Mark Ravenhill’s remarks at the Edinburgh Festival won’t make him many friends among the chattering classes. It’s rare to find a playwright, even a talented one, saying that the arts would be better off as a result of funding cuts.
But the RSC’s writer-in-residence doesn’t feel any luvvyish enthusiasm for the last Labour government. Their generous spending, he says, led the performing arts “astray”. “Didn’t the arts become safe and well behaved in the New Labour years? I think they did. I think they weren’t telling the truth – the dirty, dangerous, hilarious, upsetting, disruptive, noisy, beautiful truth – as often as they should have done. Why? Because most artists are decent, liberal, if-only-everyone-were-nicer-to-each-other-and-let’s-heal-it- with-a-hug sort of folk and so voted New Labour.”
Ravenhill thinks artists should consider freeing themselves completely of public funding to avoid feeling beholden to politicians. In The Independent, Neil Norman came to his support. “Unpalatable as it may be to some, art often flourishes in adversity; it is an act of defiance, an orgasmic wail of ecstasy and, sometimes, agony.” Perhaps the likes of Helen Mirren, Kenneth Branagh and Mike Leigh might bear this in mind when they claim that British arts and culture are facing “the biggest threat” in decades from the age of austerity.
Trousers that make us see red
What is it with posh men and red trousers? I used to spend a week each summer in a small, slightly dilapidated hotel in Polzeath in Cornwall. It was hardly five star, but it had a surprisingly upmarket clientele, and the bar each evening was full of braying male voices – and red trousers. Now I see that a recent contributor to Mumsnet.com posted the query: “Why do older ‘posh’ gentlemen always seem to wear red trousers? Is it some secret rule?”
According to Jane Shilling in The Daily Telegraph, “a horde of savvier mums” instantly set her right, noting the red trouser phenomenon is no longer confined to the posh elderly and their haunts (regattas, point-to-points, etc) but has infiltrated street fashion too. Maybe so, but if YouGov pollis to be believed, red trousers are far from universally popular.
YouGov asked 2,000 people what was the first word that came to mind when they saw a chap in red trousers. The results, says Shilling, were “discouraging for fanciers of grenadine strides in general, and for the 11th Hussars (resplendent since 1840 in scarlet uniform trousers) in particular. Half of those polled said that on sighting a fellow with crimson breeches, their first thought was ‘idiot’, closely followed by ‘prat’”.
That’s a bit harsh, as Shilling says. When Hardy wrote that spring was the time when “maids come forth sprig-muslin drest”, he failed to mention chaps coming forth red-trouser drest. The fact is, says Shilling, “men’s clothes are, frankly, more boring than girls’”. So let the red-suited brigade “have their moment of vermillion glory… The long, chill winter of sober suitings will soon be upon us”.
Tabloid money: Fat-slob clothes belie Moore’s millions
• “Multi-millionaire left-wing documentary maker and scourge of capitalism Michael Moore, 59, of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame, might have to give half his fortune to estranged wife Kathleen Glynn to avoid a messy divorce that would reveal, embarrassingly, his wealth,” says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. “Although he always appears in fat-slob clothes, he has a lavish spread in Michigan with a boatyard and a large Manhattan apartment. Estimates put his fortune at £33m.”
• “The broadcaster John Humphrys made a brilliant BBC documentary about welfare benefits,” says Rod Liddle in The Sun. “He talked to people who admitted they’d rather loll about on the dole than get a job. You probably know a few people like that yourself. Incredibly, following a complaint from some single-issue charity, the BBC has CRITICISED Humphrys for what amounts to bias. People might have got the idea that he supported the government’s cuts to welfare spending, was the gist. Incredible. On one of the vanishing rare occasions the BBC addresses an issue NOT from a down-the-line, left-of-centre perspective, it attacks itself for bias! John Humphrys has been a great friend of mine for the last 25 years – and I still don’t know what way the old bugger votes.”
• The cost of deporting an illegal immigrant is now £15,000, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. “Does no one from the government ever stick his hand up and say ‘How?’ Immigrant is found: total cost so far £0. Immigrant is put in a security van and driven to the nearest airport: cost so far £180, plus maybe £300 to cover security guards. Immigrant is put on a plane and handcuffed to the seat: cost of the ticket and the handcuffs, say, £500. So that’s £980. Not £15,000.”