Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Arts and graft
Sometime ago, last century, I had an unfortunate encounter with the head of a local quango. I wanted to have a conversation with him about the role of the arts in regenerating this city. He was unused to speaking to oiks and dismissed my suggestion by addressing the room with his views about avant garde art that, in his view, consisted of little more than perversion. I think he may have felt his own enthusiasm for 'High Street U.K.' here on Tyneside was under some sort of threat; or, perhaps depressed at the string of failures of Newcastle's Public Art projects, expensive and very public. He saw only a golden future for retail developments ahead, where people borrowed money they could not (soon, soon) repay to buy stuff from glitzy shops – some of the biggest of whom were being enticed to open branches in Newcastle specifically to perform the task – stuff they did not need at prices they could not afford, creating ... Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (U.S.) and Leman Brothers went under and the rest of the world followed shortly after, and the rest is, well, where we are now.
Mr High Street went on to higher things, "too big to fail".
The shops struggled and the posher ones failed to roll up. Instead the city centre is awash with coffee houses and 'pop-up' galleries and artsy venues.
But it gets better! News just in ... (link)
So the arts are riding to rescue the city after all. This event promises to be exceptional and proves the underlying point that creative endeavours (such as the tireless volunteers and others working to open the new independent Star and Shadow film theatre and collective bang next to Battlefield) are making an enormous contribution.