Wednesday, 5 January 2011
Why we need The Arts Desk
OK, so picturing arts coverage in print as a sinking ship, and even metaphoring our thriving online Arts Desk as Gericault's struggling Raft of the Medusa, is a bit hyperbolic. But it struck me just how much the set-up to which I've become so devoted has thrown out a lifeline in the sea of sinking arts pages.
The only time I buy papers is for a train trip (sometimes). Otherwise I might just look up the odd colleague's review online and go to the BBC for news. Should have known better than to pick up an Observer for the Sunday journey to King's Lynn. In the colour supplement there was a fatuous piece about the Top 20 cultural 'don't misses' of 2011. Was there a single concert or opera in the whole batch? Of course not. As for the paper's Arts Review, well, I know it's a fallow time for 'classical music' and the regulars were on holiday. But apart from Peter Conrad's piece about the mess that was Anna Nicole - which seemed to be entirely about her Traviata-without-the-redemption life, and not at all about what Turnage and Jones might make of the story at the Royal Opera - nothing.
Not even a bit about Radio 3's twelve-day Mozartfest, which I thought could do with a bit of a Buzz on The Arts Desk today. And, very well, we've not exactly been teeming with concert or opera reviews either. But I did try to fill the breach with an as it turned out ill-advised 1/11/11 trip to the Gabrielis' Wassail at the Globe (not entirely wasted: the initially stumbling thrown-together pottage did pick up in the short second half, when Paul McCreesh engagingly filled us in on the village bands of Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree).
TAD also had its pick of the classical/opera year on the 31st. From tomorrow, the concert scene begins to stir again. But the papers really are floundering, though nowhere near as badly as in the States. Still, the Times does the best coverage and the Telegraph, by all accounts, has an arts editor who's as painstaking with his contributors as our Ismene Brown and Jasper Rees. But when will the more out-of-touch pundits realise that 'classical music and opera' shouldn't be marginalised some way down the line from 'music', and why is it so hard to find them? No, I think we're doing the right thing by featuring each event as and when it appears. Sermon over.