Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Premiership.

I read with interest the interview with Alex Poots, director of Manchester International Festival, in Creative Times, the regular CIDS publication. It's a difficult brief, a festival of new commissions, with an international profile, and perhaps one should just let him get on with it for the first year - since if its a success it will inevitably grow - however, since it's a difficult brief with a £5 million budget, £2 million of it from the City, I think Manchester creative's should be able to have an opinion, if not - as seems likely - be involved. His main argument seems to be that by bringing world renowned figures to the city for the first time, the connections can be made on that "networking" level, which will, at some distant point, bear fruit. Now, no doubt a few individuals will benefit from this - after all the arts is an "international" market - and I'm hoping that we get an opportunity to see some of those artists who usually visit only London or Edinburgh; but I've a real concern that this is the same argument about the Premiership. Being the "best league in the world" will be good for all. Yet, just as Arsenal have made the Champions League final without an English player or manager, maybe this international elite will simply squeeze out funding and opportunities for locally based innovators. I would hope the legacy of this - as with so many things - would be that if (and it could be a big "if") an artist or scene of international importance - whether in art, literature, theatre, music or whatever - develops in Manchester in the next few years that those international tastemakers who've never previously been to the city will see about making their own way here, rather than as special guests. Perhaps it depends where you're coming from in terms of culture. There are certain "international markets" in the arts - visual arts, theatre, dance, films etc. - so that Damon Albarn would have put on the Gorrilaz show anywhere that gave him the opportunity (and presumably the budget) - yet I don't think it gives the city any more opportunities. Yes, like with the BBC move, or with "Alfie" being filmed in the Northern Quarter, there's a spin off in terms of jobs; but if Manchester's great advantage is that you can be creative in a supportive environment, without having to go to the "big city" at the first opportunity, then there has to be a point when local talent takes centre stage. Despite its flaws, the highly enjoyable Manchester Passion, mostly saw a benefit in pulling in local artists - Denise Johnson rather than some TV talent show flavour of the month, for instance. I'm sure the Gorrilaz show was a wonderful event; albeit a typically safe one - after all they are currently one of the biggest artists in the world; lets hope that the festival proper pulls in some more edgy coups. Remember, a sold out match at Old Trafford may give great entertainment to those who can afford it, but it doesn't offer much opportunity to a promising young footballer on United's youth scheme. But lets play a bit of fantasy arts festival and see who I'd like to see being commissioned to perform or do some new work in Manchester: Liz Phair, Neil Young, Eno, Jeff Koons, Francis Ford Coppolla, Gilbert & George, Harmony Korine, Tony Kaye, Michel Houellebecq, Genesis P. Orridge, Roman Polanski, Philip Roth, Michael Winterbottom, A.M. Homes, McSweeney's, Captain Beefheart, N*E*R*D, Jose Saramago, a revival of "I Am Kurious Oranj" by Michael Clarke and the Fall, Bridget Riley, Gillian Wearing, John Adams, David Thewliss, Marie Darrieussecq, David Mitchell, Greg Sage, Mantronix...

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