It's time Culture Secretary Maria Miller did some real work in the arts

Plus: Arts grandees like Nicholas Hytner and Jude Kelly should fall out more often; and there's no time or space for the Tardis in Rory Kinnear's life

Share

Work experience. Fancy it? I'm talking to you, Maria Miller.
Actually, the Culture Secretary doing work experience isn't such a
fanciful notion. Her predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, is doing exactly
that
in his new job as Health Secretary. He told an interviewer
that he spends one day a week, every week, doing work experience in
a hospital – making beds, answering phones (not thankfully being
passed the scalpel) and learning how the health service works from
the inside out.

Well, if it's useful for the health service and the Health Secretary, then it must be useful for the arts and the Culture Secretary. Surely Maria Miller could take one day a week, just like Mr Hunt, to discover the truth about her portfolio, from the inside out.

So, what should she do? First, I would suggest she take a leaf out of Jeremy's work experience book and answer the phones. There's no better place to do that than a box office. Be right at the interface between the arts and the arts-goer. Learn what sort of information audiences want, what they really think of the venues and indeed the shows, and of course what they think about those booking fees that you can have the pleasure of defending during those phone conversations.

In subsequent weeks there is so much to choose from – usher, wig-maker, gallery warder, répétiteur, company manager, fund-raiser. There's enough to take you right up to the next election, Maria.

Of course, I'm sure that some will point out that those of us who write about the arts would also benefit from some work experience at the sharp end. I can't argue with that logic and, if my editor will give me time off, I will make the sacrifice and play opposite Helen Mirren in her next production. But Ms Miller's case is the more pressing. Be it backstage or front of house, work experience alongside arts professionals would give her so much more insight than the carefully choreographed visits to arts institutions that fill her diary.

This isn't a frivolous suggestion. The man nominally overseeing the nation's health is spending time making beds in a hospital and sitting on the switchboard to get a sense, albeit a very small sense, of what working in the health service is like. The woman nominally overseeing the nation's arts needs to get a sense of what working in the arts is really like. It's easily done. And the natives are famously friendly.

Arts grandees should fall out more often

It's interesting that the normally tight comradeship that binds arts grandees together has been broken by Sir Nicholas Hytner's attack on the Southbank Centre's redevelopment plans. Sir Nicholas, head of the National Theatre, says the planned redevelopment (currently on hold) would spoil views from his building. The Southbank's plans are, of course, championed by its artistic director Jude Kelly, Sir Nicholas's opposite number. I'm glad we are getting some plain speaking. Arts grandees don't have to sing from the same hymn sheet just because they are neighbours. Indeed, now that the estimable Sir Nicholas is speaking plainly about the institution next door, he might wish to sound off about my favourite bête noire, booking fees. The National Theatre admirably has no truck with them. The Southbank Centre, on the other hand, does impose booking fees. How can this difference of approach make any sense in two national arts venues bang next door to each other? Someone should speak out. Do it, Nick.

No time or space for the Tardis in Rory's life

That superb actor Rory Kinnear was bookies' favourite to be the new Dr Who until earlier this week, when he revealed in an interview in this paper that not only had he not been approached for the role, but he had never watched the programme. What, never? That sounds almost like a deprived childhood. No inclination to take a peek at a Dalek just once in his formative years? And in the last few weeks when all the papers were touting him as the man most likely to be in the Tardis, was he not tempted to spend half an hour finding out what they were all talking about? On the one hand it's commendable insouciance. On the other, it's quite a lack of curiosity.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy