Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Cultural Olympiad

What's the point of the Cultural Olympiad, asks Rupert Christiansen?

This is an issue I have pondered myself, having seen a large amount of hot air being expelled to what seems, so far, to be very little purpose.

But, I've stayed tight lipped, as it's still four years away, and we don't want to peak too soon. Or even have a peek too soon.

After reading Christiansen's diatribe, I have become an evangelist for the Cultural Olympiad, rather than a luke warm casual observer.

Once again, the metropolitan elite dictate to us what the priorities of cultural policy should be, and access to them and enjoyment for the majority came way, way down the list.
I mean that [the Games] should not be blighted by any more horrors like the hideous and illegible logo; that the opening and closing ceremonies are fun and fabulous in the noblest British tradition of parades and processions, and not a Millennium Dome-style mishmash of steel bands and spluttering fireworks; that the best of British architecture, design and craftsmanship is evident in the stadia and the village, finished without the usual pennypinching tattiness which has become a national disease; that any music accompanying the games is a well-composed, dignified tune rather than some ghastly nul-points banality warbled by Katherine Jenkins and aimed at the lowest common denominator of juvenile taste; that the competitors wear a uniform that doesn't make them look like they're employees of a budget airline; and in sum, that elegance rather than a quick buck should be the watchword.
Christiansen fears that the Cultural Olympiad will be tasteless, and he also fears that the games will "rob Peter to pay Paul" by diverting lottery money. His critique reeks of snobbish dismissal of cultural activity that widens access and misunderstands what the Olympiad could achieve.

There is the usual ill informed and ignorant condemnation of any cultural policy that is not just giving artists some free money.
Basically, a lot of money will be doled out to anyone who can tick the access/disability/ethnic diversity boxes.
The Games will be a one of event, and they will as much focus British minds on who we are and what life here is like as international ones. By using the games to widen access to cultural opportunity we can bring people together to take part through culture in that positive debate. We can make people feel part of the Games, and part of the nation, if these cultural opportunities are used to broaden engagement with the Games beyond London and the few other 2012 venues. We can create a route into culture for people who wouldn't otherwise access cultural opportunities.

In short its a chance to get people participating in culture, enjoying themselves, interacting with others and having better lives.

Christiansen's obviously not interested in that, but I can't think of a better justification for spending public money on art and culture.

So, bring on the Cultural Olympiad, and two fingers to the London intelligensia.

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