The Third Leader: Culture multi-vultures

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The Independent Online

Researchers at Oxford University have been studying the crucial area where social class meets the arts world, and have concluded that there are only four groups of cultural consumers.

The biggest group is called the Univores, who consume only one level of the arts, namely popular culture: they listen to Radio 1 and go to the cinema to see St Trinians. Next come Omnivores, who like a bit of everything: a bit of Verdi one day, a bit of Lily Allen the next, an occasional Shakespeare on stage, a date with Keira Knightley in Atonement. The tragic-sounding Paucivores enjoy comparatively few arts events, and they know what they like: they'll never be persuaded to visit an art gallery to inspect a crack in the floor. The lowest group are the Inactives, who don't go out to encounter the arts; they stay in and watch the telly.

Now that we're all stuffed with turkey, pole-axed by pudding, dizzy from Baileys and slumped in front of yet another end-of-year TV quiz, it's alarming to feel ourselves becoming dangerously Inactive. But we should be seriously concerned at the report's shocking implication that the days of the raging arts snob are no more. "There is little evidence for the existence of a cultural elite who would consume 'high' culture while shunning more popular cultural forms," said one of the Oxford researchers.

This is terrible news. To lose this familiar stereotype the judge who has never heard of the Arctic Monkeys, the academic who claims never to listen to "anything after Monteverdi," the bitchily seraphic Brian Sewell and Roy Strong, flutingly elitist, quivering with disapproval of popular culture is to lose something quintessentially British. We must strive, in 2008, to re-establish the class of cultural Supervores, who add so much to the gaiety of the nation.