Boris and culture
Here's a thing: Boris Johnson thinks that one of the most important reasons to support the arts is that "they are an end in themselves. They are not just an add-on to your administration".
The Mayor of London was launching his new Cultural Strategy Group at City Hall, chaired by Iwona Blazwick of the Whitechapel Gallery. He said his policy on the arts was that it wasn't elitist, but was democratic and anti-dumbing down. And he declared that arts and culture can save the economy.
I suspect many would just scoff at that last claim, even though creative industries in the capital account for 12% of employment and bought £21 billion to the capital's output in 2002.
It is good that Johnson thinks the arts are an end in themselves, but it's a pity that some of what he says is likely to create uneccessary divisions between high and low culture. He thinks that institutions should stop patronising young people by giving them hip-hop and movies, and give them access to the fine art instead.
His chief of arts and cultural strategy, Munira Mirza argues that it is too often presumed that young people will only like art they can immediately relate to. But what's wrong with offering kids hip-hop or involvement in film-making, something that might grab them immediately? I'm not saying we shouldn't offer them Shakespeare and opera, too, but don't be surprised if they don't all embrace Hamlet or La Traviata with the same amount of enthusiasm as making a short film about their friends dancing, for instance.
Once a child latches onto the possibility of creativity and the possibility of their imagination, who's to say that the leap from hip-hop to Shakespeare is that huge?
It's the imposition of a particular set of criteria that stifles creativity of any kind, surely?