Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Dear Sir ..."

Tipped off about an article in today's Newcastle Journal I could not resist writing them a letter. Had to be by e-mail.

I wrote as follows:

"Oh, dear. Arts bosses don't think the arts contribution to the success of the north east's drive to re-make itself in a post-industrial world has been sufficiently acknowledged? Been there, done that.

At a swanky conference held some years ago in the hallowed halls of St James Park, I met with the 're-buff direct' when I gently (or so I thought) pointed out this fact to a V.I.P. with friends in the then government. "How interesting" I said, "that it is artist's whose enterprise has lead the way in inner city re-generation".

This was not what the V.I.P. wanted to hear at all. Having just made a presentation that emphasised the need to lure the corporate names of the British High Street to open yet more factory scale retail outlets on Tyneside, the last thing he wanted to learn was the scruffy and unwashed also had a role in economics. I was treated along with the rest of the table to a tale about an exhibition put on in the city of some whacky Teuton who had sliced up his own guilt-ridden body and photographed the results for public delectation. That was art as far as he was concerned. And me shot down, if not put in my place. He had taxpayers money. Lots and lots of it and he wasn't at all interested in the arts.

It is also a trifle late in the day for the Newcastle city fathers (sic) to wring out their hearts over  the benefits of tourism and culture. Their lasting contribution to both has been acres of ferro concrete, inner urban motor ways and a remarkable 100 per cent record in planning re-development: Everything they have touched is dross. Newcastle has the least good modern architecture of any major city in the U.K. for its size and has demolished plenty of splendid buildings in the pursuit of "progress" a word it might have almost single handedly emptied of significance. The irony is, had they done nothing it would actually have been less damaging to the cities prospects in the 21st century."

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