Sarajevo, 2014 2

Human diversity is

I have seen the future, brother, it is murder. Leonard Cohen, The Future, (1993) From the street corner where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie – precipitating not only the First World War but a calamitous century – a few steps might have taken him to an Orthodox church, a mosque,…

Wrangle 2

Below the radar

There’s a lot of interest at the moment in the value of culture and cultural value (not the same thing), both in academic and policy terms, and I’ve touched on it before. Research programmes, initiatives like the Arts Council’s Creative People and Places and political speeches can all enrich the debate about how we understand…

Renaud

Joining the canon

As tribute records go, La Bande à Renaud, is not bad, but it is a little sad. There is a valedictory air to these restrained, polite versions of songs by one of the dominant figures of French popular music since the 1970s, Renaud Séchan – which is ironic since Renaud himself was neither. In scores…

Civilisation

In search of gravitas

Gravitas, the heavy tread of moral earnestness, becomes a bore if it is not accompanied by the light step of intelligence.   (Kenneth Clark, Civilisation, Ch. 4) In 1969, the same year that a NASA programme named after a Classical Greek god put man on the moon, the BBC broadcast a series of programmes under the…

Budapest (Ludovic Lepeltier, Wikicommons)

The Budapest Observatory

  There’s has been a great increase in cultural policy data, research and commentary in recent years, reflecting culture’s greater importance in the postmodern world, and facilitated by the ease of modern communications. Twenty years ago, fact checking (to say nothing of library research) was slow and laborious. Now, you can break off in the middle of a sentence…

Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes)

A Three Pipe Problem (MCV8)

‘What are you going to do, then?’ I asked. ‘To smoke,’ he answered. ‘It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.’ Arthur Conan Doyle (1891) The term ‘cultural value’ appeared in British policy discourse about 10 years ago, notably in Capturing Cultural Value, a…

Mary Beard 1

Cui bloody bono?

The speech of women There is a paradox, acknowledged by the speaker herself, in a woman giving a lecture about how the female voice has been excluded from public discourse since the origins of Western culture. Mary Beard’s lecture, given at the British Museum for the London Review of Books and broadcast on BBC4, was…

Parthenon

Well-worn touchstones

As you approach the Acropolis Museum in Athens you see the Parthenon’s reflection floating in the dark glass wall of its topmost level. It’s an optical trick worthy of the ancient temple builders themselves, bringing the most celebrated monument of European culture from its hill into the city, from the past into modernity, from worship…

British Museum Vikings Exhibition 2014

A small boat on a dark sea

Text of a talk for the Greek EU Presidency conference, “Heritage First! Towards a common approach for a sustainable Europe” • ‘Two gross of broken statues’ In August this year, Europeans will mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, a conflict that, depending on your view of history, could be said to…