‘There now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of the Socialist Workers’ Party.’ That’s what it should have been entitled. It pretended to be a programme about the arts, to wit BBC Radio 4 Front Row’s ‘Cultural Reponse to Brexit.‘ The programme came from the Royal Society of Arts, the place where photographs, telephones and phonographs were first demonstrated. ‘New ways for people to make sense of the world. And it is in that spirit that we have come…to hear how the cultural landscape might shift…in the light of the seismic events of recent weeks.’ One might have thought we had just tested a new type of atom bomb.
‘How can artists make sense of Brexit to enable them to navigate a fractured social landscape?’
There was one clear voice of sanity. Phil Redmond, responsible for Liverpool’s stint as European City of Culture, knew at first hand the insane bureaucracy of the EU and ventured to suggest that this might have been a reason for voting Brexit. His was a lone voice.
’96 per cent voted to Remain’ said one. (One presumes he meant artists.) ‘Collaboration and connection are our bread and butter. That’s why many people are mourning.’
The programme lamented ‘the rise of xenophobia’, pillorying Sunderlanders for their ignorance of immigrants, suggesting that because they were losers from globalisation they were wont to dehumanise others. ‘Artists must be there to help explore that frustration.’ For a moment one thought that the healing qualities of art were about to be expounded. But then the truth popped out. ‘Where will the money come from in future?’
‘We’ve been dealt two sows ears!’ bleated Red or Dead’s founder. ‘We are leaving the EU and we have such a divided society…The creative industries are brilliant at turning sows ears into silk purses.’ So says a man who has made $20 million from the rag trade. He told us that he was around for the first wave of punk and that without that he would not have been able to make his millions. ‘The rave culture was born out of police oppression,’ he went on. ‘There will be a massive rebellion.’ Thatcher and Thatcherism were both mentioned. Corbynites would have agreed with every word.
We heard about the dreadful consequences of Brexit. ‘I don’t know whether artists will be able, psychologically, to reach out, whether the closing in of our culture will make people withdraw into a sort of internal emigration.’ One wondered if one was expected to shudder at the dreadful repercussions for our community if artists, with their balm, deserted us.
Britain is ‘devalued’, said another voice. ‘Look at the number of artists who are thinking of relocating to Berlin.’ (Let them go, I thought.)
‘Divided and angry Britain.’ ‘Lots of towns need better infrastructure, they need more equality of access to arts, employment and public transport.’ ‘We’ve got to fight.’ ‘The direction that society is moving in will produce another wave of riots at some point,’ said one, something picked up by another who compared the general strike of 1911 with the inner city riots of 2011. It sounded like Russell Brand all over again.
‘People win or lose nowadays through no fault or agency of their own. That’s what capitalism does.’
This BBC programme made no attempt to be impartial or balanced. That our national broadcaster should take such a partisan political position and foment civil unrest in such a blatant manner is a national disgrace.