First disabled arts champ named

First disabled arts champ named

The arts producer and strategist Andrew Miller has been appointed the first champion for the disabled in arts and culture.

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

English cultural organisations stand to lose £40m a year with Brexit, with 64% oif them currently working inside the European Union. The report from EUCLID, commissioned by Arts Council England, shows that between 2007 and 2016 the EU contributed £345m to England’s arts, museums and creative industries, or £40m a year.

Boost for Banbury Museum expansion

Councillors have agreed plans to double the size of Banbury’s museum in a £5m expansion scheme.

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Archer promises review of funding process

Books by the Ocean

Books by the Ocean

A ‘crazy’ notion to bring a literary festival to Sri Lanka has proved an astounding success. Patrick Kelly reports

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

An Arts Council programme devised to help young children from deprived areas through involvement in the arts is working, according to an evaluation report published today.

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Arts sector representatives and tourist companies in Northern Ireland have called on politicians to recognise the important role the arts plays in the economy of the region.

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

But Scotland embraces ‘Agent of Change’ principle.

Hockney is critics' choice

Hockney is critics' choice

David Hockney is to receive the Critics’ Circle Award for 2017, only the second time a visual artist has been selected for the prestigious prize in the Circle’s 105-year history.

Photojournalism's art gallery

Photojournalism's art gallery

A new website at last gives Fleet Street’s photographers a showcase for their work as art. Simon Tait spoke to its founders, Fleet Street veterans Alan Sparrow and Bret Painter-Spanyol

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Britain’s museums are being increasingly excluded from the art market by cuts in funding, stifling the acquisitions that are the life force for public collections.

Creative industries on track to create 1m local jobs - Nesta

The creative industries are driving the UK’s economic growth, expanding twice as fast as any other sector, according to new research by Nesta.

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

Film and television organisations led by BAFT and the BFI have set a series of principles and guidelines to deal with bullying and sexual harassment in the industry.

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Two really portraits by Lucian Freud have been left to the nation in lieu of tax and allocated to the Abbott Hall Gallery in Kendal.

Mary Beard to front Front Row

Mary Beard to front Front Row

The classics professor Mary Beard is to anchor the revamped television version of the arts review magazine Front Row when it returns in the spring.

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

This large picture of 1665 by an anonymous artist is one of the great mysteries of the art world, and is the centerpiece of a forthcoming major Norwich Castle Museum exhibition.

London goes Underground

London goes Underground

Photographs of some faces and places associated with the capital go on display at five London Tube stations this week.

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, the 20/21 British Art Fair has changed ownership and will move to the Saatchi Gallery.

DEA BIRKETT Where art cuts no ice

Dea Birkett sees a performance at Blackpool Pleasure Beach that would never get an Arts Council grant, but which moves the audience as much as any drama. So why isn’t it art?

I ’ve seen the most moving, skillful, radical show. The movement was astonishing, emotion- ally wrought, febrile. There was much playing with gender stereo- types; the women were very muscly, the men wearing tights and uttering feathers. The lead was black. Once, a performer tripped and the collective intake of breath was the loudest whisper I’ve ever heard. We all felt for him. This show is what performing art should be like, where we feel utterly involved. The audience clearly thought so. At the finale, they roared.

Hot Ice, the annual summer ice skating extravaganza at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, would never get a grant. Yet it’s an extraordinarily beautiful, lyrical art form and has more diverse audiences than any subsided show I’ve been to. It’s also staged in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

So why doesn’t Hot Ice count as art? Perhaps because of all those things – what it is, where it is and who goes to watch it. The very things we should be celebrating actually condemns Hot Ice to mere entertainment. It isn’t. It has everything a theatrical, physical performance should have and more. It’s spectacle with emotional depth. In the all-male piece about heartache and loss, I cried. This is art for audiences, not for the artist or for those who are in a position to judge what counts as art and what doesn’t.

This is also fundamentally about access - a much abused word in the arts. Being accessible doesn’t just mean putting on a relaxed performance once during the run or having a BSL-interpreted performance on the rst Wednesday of each month. Emotion is also an access issue. If the response required by a performance is so cerebral most of us cannot feel it, then that show becomes inaccessible in the most profound sense. It also becomes meaningless. The young woman sitting next to me at Hot Ice had paid £25 for her seat. She considered it a bargain. “I paid £20 to go to the theatre last week – hadn’t been before” she said. “It was rubbish. This is awesome”. Why doesn’t her voice count?

Going to a show shouldn’t be like sitting an exam, yet too often it feels as if it is. Some of us will have been to the theatre and dreaded the interval, as that’s when we’ll be required to join in a conversation about a production in which we have absolutely no idea what’s happening. I’ve been known to go home then, just to avoid this dis- comfort. If performance is so obscure it doesn’t speak directly to us, I don’t really see the point.

It’s not only ice skating that’s dis- missed as mere entertainment. My favourite show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was Circus Abyssinia. Honest, open, emotional, accessible with entrancing dancing, tumbling and music – yet it didn’t win any of the awards. I fear the circus’s accessibility, like Hot Ice, is equated with a lack of artistry. Circus Abyssinia should have swept the board.

Hectoring from on high about art goes beyond performance. I once interviewed the director of a leading publishing house who had taken it over as a faltering business and turned it around. “How did you do that?” I asked. Her answer: “I stopped publishing books that we thought people ought to read and started publishing books they actually wanted to”. It was a highbrow publisher and remains so. It’s just a more successful one now.

This is what we need in the per- forming arts – to let audiences tell us rather than us tell them. We need to listen to that loud whisper that tells us we feel for the performers. Access means just that – being accessible, not unfathomable. Let’s make and celebrate art with that in mind.

Dea Birkett is ringmaster at Circus250 www.circus250.comand creative director at Kids in Museums www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com www.bibiandbichu.com

 

 

Print Email