Friday, July 06, 2007

The New Culture Forum Has Moved

Visit us at our fabulous new website:


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Last Night's Culture Clash

NCF Director Peter Whittle was joined on the sofa by social entrepreneur Simon Marcus, theatre critic Andrew Haydon and the comedienne Ayesha Hazarika. Under discussion were the The Pain and the Itch, the new Bruce Norris play at the Royal Court, and the life and times of the controversial late comic Bernard Manning.

CLICK HERE to watch the show.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's the ideology, stupid

One of the most prominent of Bloggers, Dizzy Thinks, sums up the situation as it stands on this weekend of thankfully aborted terrorist attacks:

Now though it is a battle of the Enlightenment against, as a friend once said to me, Endarkenment, and this time the other side isn't rational. It thinks nothing of its own death in achieving its ends. It's also acutely aware that the dominance of Western self-loathing is our greatest weakness. Is our way of life under threat? No. Our number is too great for that to seriously happen in any immediate sense. But does the other side want to fundamentally change our society, our way of life, and our values? Undoubtedly.
Read Dizzy's full thoughts here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

And it's the Culture, stupid...

In a piece titled 'It's the Broken Society, stupid' in today's Spectator, Andrew Neil argues that 'During the Blair–Brown decade social concerns — what kind of society we have become — have gradually replaced economic worries.'

Neil suggests that the underclass is 'increasingly severed, in attitude and cultural values, from the rest of society,' which ends up affecting us all.

The cracks in Britain’s Broken Society, however, go far beyond the underclass, though that is its most serious manifestation. There is a general feeling that, across the social spectrum, Britain has become a coarser, more yobbish society, in which discourtesy has become a national habit and violence is always lurking beneath the surface. A general societal, moral and cultural collapse extends well into the comfortable middle classes and is reflected in manners, dress style, violent demeanour and foul and sloppy language, even among the supposedly educated. In a nation with too many Jade Goodys, it takes a Bollywood actress to remind us of the traditional British virtues of tolerance and courtesy.

In other words, our society needs a new - and better - culture.

Neil's point ties in importantly with what
Fraser Nelson writes, also in today's Spectator, about Gordon Brown's 'Britishness agenda'. The new Prime Minister appears determined to pick up the patriotic mantle consciously dropped by Cameron's Tories. It's a smart move, for many reasons. First, it will play well electorally. Second, Brown, the Scot, is desperate to do something to glue Britain back together again after the fracturing effects of his own party's (originally self-serving) thirst for devolution - the results of which have been only to fan the flames of independence movements.

Nelson writes:

He [Brown] has made remarkable progress in a short space of time. Last summer, he rather wonderfully declared that ‘my wife comes from Middle England’, as if he were a mediaeval king who wished to make peace with a new dominion by marrying a local. Now he realises he is not engaged in battle for a territory but a cultural war, which he can win by posing as a heavyweight statesman with an instinctive grasp of ordinary Britons’ anxieties and aspirations versus decadent, faddish Mr Cameron with his hopelessly out-of-touch coterie.

Part of the new cultural war is the increasingly vital question of what it means to be British. Brown is known to be favourable to the idea of 'settling' the question in the form of a written constitution. Were he to go for this - and he might - those 'traditional British virtues' of which Neil writes would need to be enshrined. And the big question in the current political culture is: Will they?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Last Night's Culture Clash

NCF Director Peter Whittle was joined on the sofa to discuss the spate of new shows about becoming a tycoon. Do they show that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Britain or is it much more about the viewers' cruel pleasure in other people's humiliation?


Monday, June 25, 2007

How to sidestep the Thought Police

In today's Telegraph, AN Wilson writes about the cycle of Corpus Christi Plays from York, 'the product of generations of human thinking and imagination about the central story of our culture' and how their performance is now being threatened by politicised box-ticking.

The NCF fully supports Wilson's call for individual patronage of the arts - the only way to free us from the suffocating grip of the thought police.

In York, these plays were performed by the town guilds from the time of Chaucer and Langland until Shakespeare's lifetime, and one of the joys of living in modern Britain is that they were revived.

First, they were put on at the Festival of Britain in 1951. Then, as often as could be afforded, they have been performed at the York Festival. There have been performances at the National Theatre in London, and in Edinburgh, and there have been inspired amateur renderings at the University of Leeds.

But enter stage left Christian Vassie, a Liberal Democrat councillor in York. He is hoping to get National Lottery money for a scheme which sounds in principle excellent: namely, to stage the York Plays in 2008, 2010 and 2012 using local students from the ages of 16 to 25.

Alas, to get the money, the council have to assure the Lottery Fund people that the event is "multicultural". Vassie is putting his mind to the question of how the event can be made "multicultural".

Those Muslims of Yorkshire who fostered the London bombers of July 2005 will rejoice at this, since they need not go through the farce of claiming to be deeply offended by the Roman soldiers in the York plays swearing, as they do, "for Mahound".

