James Boyle (left) poses for photos with culture minister Frank McAveety at the Royal Museum
Our nw culture vulture
The government has appointed James Boyle to head its long-awaited review of culture. But how much will he really be able to deliver? Words: Ruth Hedges.
urprise permeated the corridors of the
Scottish Parliament after last week's
announcement that James Boyle. chair of the Scottish Arts Council for the last two years (he'd JUSI signed another three year contract there). would lead the EXCCUIIVCS commission to review culture.
Boyle has been at public loggerheads With the ExeCutive during his tenure as chair of SAC. and has described its spending policy as ‘crackers'. So it is a brave move to bring this much respected and outspoken man. former head of BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4. into the fold. ‘This is about change for a generahon.‘ Boyle said. “It's going to be radical. This is an argument for investment — they don't expect a comfy ride from me.’
In 2000 the National Cultural Strategy was published. outlining plans largely indistinguishable from those detailed for this cultural reVieW: the creation of a cultural infrastructure for the 2 1 st century that grows through all areas of Scottish society. Commentators have denounced the commission as all talk and no trousers. Roseanna Cunningham. culture minister for the SNP, said the announcement was 'vague and dev0id of detan'.
But The List pressed Boyle for detail. Will a New Labour philosophy of encouraging private companies to help fund public services be applied to the arts? 'That is a cultural change that's going to take more than the commission to achieve,' said Boyle. ‘lt's a matter of moVing Scotland into the kind of personal and social posture that the Americans have. We used to be like that in the Victorian times -— you'd find Scots endowing. say. a whole church. and then we bankrupted ourselves in the 20th century With two world wars and that kind of disposable income wasn't there. As we enter the 2 1 st century there certainly is more money
4 THE LIST 1”.) Agx 115 Ma, 900.1
available. l think Scots are persuadable but I wouldn't underestimate the difficulties of it. I'm sure that enthusing people to put private money into the arts has to go with it a kind of confidence in them that the arts have direction. duality and reach the people they ought to reach. And I think the commission can help With those things.'
He added: ‘When you put public money into things you've got an obligation to make sure that people come and sample things.’
Asked if culture minister, Frank McAveety. had given him assurances for greater investment. Boyle said no. ‘I simply said to him will I get the resources to run this job and he said yes. and I said fine. l'll now work out my methodology and expect him to fulfill that promise' Boyle intends to run a small ship. but one that taps into wide sources for research. ‘If we make this exerCise collegiate and do our research properly and get the analysis right people will inevitably respect what we're saying about implementing it. even if they don't agree with some of it. But it certainly isn't Just about trying to gain more cash for the arts; it's trying to gain a healthier future for people.’
But Boyle Will face some tricky questions in the process. Does looking to closer partnership With the private sector mean that the Executive won't invest more public money? Can it lead to a more cohesive investment structure. or Will business and corporate interests Wield increasing power that fluctuates With their changing profit?‘
And there may be some radical changes in the air — the Arts Council faces a period of immediate instability. haying lost its chair. but its very role is also under question. The same goes for Scotland's national opera. film. orchestra and theatre. The pres3ure is on the Commission to deliver something that shows wno wears the cultural trousers.
BOYLE’S BEST BITS
‘The listener sulk has gone.’ Spoken after BBC Radio 4 listener figures surged back following a dip in the wake of his changes.
‘I have done what I set out
to do and now leave one of the greatest jobs in British
On leaving Radio 4.
“The eponymous adjective was “troubled”. I think we all knew we had to slay that dragon.’
His task at Radio Scotland.
‘Crackers’ His view on the Scottish Executive '3 arts policy.
‘It was made in sorrow, more than in anger.’ On the crackers statement.
‘A Dust Bowl banker, doling out welfare cheques to impoverished artist- farmers struggling with the infertile and depleted cultural soil of Scotland,’ Referring to the SAC's image to its clients.
‘Most people probably know more about what’s happening in the local cinema than opera or theatre, but they’re all good nights out - after all, there’s a bar in every one of them. There should be nothing precious about the arts.’ Boy/e swi/ls down his culture with a pint.
As we launch our annual beanfeast that is the Eating and Drinking Guide, we reveal one or two foody facts and figures you may ﬁnd hard to stomach.
EATING 8x DRINKING
Estimated number of tastebuds on your tongue 1 0,000
Amount spent on food in the UK annually £53bn
The temperature cocoa butter melts at 97°F
Human body temperature. proving that chocolate melts in the mouth 97°F
People are classed as obese if they have a body mass index over 30
Number of adults in the UK around the 30 BMl mark 24m
Number of times more vitamin C there is in a red pepper than in an orange 4
Number of restaurant meals eaten in the UK per annum 675m
The average number of peanuts in a 3509 jar of peanut butter 550
Number of years since the Mars Bar was invented 84
Number of deaths caused by food allergies in the UK each year 10
Number of crocus flowers it takes to make a pound of saffron 80,000
Number of pancakes served at the world‘s biggest ever pancake breakfast in Springfield. Massachusetts in 1999 71,233
Amount spent per minute by shoppers in supermarkets on curries £480
Number of chickens' lives that are estimated to be saved through vegetarianism 760