Recent Arts Articles

Two more responses to Nick Cohen over Tricycle theatre

by Sunny Hundal     August 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm

In the Observer today, I debate Nick Cohen on whether the Tricycle Theatre in London was right to ask the UK Jewish film festival to ‘reconsider’ its funding from the Israeli government.

There are two additional points I want to make that I didn’t have the space for.

The slippery slope
Nick Cohen ends by writing:

From George Galloway declaring Bradford an “Israel-free zone” to Islamists in the East End of London raising jihadist flags, a dangerous antisemitic mood is growing. By defending worthless bureaucrats who intimidate a Jewish – not an Israeli but a Jewish – festival because it won’t accept their double standards, you are adding to it – thoughtlessly, I am sure.

My response to him is this:

I think the slippery slope argument is worth keeping in mind, but I don’t think we are there yet. You have been criticised plenty of times for demonising Muslims and contributing towards an Islamophobic atmosphere too, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the irony.

We can all stand up against racism while rejecting tainted money. I fully condemn Galloway and his ilk, and I believe my voice carries more weight because I also condemn the attacks in Gaza. If the slippery slope argument was carried towards its full logical conclusion every time, then you (Nick Cohen) and others (including myself), would not be allowed to criticise Islamists for fear it would further inflame Islamophobia.

Nick Cohen applies this standard to Jews but not Muslims

‘Asking Jews to take a stance on Israel’
The other key point made by critics of Tricycle is that by asking the UKJFF to reject Israeli funding, Jews as a whole are being take a stance on Israel.

But let’s flip this around. That stance implies we can’t ask Muslim groups to reject Saudi money because that’s asking them all to state their allegiance regarding the Saudis.

It would also mean no Hindu or Indian group could be criticised for taking Indian government money, even though there may be several good reasons in certain circumstances for doing so. Persian groups wouldn’t have to account for Iranian money… and so on.

That would make it near impossible to debate the influence of foreign money because this charge could be raised by almost any ethnic group at any time.

I don’t think Tricycle raised the issue because they wanted all Jews to take a side. It was a legitimate response to the pressure they had given the ongoing conflict.

See a different side to the Pakistan we keep hearing about

by Guest     August 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

by Anwar Akhtar

Power shortages, food crisis, water shortages and a military obsessed with cold war doctrines and strategic power games. About 60 million people in Pakistan (one in three) live in poverty, half of adults – including two out of three women – are illiterate.

One in eleven children die before their fifth birthday, with 12,000 women dying in childbirth every year, and almost half of children under five suffer from stunted growth, which can affect brain development.

I am a British Pakistani who cares deeply for Pakistan. We should be prepared to speak out much more frequently about the huge injustices and hate crimes against Pakistan’s minority communities. How sectarian organisations use religion as cover for oppression of women. Civil rights and equality apply to everybody.

By looking at the work of brave civil rights activists in Pakistan, opposing violence against women, challenging corruption or working on education and health programmes, we can also inspire young people to raise their ambitions about what can be done through social activism in Britain.

I have visited numerous welfare organisations in Pakistan, such as the Citizens Foundation, the Edhi Foundation and the Simorgh Women’s project. I have seen many of the same values at work as those that are rooted in our British identity. Organisations such as the Salvation Army, Barnardo’s and the suffragettes were, not so long ago, dealing with challenges and social evils similar to those that Pakistan faces today.

I want to promote cross-cultural dialogue and trust in the UK and Pakistan, by profiling the many different faces of Pakistan, supporting those working in the arts, welfare, education, human rights, civil society and citizen journalism. To build stronger links between Pakistani social projects, Britain and the British Pakistani community.

People trying to improve society in Britain have actually got a lot in common with people working to do the same in Pakistan.

The RSA and (a site I run) launched Pakistan Calling, a film project to promote cross-cultural dialogue.

The films depict Pakistani civil society organisations and individuals attempting to tackle the country’s many problems, and also Pakistan’s many links with Britain. Pakistan Calling is not just aimed at the British Pakistani community, but anybody who has an interest in Pakistan and issues of identity, culture and citizenship.

So I ask readers at Liberal Conspiracy to take some time, to watch the films and help spread the word about the civil rights, education and welfare organisations, whose work the films feature, as one positive way to help civil rights and social justice groups in Pakistan today.

Another way to help would be to join or subscribe to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Films making up Pakistan Calling include I Am Agha, the story of one of Pakistan’s 1.5 million street children, an exclusive interview with Channel 4’s Jon Snow on Pakistan in the media, Midnight’s Grandchildren by the Asian Dub Foundation on identity, race and religion, and Tehmina Durrani on women’s rights in Pakistan.

Anwar is Director of a culture and news site with a focus on South Asia and Britain, he is part of and an associate of , Manchester based regeneration practice. Twitter @aakhtar

Why Maria Miller’s demand we show the economic value of arts makes no sense

by Guest     April 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

by John Clarke

The Government’s interest in fiction seems only to apply to economics. Now we have the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, demanding, in a speech this morning at the British Museum, that leading figures in the arts show the value of culture to the UK economy.

It sounds like a sensible idea. Unfortunately, but to a large extent it’s impossible to do.

And I don’t just mean in the sense of how cultural activities enrich our lives, I mean at the crude economic level Maria Miller is talking about.

The problem is that looking at arts through an economic lens means making predictions about future performance. In reality you can’t predict winners in the arts industry.

Research done on the US film industry tells us that the economics of this is essentially unpredictable. Arthur De Vany, Professor of Economics at the University of California, has written extensively on film economics.

In Hollywood Economics De Vany writes: ‘Anyone who claims to forecast anything about a movie before it is released is a fraud or doesn’t know what he is doing. The margin of error is infinite.’

