The Arts View is a great thing.
In it we get to talk about the arts, in one of the country’s leading newspapers, at length and whatever it is about the arts that is important on any particular week.
My favoured subject is the power of the arts to effect real, irrevocable change for the better in people. Sometimes, though, it is not the world of the arts that gives you the hook for the Arts View column, but something happening in the wider world that gives an angle on the cultural industries. Something like, say, Jeremy Clarkson.
After a couple of weeks of speculation, we finally found out what actually happened when Top Gear came to Yorkshire. The men who like brum-brums (from what I can gather that sentence should appeal to the maturity of those who follow the show) came to God’s Own to film their show and producer Oisin Tymon committed the cardinal sin of not having any hot food arranged for Clarkson at the end of an arduous day of filming and driving in brum-brums.
The BBC officially explained what happened yesterday: “Mr Tymon took himself to hospital after he was subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack. During the physical attack Oisin Tymon was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip.”
What has this got to do with the arts? It’s unlikely that the Clarkson fracas will feature in many Culture sections of other newspapers. You might not realise this, but Clarkson, in bullying – and that’s what it was – his producer, was simply reflecting something that happens all too often in the arts industry. Sure, Top Gear might not exactly be considered ‘art’, but wherever you have ‘The Talent’ and people who are charged with managing that talent, there is a danger of egos playing too large a part in the relationship.
In 2011 Anne-Marie Quigg published a seminal research book, Bullying in the Arts, Vocation, Exploitation and Abuse of Power. The highly academic book revealed something quite staggering – that the cultural sector recorded the highest level of bullying recorded in any single employment sector in the UK. From diva popstars demanding specific coloured flowers in a dressing room to an overpaid presenter demanding a steak dinner, the arts industry needs to keep a closer check perhaps than any other industry on the behaviour of those working in it.
Last weekend I met Gary Barlow in a village hall in Burnsall. He was charm personified. He was also just a bloke working with his mate on a little musical in a village hall. That’s perhaps what all those working in the arts need to remember. It’s a stressful, privileged job that only seems to really work when you bare your soul and that’s scary – but good manners cost nothing and if you’re ever considering a strop, stop, think and don’t be a Clarkson.