Letters: High art requires a certain intelligence

These letters appear in the September 19 edition of The Independent

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According to an article in The Independent (7 September), Katie Derham ‘‘wants to bring classical music to the masses and rid the Proms of its posh-people-only stereotype’’.

How many times in my 68 years have I heard this? Every one of them, probably. It really is time to scotch this nonsense. High art – complex plays, difficult paintings, intellectual music – requires not only a certain level of intelligence to uncover hidden meanings, but a degree of commitment to work at this ‘‘art’’ – a commitment which not everyone wants to make.

I, like many, am not terribly interested in the subtleties of pole-vaulting, so I don’t watch it and make no attempt to understand it. That doesn’t make pole-vaulters ‘‘posh’’ and ‘‘elitist’’, it makes me just not very interested in  pole-vaulting.

It’s time we stopped this folly of imagining ‘‘the masses’’ (whoever they are) are sitting there impatiently waiting to be exposed to Bach and then their lives will be complete. This is such arrogance! Maybe their lives are complete already? Maybe they’ll get along just fine without Bach?

No one ever says football is elitist because there are many millions of us who wouldn’t be seen dead going anywhere near a match. Why does classical music have to be any different? The irony is Katie Derham cites the Proms – of all occasions – as posh! If you held a pole-vaulting, or even, I suggest, a football match in the Royal Albert Hall every night for three months, would there be larger crowds? Could there be larger crowds? Classical music is difficult to understand. That’s it. Nothing more. Not everyone wants to commit the time and energy to understand it. That’s it. Nothing more.

Robert Walker


We need more organ donations

I hope that The Independent readers found Katy Charlton’s account of organ donation (Andy’s last wish,  16 September) a brave and inspiring read. Our thoughts are with Katy and her family at what must be an unimaginably heartbreaking time for them.  We hope that by reading Katy’s story, people will be able to see how important it was for her to honour her husband’s decision to be an organ donor and the comfort she takes knowing that she was able to spare five families from also going through the heartache of losing someone close to them.

Katy is a member of the Women’s Institute (WI) and earlier this year the WI passed a resolution to help raise awareness of organ donation. We are delighted that such an influential organisation is supporting organ donation and that their involvement helped Katy to make the decision that she did. We are working with more organisations throughout the UK which, like the WI, can help us to change public attitudes to organ donation so that more people donate when and if they can. Organ donation saves lives but with fewer than 5,000 people each year in the UK dying in circumstances where they can donate their organs, it’s important to make every opportunity count. Three people will die today and every day because there are not enough organs available. Join the Organ Donor Register and tell your family.

Sally Johnson
Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation


Media should reject stick-insect ideal

I enjoy reading The Independent and am respectful of its values as a newspaper. I also enjoy reading about fashion at times, but I did not on Saturday, 13 September, as I was confronted in the Independent Magazine by a picture of an emaciated and decidedly sick-looking young model, who could easily have passed for a famine victim, were it not for the cost of the clothes and shoes she was wearing.  This photograph opens the fashion section and is headed ‘‘Gang Leaders’’.  I think your editors should acknowledge the influence the media have on impressionable young girls and women, and face up to their moral responsibilities. Why succumb to the pressure of the fashion industry’s portrayal of the ideal figure as that of the stick insect? As an ex-teacher, I am aware of the damage that such  images can do. 

Christine Renshaw
Maidstone, Kent


Journalism’s role in the rise of Isis

The apparent swiftness of the rise of Isis and its potential threat to the Western world can in part be attributed to journalism. Even at the beginning of the Syrian conflict many foreign correspondents, including  those coming from assignment in Libya, considered Syria too dangerous to operate safely in. In addition,  the reduction of foreign  bureaus and the increasing  reliance on wire services has meant Syria received  scant attention. Perhaps this trend in reporting needs to be seriously reconsidered by editors and board members?

Paul O’ Sullivan


Just how old is Rosie Millard?

Is Rosie Millard older than she looks? I can’t remember when I last saw “people in hats” singing hymns on Songs of Praise and I am 82.

Merrill Johns
Dover, Kent


Phones 4U and the companies act

Your articles on the Phones 4u story, assuming them to be true (18 September), miss a far more fundamental problem, sadly now very common. Under Section 151 of the Companies Act 1985, a company’s provision of financial assistance to purchase its own shares was a criminal offence. Such provision would include unusual dividends.

The purpose of the rule was to stop the very thing to which your coverage refers. These rules had in one form or another been around since Victorian times but were then so watered down in the Companies Act 2006 as to render them ineffective. Who lobbied for this change? I’ll put my money on Private Equity being part of that story. So get some lessons from lawyers experienced in Company Law and start investigating this outrageous change in 2006. 

Christopher Yaxley 


After weeks of increasingly vitriolic and divisive debate about Scottish independence I’m suffering from referendum fatigue. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like in 2017 if we decide to have a referendum on Europe? With so much of the world already tearing itself apart, do we really have to  join them?

Stan Labovitch


One of the reasons Sarah Bart (letters, 16 September) has given for deciding to vote Yes in Scotland’s referendum is that Westminster MPs ‘‘were found with their fingers in the till’’. Curious judgement. Does she not know that Alex Salmond was a Westminster MP at the time of the expenses scandal, and was one of the many MPs who had made questionable expenses claims. The details were published in the Complete Expenses Files supplement published by the Daily Telegraph in June 2009.

his and other such information concerning Mr Salmond is readily available on the internet. 

John Elder
Chepstow, Monmouthshire


When Harold Wilson held a referendum on Europe in 1975 he made sure that the question was asked in such a way that the side he wanted to win staying in Europe was the ‘Yes’ side of the argument. First can I ask please who negotiated the question on Scottish independence in such a way as to allow the SNP the advantage of this Yes factor? Secondly why was the referendum held so early? Alex Salmond wanted to postpone the voting by two years.

The Scottish vote might have easily taken place after next year’s general election. Referendums on Scottish matters have always taken place in the past during Labour governments.

Hasn’t that always favoured the United Kingdom staying together? This argument, of course, assumes a Labour victory next year. Third and last, why didn’t we have a referendum on Europe first and then a referendum on Scottish independence? Uncertainty over English people’s commitment to the EU has played a big part. These three factors had an enormous impact on yesterday’s vote in Scotland. Who handed these advantages to Alex Salmond? We haven’t really had a PM who knew what he was doing since Harold Wilson have we?

Nigel F Boddy


Richard Topping (17 September) repeats the myth that Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a “guinea pig” for her poll tax. In fact a rating revaluation was due in Scotland, which would have seen the rateable values of many properties (which had not been re-valued for many years) increase dramatically. This would have caused financial difficulties for many people and was thought likely to trigger an electoral backlash against the then Conservative Government. To avoid this, Mrs Thatcher’s Government cancelled the rating re-valuation and introduced the poll tax a year earlier in Scotland. Ironically, this led to a different electoral backlash, which ultimately resulted in Mrs Thatcher’s downfall.

Brian Jones
Garforth, Leeds