And Lord Janner won't have to bore anyone who would listen with the claim that the Jewish community is deeply hurt by the Harrowing of Hell play, in which we learn that his co-religionists were in league with Satan.

And Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens can sleep easy that their sensitive ears need not echo to the great opening of the play, declaimed originally by the Barkers' Guild: "I am gracious and great, God without beginning."

But the rest of us who inhabit a real world, where we are not constantly feeling hurt by cultures and ideas different from our own, think the York Cycle is a magnificent testimony to our shared Christian past. It also happens to contain, in the Passion Plays, some truly great writing, the only really great drama, as theatre, of the English Middle Ages.

It is the story of the Creation of the world, its near destruction by Flood (performed by the fishers' and mariners' guilds), the coming of Christ, and the redemption of the human race.

It is a proud, English thing, easily worthy to be spoken of beside the great mosaics of Monreale outside Palermo which depict the saving story from Fall to redemption of Man.

Would it really do the 16- to 25-year-olds of York such harm to be exposed to this story, to swim about in it, to experience the depth of wit, pathos, bawdry and awe that their Yorkshire forebears brought to the story?

The churches have made a poor show of presenting the tale to the past few generations. Many people have all but forgotten it. Is it now to be confined altogether to oblivion because it fails to meet the specifications of some idiotic committee in London?

If the thought police are really calling the shots in this way, should not some Yorkshire millionaire step forward and finance the York Plays with a no-strings-attached cheque?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Britain's ever-growing dependency culture

Gerard Baker in today's Times:

Like millions of my fellow countrymen I found myself watching the final instalment this week on the BBC of A History of Andrew Marr by Modern Britain. I think I got that the right way around but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what the script said because the pictures were all about him.

There he was, in almost every frame, like some Zelig figure, replaying a crucial moment from our country’s past. Up there, admiring the soaring architecture of the Scottish parliament; over yonder, traipsing through the fields near where the government scientist David Kelly took his own life; long shots of him poised, Winston Churchill-like, pondering the origins of his people’s genius.

More striking for me, even than the immanent narcissism of the whole thing, was Marr’s final, dewy-eyed observation to end the series. As I said, I can’t now remember the actual words, but I think it was something to the effect that, for all our tribulations, it was still the greatest of privileges to be able to say you were born in Britain.

Well I don’t disagree with that, but of course Marr’s conclusion was a classic BBC man’s paean to his country. It capped a lengthy peroration on the great success of multiculturalism. How we could still be proud of ourselves not because of some fuddy-duddy ideas about tradition or individual freedom, but because we’re now a lovely big melting pot of a country.

I defer to the greater knowledge of modern Britain evidently garnered by standing in empty fields with camera crews, but I wonder if this is really the right conclusion. I love Britain as much as anyone, and I certainly believe it is our openness that makes it such an attractive place. But I can’t share the optimism about our multiculture, and much more importantly, my own impression is not of the triumph of the British spirit but of its steady subversion by an ever-growing dependency culture.

In its funny little way the news this week that the Advertising Standards Authority had banned reruns of the 1950s egg advertisements that featured Tony Hancock was more compelling evidence on the state of modern Britain than even Marr’s obiter dicta.

“Go to Work on an Egg” was unacceptable, we were told, because it encouraged an unhealthy lifestyle. I had no idea that we had a government body that still operated on Stalinist principles but there it is. How long will it be before it is not just the free speech of advertising that is curtailed but the evil practice it promotes, and we ban egg consumption along with smoking? Goodbye England. Welcome to Absurdistan.

At root of this nonsense is, of course, the sheer scale of government. The reason you can’t be allowed to eat an egg is that, because of the lack of real choice in healthcare provision, you’re no longer responsible for the financial consequences of your own actions. If you get heart disease from too much cholesterol, the State, collectively known as the NHS, will have to treat you; and that costs the State more and more money so the State will have to stop you from doing it in the first place.

This is the self-perpetuating logic behind the unstoppable momentum of the expanding State. The bigger it grows, the more it intrudes into our lives, and the more it intrudes into our lives, the more dependent we become on it. Education is the same. Our great universities are struggling to compete in a global market because they are hamstrung by the State. They are dependent on central government for their funding; but that funding is insufficient to meet the needs of global competition. But because they need government money for what they do, they cannot break free.

Leviathan is now so large that, outside London, half the population is dependent – either through public sector jobs or benefits – on taxes. Its power is so large that it has bent us all into submission. It has produced a culture in which no one needs to take responsibility for anything because someone else is always there to back us up.

That in the end, was what was behind another sorry spectacle of Britain’s decline this week – the Fulton inquiry into the capture of the Royal Marines and sailors in March by Iranians. It was of course, to outward appearances, magnificently Gilbertian – the first Sea Lord doing the honorable thing and shuffling off the blame on to anyone but himself. But its message was very modern.

Mistakes were made but no one made them.
Read the full article