Almo Talwar: The struggle for the classics of the future
Dec 8 2010 By Ammo Talwar
William Shakespeare wasn’t born with a silver spoon or tickets for the ballet or opera in his pocket. Shakespeare was the Eminem of Elizabethan England, dropping rhymes right here in the Midlands.
Shakespeare’s dad was a Catholic village outsider who became Lord Mayor.
And then one day William said, “Dad – I need to be writing my rhymes full time – I’m going for a career in the arts.”
Would you have staked him? How much, for the biggest single secular cultural export of any nation, ever?
So how much should we stake the poets, writers, musicians, artists, photographers and film makers coming off our streets now, today?
Who’s going to back our entertainment exports of tomorrow, the seed capital of our culture?
Not this Government. Sure, there’s still taxpayer and sponsor cash going into the arts, just less of it.
And there’ll be money for Shakespeare at the RSC.
That’s cool. And there’ll be cash for classical orchestras, classical ballet, classical art galleries, classical Indian dance, classical opera and classical classics.
But if Shakespeare came back to life, do you think he’d be queuing for tickets for Measure for Measure?
Maybe, after he’d been to the Drum, the MAC, the Custard Factory and the Hubb.
The Government may think its cuts are fair – maybe they are. But the truth is, when the establishment makes the cuts, if you ain’t established then you’re getting a big cut.
Of course, authentic future classics will still be made anyway, by gifted, inspired, wonderful outsiders. You can’t stop people like that.
But most people will never hear or see them because no one’s paying for them to be professionally performed or promoted.
Right now someone’s tweeting: “@punchrecords is writing about Shakespeare! What does he know?” But I know this, two years ago I was in Cape Town and toured Robben Island, the infamous jail where Mandela and the other freedom fighters were locked away.
And there I learned how important Shakespeare was to the political prisoners. Why? Because some knew the Bible, some knew the Qu’ran, some knew Das Kapital, but they all knew Shakespeare.
They acted and recited him. They quoted and performed him – together. And that’s true cultural cohesion – where it matters.
But unless there’s a change coming soon, over here we’re headed for a decade of cultural apartheid.
* Ammo Talwar MBE is chief executive of Punch Records