Little Venus
Friday Ephemera

Setting Fire to Your Cash Because They Can

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

Comments

Anna

"They need a sense of values."

Irony overload.

Sam

the remarkably unpopular West Bromwich arts centre, boldly named The Public, which two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer.

You know it's got to be a disaster when even the Guardian won't defend it.

Even free concerts and other events held at the centre have attracted few visitors. One performance, by the soul singer Aisha, drew an audience of just 17 people.

The bubble blowers look pretty good value now.

Anna

The bubble blowers look pretty good value now.

And they double as pens!

David

The bubble blowers look pretty good value now.

It’s an inevitable effect of our Arts Council system. By disconnecting artists from the preferences of the public, while still taking the public’s money in advance, by force via taxes, the normal corrective forces are sidestepped. And flummery ensues. The socialist method of funding encourages and rewards a small, politically generic class of hustlers and parasites whose attitude is often one of contempt for the public and certainly for expectations of an aesthetic experience. Hence we get taxpayer-funded arts “festivals,” the highlights of which include an an ironing board draped with light bulbs and two tables covered in sand and fag ends.

If they already have your money, and if you have no say in whether they get more of it, why should they care what you think?

An American at the end of his patience.

" My God, it's full of stupid!"

Tom

"...The blue and orange bubble blowers, which double as pens,..."

So they're giving something that could be used to stab people to drunks and hoping what exactly? That they'll be too drunk to see the potential?

Rafi

You know it's got to be a disaster when even the Guardian won't defend it.

And when the best options include 'walking away' and 'demolition'.

Stuck-Record

There should be a special Arts Tax. It would be paid by any artist who applies for public money. The proceeds being ring-fenced to buy Adele albums for lonely working class girls from Hull and Stevenage.

My God! Could I get an Arts Council grant for that?

David

You know it’s got to be a disaster when even the Guardian won’t defend it.

Oh, they did defend it, a couple of times, though not very well.

The project was originally pitched as a “digital arts centre” and was granted local, regional, national and European funding chiefly on the assumption that “the arts” would regenerate the region – though exactly how this was supposed to happen isn’t entirely clear. It’s hard to see the economy being driven into overdrive by “interactive galleries” (none of which worked), or workshops in avatar-making, or by Mr Pinchbeck’s crushed car full of tat. After endless technical and admin problems, and after pissing away a staggering amount of public money, the venue finally sidelined artistic exhibitions, almost altogether, in favour of more popular uses, such as office space. Oh, and comedy and music performances, many of them either subsidised or “free” - which is to say, once again, bankrolled by the taxpayer. I vaguely recall Margaret Hodge, then Labour’s Culture Minister, saying something about the disaster-prone venue being ‘exemplary’ and ‘the future of the arts’. I think the total bill was last reported as £72 million.

Many towns and cities, including my own, have very similar follies. The local council in its wisdom spent £15 million on a “cultural exhibition space” that was almost immediately insolvent, derided by practically everyone, and open for barely a year. Last I heard, the gutted, rusting eyesore had been bought by one of the universities for about 10% of the original cost.

Anna

Speaking of shafting the taxpayer…

JuliaM

" My God, it's full of stupid!"

Posted by: An American at the end of his patience.

Never a truer word!

pst314

I am reminded of how Terry Pratchett's Vetinari dealt with "conceptual" "artists". ;-)

AC1

Anna,
Hopefully they are as effective at sockpuppetry as they are interesting people in extortion funded arts.

sk60

"They need a sense of values."

I love how this always means "feeling totally entitled to other people's money".

David

I love how this always means “feeling totally entitled to other people’s money.”

Well, it is odd that when used by such people, the phrase doesn’t seem to mean, “It would be arrogant of me to assume that my personal tastes and career should be coercively funded by other people, many of whom will have very different tastes and priorities.” Or that, “People who dislike our rather smug leftist leanings, or who live too far away to receive any benefit from the venue, shouldn’t be forced to indefinitely bankroll an unviable institution that they may find culturally irrelevant.” Or even, “Wherever possible, one should try not to impose on others.”

Having a sense of values never seems to mean anything like that.

The comments to this entry are closed.