The variables are huge. This is because capturing an audience is difficult. There are so many different things to consider. What if the artistic product is simply a bomb? What if cultural interests of the public change while the product is being developed? What if they product is good but it doesn’t get the word of mouth or the coverage in newspapers necessary for people to learn about it?

His arguments can also apply to plays, television, music or any other art form you care to mention.

On Radio 4’s Today this morning it was pointed out that huge successes like One Man, Two Guvnors and War Horse were only taken on by the National Theatre because no commercial producers saw them as financially viable.

Indeed, there are so many failures that the successful products often end up covering for the flops. The more activity there is in the arts the more likely there is to be major successes like The King’s Speech.

Just look at what happened when the UK Film Council was abolished in 2010. Film production in the UK is down 30% on 2011 levels. While there are broader economic factors at play, Paul Brett, a director of the film production and financing company Prescience, puts it down to the scrapping of the Council.

This is not to say that money should be chucked at the arts without any accountability.

The money needs to be allocated in a sensible way by experts, but doing this expecting a strict return on investment is self defeating.

John Clarke is chair of Islington Fabians. He tweets from here and blogs here.

Our Movement and the Internet: Two book reviews

by Guest     July 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

contribution by Joseph Ritchie

One story emerging from the Murdoch debacle concerns the importance of an online campaign in bringing down The News of the World. The campaign, detailed here, is of course one of many important recent political mobilizations associated with the internet, a trend seen everywhere from Iran’s “Twitter Revolution” to the current uprisings in the Middle East.

As the internet will only grow in importance over coming years, careful assessment is clearly necessary.

The books, The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World by Evgeny Morozov, and The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr promised to shine some light on the phenomena. But do they?
continue reading… »

The Lost Generation (a poem)

by Guest     March 26, 2011 at 11:00 am

contribution by Natalie

I’ve heard about them kids today
That they don’t stand a chance
They hang on streets and drag their feet
And look at you askance
continue reading… »

How you can help us kick Big Oil out of the arts

by Guest     November 14, 2010 at 1:07 pm

contribution by Sophie Allain

The oil industry has an image problem: oil slicked birds, gas flares in Nigeria and eye watering profits paint an ugly, but pretty representative picture of their business. And so it follows that in a bid to bolster their brands they stamp their logos across art institutions across the capital.

But a growing protest movement is targeting oil sponsorship in the arts as a way to undermine the PR campaigns of oil companies.

Platform, an art/activist organisation are launching a campaign to force oil out of the arts.
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Elton does Orwell? Sorry, that’s just wrong

by Dave Osler     July 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Elton John’s first professional gig was with a blues band that covered Memphis Slim and Muddy Waters. But he quit that outfit in 1967, and pianistically speaking, it has been downhill all the way ever since.

Now we read that the third most successful recording artist of all time has teamed up with the guy who wrote Billy Elliot to work on a musical version of Animal Farm. Whatever next? The Saturdays do Grundrisse? Atlas Shrugged, soundtrack courtesy of Meatloaf?

The news comes just weeks after George Galloway – a man whose gifts with song were long unsuspected by many – unveiled his plans for a similar treatment of the life of noted lesbian songstress Dusty Springfield.

Some may detect a certain incongruity here, at least in so far as it must be presumed that Dusty would have been immune to the cigar smoking charms of the former Respect MP, although that dimension may simply add to the charm of the project.

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Cutting spending: the BBC warning

by Chris Dillow     March 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

The BBC’s proposal to cut 6Music and the Asian Network is, I fear, a portent of coming cuts in government spending – because it shows that when a top-down organization makes cuts, it does so on the basis of power, not efficiency.

Put it this way. If the BBC were to restructure itself according to public service broadcasting principles it would abolish BBC3 (£115m a year for a pile of crap), privatize Radio 1 and possibly Radio 2 , and stop paying huge salaries for “talent” – though the fact that Anne Robinson gets £3m a year suggests this word is used very elastically.

So, why does it leave all these alone and target instead two radio stations which seem to fulfil the public service remit by offering things which the commercial sector probably wouldn’t? continue reading… »

What’s wrong with a slimmer BBC?

by Claude Carpentieri     March 4, 2010 at 8:00 am

Calls in favour of reducing the cost of running the BBC by 25% haven’t gone down well. Facebook campaigns are being set up and accusations are being flung that the cuts are “politically motivated” to butter up the Tories.

In short, the sceptics argue that weakening the BBC will be a gift to its private competitors and a blow to public services on both radio and television.

I am totally in favour of the BBC. I think a competitive state-owned TV is sacrosanct and whoever thinks the BBC should be dismantled and/or privatised is purely driven by rampant ideology.

However, the current cost of a TV licence is £142.50. In 2000, it was just £104. In ten years, an increase of around 36% – without anyone asking licence payers if they agreed with the way the corporation expanded.
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Poles Apart: coming near you

by Guest     November 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

contribution by Daniel Hoffman-Gill

Last year, sick and tired of the endless dirge of bigotry, lies and anti-Polish sentiment coming from the right-wing press, me and my mate Mark decided to go to Poland. We wanted to get a job; to put our money where our mouth is and garner a small taste of what it means to be an immigrant. We wanted to single-handedly reverse the Eastern European immigration trend.

So we got our CVs and covering letters translated (badly as it turned out) into Polish, put on our best interview clobber and made our way to Poland in a Vauxhall Astra.

We spent over two weeks as immigrants in Warsaw, ate a lot of lard and pigs feet and attempted to get any job we could, whether it be as a lift operator, a porn film star or a guttering and flues salesperson.

It was an amazing adventure that taught us much on the realities of life as an immigrant.
continue reading… »

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