matter of celebrity soirées in Downing Street. It is a matter of attending arts events, of the Prime Minister showing that he sees an evening at the National Theatre, English National Opera or a private view at the Tate or Baltic as part of a politician's life. The whole Cabinet should get involved with the arts and flaunt that involvement. That, almost as much as hard cash, would give a signal that they care about culture.

And if Tony Hall, when he becomes Director-General of the BBC, promises to end a dereliction of duty by the BBC over several decades, and show regular classic drama, from Ibsen and Chekhov to Stoppard and Caryl Churchill, I will consider 2013 one hell of a year.

I'm still in love with this super Seventies band

It's good to see among the box sets reviewed on these pages today one by 10CC. I've long been surprised that they have been one of the few Seventies bands that never really came back into fashion. It's odd as the arty, quirky and highly melodic outfit were one of the more interesting bands of the era, and their album Sheet Music (foolishly not included as an entity on the box set) is one of that decade's finest, and holds up remarkably well today. Perhaps the box set denotes a renewed interest at last.

Not an impressive body of knowledge

One of the "well, I'm allowed to relax and watch a bit of undemanding TV at Christmas" programmes I caught was the celebrity Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. A group of TV presenters, panto stars and the like were competing. One duo was asked about Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novel. It was Bringing Up the What? Among the possible answers were bodies, fish and dirt. The contestants debated for a while, decided that "Bringing Up the Fish" made little sense, plumped for "Bringing Up the Dirt" and exited the show. On one thing they were agreed. Neither of them had heard of Hilary Mantel. It was a salutary, if slightly disturbing, reminder that the people we write about on these pages do not always have as wide a constituency as we imagine