McPhee’s unforgettable Orgreave images

McPhee’s unforgettable Orgreave images

Today is the 34thanniversary of the Battle of Orgreave, the confrontation between police and pickets at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire and a pivotal event in the miners’ strike of 1984-85.

Great art in the classroom

Great art in the classroom

More than 70,000 schoolchildren from 125 schools are to get world class works of art in their classrooms as part of the largest ever sculpture project undertaken in Britain.

TaitMail       Bilbao’s King Gugg

TaitMail Bilbao’s King Gugg

It’s almost 21 years since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened, controversially and changing museum aspiration for ever. It was paid for by the Basque government, looked like nothing anyone had ever seen before, and after it opened every city wanted one.

Summer Flight

Summer Flight

Peckham artist Remi Rough has created a new public art installation to welcome visitors to the transformed Wembley Park this summer www.wembleypark.com.

Producer Winter switches West End for Tunbridge Wells

Producer Winter switches West End for Tunbridge Wells

Carole Winter, the West End and Broadway producer with more than 30 shows to her name, is to be the permanent producer at Tunbridge Wells’s Assembly Hall Theatre.

Opera festival’s moving Hope for Grenfell gala

Opera festival’s moving Hope for Grenfell gala

Gareth Malone led a choir of almost 200 children and local residents and celebrities last night in a moving memorial concert at Investec Opera Holland Park to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell disaster.

Ed Vaizey and Tom Watson to be Achates judges

The third Achates Philanthropy Prize, awarded for first-time cultural giving in the UYK,is to have former culture minister Ed Vaizey and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson as judges.

Guide for museums to diversify visitors

Arts Council England and the Museums Association have launched a new ‘how-to’ guide to help museums increase visitor diversity

Ireland launches international culture strategy

Ireland launches international culture strategy

Seven year programme promises to double arts spend

Murdoch arts charity launches regional artists scheme

Murdoch arts charity launches regional artists scheme

Freelands Foundation will invest £1.5 million

Belfast backs arts funding campaign

Belfast backs arts funding campaign

Councillors support increase in government cash

Top Scottish arts organisation in shock closure

Top Scottish arts organisation in shock closure

NVA blames loss of funding and strains of ambitious restoration plan

Sadiq’s £1.1b cultural vision for Olympic Park

Sadiq’s £1.1b cultural vision for Olympic Park

The Mayor of London has set out plans for East Bank, the new cultural sector in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the East End, with the BBC being added to the mix.

Museums dependent on blockbusters

Worldwide figures show Louvre back on top

Lost Donizetti opera gets world premiere

Lost Donizetti opera gets world premiere

On July 18, Opera Rara and the Royal Opera House will present the first ever performance of an opera by the great Italian composer, 179 years after it was written. Simon Tait reports

Eureka! plans second site in Liverpool

Eureka! plans second site in Liverpool

Childrens’ museum also to expand original Halifax venue

ACE backs fundraisers scheme

Arts Council England and the Institute of Fundraising have joined forces to develop more arts fundraisers in the sector.

Ludus dance promotes Briggs

Ludus dance promotes Briggs

Artistic director takes on ceo role

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

AINews