2019年2月14日 星期四

Forget London – Birmingham is our real cultural capital

Plus Patrick Stewart on marijuana

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Telegraph Culture 

Your weekly low-down on the best of the UK's art, music, drama and more.

The arts can be the beating heart of a modern city – and Birmingham proves it

By Rupert Christiansen Arts Critic

"City of a thousand trades", "the workshop of the world", sprawling chaotically over the Midland plain and choked with bad air and industrial detritus, Birmingham has always struggled to be beautiful. Yet nowhere in post-war Britain has there been a more sustained and coherent civic effort to promote and invest in the arts.

Thirty years ago, Birmingham's City Council blazed a trail for the idea that culture could kickstart a process of urban regeneration, particularly through its ability to energise run-down centres with nothing but retail to offer. So Birmingham built Symphony Hall for Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and gave the Royal Ballet’s touring wing a base at the renovated Hippodrome. It converted the beautiful neo-classical Town Hall into a chamber concert venue, and poured money into the Midlands Arts Centre, the City Museum and Art Gallery. Its public sculpture programme puts anything in London to shame.

In the wake of the financial crash and the austerity squeeze on local government funding over the last decade, however, the edifice has threatened to crumble. The £189 million lavished on a ziggurat of a public library which opened in 2013, but by 2015 had halved its opening hours and run out of money for new books, now looks like a folly, or at least a step too far. The party is over: with impossible pressure put on the provision of schools, social services and rubbish collection, the City Council’s budget for the arts was inevitably slashed.

But don’t underestimate Birmingham: it’s a place that can take a few hard knocks on the chin. This summer the huge, long-awaited Centenary Square redevelopment will be completed, offering what promises to be a magnificent new public space at the heart of the city. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla has become a local heroine – a brilliant young chief conductor of the CBSO with Rattle-like potential. Another terrific boost to morale is the appointment last month of Carlos Acosta as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Both those figures lend Birmingham glamour abroad and give the lie to any lingering reputation for insularity.

The best news comes from the City Council, which last week announced that it had decided to soften another severe round of necessary cuts. On top of two other major falls in arts funding in recent years, this could have had catastrophic results; but now the proposal for a further £1 million reduction has been halved, and a £2 million fund will be established to help institutions become more self-sustaining.

So bravo Brum! Resourceful and resilient, a melting pot of ethnicities and ingenuities – the best of British.

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Picture of the Week

Trapped 04 (2012) by Benny Lam

Ankole, West Uganda (2018) by Ramona Waldner

“I tell you, there is a bond between people and cows,” writes Werner Lampert in his new book, The Cow – A Tribute (published by teNeues). “It was with cattle that so many of our dreams and ventures began.”

The book follows Lampert, an organic farming pioneer raised among the alpine pastures of Austria, as he and his team of photographers cross the globe in search of the planet’s most beautiful bovines. Their odyssey takes them from Andalusia to Alaska, from Patagonia to equatorial Uganda, where they encounter the Ankole (pictured above) with their extraordinary blood-filled horns.

“A herd of Ankoles copes easily with Africa’s wild beasts,” notes Lampert. “If a leopard attacks them, the herd forms up and launches a counter-attack, which is quite likely to end badly for the leopard!”
By Lucy Davies


Critics' choice

POP Anna Calvi, Roundhouse ★★★★★


Cal Revely-Calder is blown away by the Mercury Prize-nominated rock star's "one-woman, non-stop erotic cabaret".

ART Diane Arbus: In the Beginning ★★★★★


Half a century after her death, why do Arbus's photographs still hold us spellbound? Lucy Davies on a "dazzling" retrospective.

OPERA Akhnaten ★★★★☆


Is Philip Glass a genius – or a peddler of hippie kitsch? Rupert Christiansen on ENO's new staging of Glass's 1983 Egyptian opera.

THEATRE The Price ★★★★★


David Suchet dazzles in Arthur Miller's final masterpiece – and this West End transfer is "cause for rejoicing ", writes Dominic Cavendish.

BOOKS The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe ★★★★☆


Can Anna Karenina sort out your love life? Helen Brown falls head-over-heels for a book-lover's memoir.


In conversation with... Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

The actor opens up about leaving Labour, working with Bryan Singer, and how marijuana has changed his life. Read the interview

Book Now

THEATRE Bitter Wheat – Garrick Theatre
Returning to the stage for the first time in 33 years, John Malkovich plays Barney Fein, a Weinstein-esque Hollywood movie mogul, in a new dark comedy written and directed by David Mamet. June 10-Sept 14
Book tickets from £32

MUSICAL Caroline, Or Change – Playhouse Theatre
Sharon D Clarke stars in the hit musical about a black maid in Sixties Louisiana. "Beautifully staged and impeccably performed, this is is an exceptional show" (Dominic Cavendish). Until March 2
Book tickets from £10

THEATRE The Night of the Iguana – Noel Coward Theatre
Clive Owen, Lia Williams, Anna Gunn and Julian Glover star in Tennessee Williams's intense drama, set in a run-down Mexican hotel. July 6-Sept 28
Book tickets from £32

THEATRE Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Tom Hiddleston stars in Harold Pinter's moving 1978 masterpiece, which tells the story of a seven-year romance. March 5-May 31
Book tickets from £84

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