Friday, 06 March 2015

Radio Review: 6 March

Feathers fly at a debate about arts funding

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-dog-176My first thought was to wonder why Start The Week had acquired a live audience. Having been distracted during the junction after the 9am news, it took a while for me to register that I was in fact listening to The Front Row Debate on arts funding, hosted by John Wilson at the Hull Truck Theatre. For the most part, though, it was dull, pointless and unilluminating enough to have been Start The Week.

Wilson, whom I rate as a presenter and interviewer, struggled to get anything meaningful out of those on the panel. It was like being at a dinner party with people you’d move house to avoid. There was one brief moment of light relief, though. A tedious economist called Philip Booth, who was there to argue that the market, not the state, should decide which arts get funded, made a colossal and hugely amusing howler. The roots of the gaffe lay in Wilson mentioning to Ekow Eshun, the current occupant of Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, a cockerel sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, that the host described playfully as a ‘giant blue cock’. When canvassed for his views later, Booth declared himself offended at public money being used for ‘the pornography on the plinth’. Wilson asked what he was babbling on about, and it became clear that he had not seen the sculpture and had leaped to the conclusion that Trafalgar Square was now home to a gigantic ultramarine penis. Mr Booth was billed as representing a think tank. He should have thought a bit more before opening his trap.

Moreover, Mr Booth’s office at the Institute of Economic Affairs is less than a mile from where the hulking fowl has stood since July 2013. You’d think someone enlisted as an expert on arts funding would have clocked it.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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