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

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

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders