As the much-missed blog Burning Our Money is back with us, and with a book to sell no less, readers may wish to reacquaint themselves with some items from the BOM archive. There are hundreds of illustrations of how our betters set fire to money someone else had to earn. For instance, this innovative scheme:
A thousand colourful bubble blowers are to be handed out to revellers in Bolton centre. The aim is to encourage drinkers leaving pubs and clubs to focus on playfully blowing bubbles on their way home, instead of getting into scuffles. It is the latest initiative to curb alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. The blue and orange bubble blowers, which double as pens, will be handed out by Police Community Support Officers and town centre ambassadors on Saturday nights in December.
Another subject close to many readers’ hearts is the presumption of our publicly funded arts establishment. On which, this:
According to Michael Lynch, the departing head of London’s expensively refurbished Southbank Centre, the private sector hasn’t donated nearly enough to fund his arts empire: “Corporate Britain had in my view let down the side. They need a sense of values.” Apparently, none of those gazillionaire Goldmans’ bankers has given “anything meaningful,” and he describes them as a “bunch of bastards.” Arts, you see, are A Public Good, and rich bastards have a civic duty to dig deep in their support. Everyone knows that. Just like they know that art is what the artist says it is, not what the customer says. Philistinism - aka customer choice - is no excuse... How then did the Southbank manage to fund its costly refurbishment? According to Lynch, “the Government, to their credit, got behind us in a big way.” Well, that was awfully sweet of them, but - and this may be news to Mr L - the government doesn't actually have any money. In reality, once again, it was we poor schmucks who paid. How much? Precise details are sketchy, but we know the refurb cost £111m. And the vast bulk of that came from taxpayers... In addition to that, the Centre is receiving a £20m a year tax-funded subsidy towards its running costs. There are certainly some bastards involved in this, but I fancy they’re not working at Goldmans.
And there’s this item, on the remarkably unpopular West Bromwich arts centre, boldly named The Public, which two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer. The venue, which promised to “make the arts more accessible,” had nonetheless managed to consume almost £60 million of public money and suffered three insolvencies. Among the aesthetic wonders sadly neglected by locals was a piece by the artist Michael Pinchbeck, a “five year live art project” called The Long and Winding Road. For his mammoth and challenging installation, Mr Pinchbeck “packed a car with the belongings of his brother and drove to Liverpool where his brother died in 1998.” After touring the nation and presenting his car full of rammle to any passers-by who wandered too close and paused fractionally too long, Mr Pinchbeck announced that he would conclude his mighty artistic work by “driving the car into the River Mersey.” The car was subsequently crushed and its fragments displayed for further enrichment of the public. Not to be outdone, the West Bromwich arts centre had its own, no less ambitious announcement regarding the project: “Admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis.”
Another of Mr Pinchbecks’s colossal works, “a deconstruction of Shakespearean stage directions,” can be savoured here.
The arrest of a couple in Melton Mowbray for shooting at four burglars, wounding two of them slightly, drew the following comment from Pam Posnett, councillor for Melton North: “I feel sorry for the residents who were put in this position, I also have sympathy for the people who broke in, in so far as how the situation was handled…” Was Pam Posnett thinking of her electoral chances when she said this, calculating that there were at least as many criminals in Melton North as ordinary householders, and that therefore it was advisable for her not to come too firmly down on the side of householders against burglars? Even more alarming, however, was the manner in which she expressed herself… Nothing corrupts (or bores) so completely as the passive voice, and Pam Posnett speaks of people being put in situations, and of situations that were handled, as if no one were doing either the putting or the handling. Thus there is nothing to choose, morally, between the putters and the handlers, for all is a matter of fate, not action.
Incidentally, a new collection of essays by the good doctor appeared in my mailbox earlier this week. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so I can’t tell you that it’s good. Just that I expect it will be.
As some of you will know, he’s the chap who wrote this belter of a piece, often quoted here, on the malice of Polly Toynbee:
One thing, and one thing only, keeps people trapped in the kind of poverty of mind where they don’t feed their children properly even when they could, and shit in their own stairwells. It’s a lack of ownership; a lack of self-reliance. It’s a lack of the very concept of self-reliance. It’s an idea that the mere thought that they should be self-reliant is immoral, evil, callous and cruel.