Archive | November, 2019

Fight for relevance

14 Nov

Yesterday morning as I was scrolling lazily my Instagram timeline came upon a brilliant opera singer being all happy to be promoted as the Beyoncé of opera.

After the initial flutter of excitement that an opera singer gets featured on a mainstream media outlet (coverage is that rare, to make any reference becomes a cause for celebration), started to wonder why once more the mainstream has to equal the achievements of opera singers to pop ones.

Why couldn’t they refer to the scores of amazing women of colour that have treaded the boards of opera houses the world over and forged careers that lasted longer than Beyoncé’s whole life? And why are PR people, record companies and artists happy to conform to this dialectic? Why don’t they have some fight in them to go against that populist nonsense.

Why shouldn’t mainstream publications know who Marian Anderson, Shirley Verrett and Leontyne Price have been in the classical world?
With such well documented careers it’s never too late to educate others and keep those fantastic artists relevant as a historic reference and also as the important pioneers they were.

Accepting the status quo of media coverage is to accept that opera is no longer relevant and it doesn’t have its own heroes to offer to the mainstream. Which on its own is too depressing to contemplate.

Exclusion by design

8 Nov

barbican head pic

Was looking at the future programming of the Barbican Art Gallery this morning and was amazed to find out that their Box Office has gone cashless on the 1st of November. I find it extraordinary for a major venue subsidised both by the Arts Council and The City of London to instigate this measure under the guise of speed of transactions and/or safety. Surely in the middle class bubble the management of the Barbican operates in, nobody is without a bank account…but looking further afield and it was reported in 2017 by charity Toynbee Hall that 1.7 million people don’t have a bank account and crucially:

  • 94% of people without a bank account have a personal income of below £17,500 per annum, and 91% live in households where the total income is £17,500 per annum.
  • 55% are in council housing, while 24% are in the private rental sector
  • 31% are between the ages of 20-29 and 26% between the ages of 40-49.
  • 70% are recorded as having nothing in savings, while 20.5% have between £1-100.
  • 73% primarily use another financial product, such as a Post Office Current Account or credit union, while 27% are cash-only.
  • 5% are recorded as saying they get to the end of every month without any money while 35.5% are recorded as doing so fairly regularly.
  • 42% currently use, or have previously used, debt advice services.
  • 53% are either “very confident” or “fairly confident” using email and social media websites, and leaving feedback on shopping websites.
  • 44% use a smartphone

It’s clear the demographic the Barbican is excluding is near the poverty line and their life must be hard enough to not be allowed to use any pocket money they have to buy a cinema ticket, theatre or concert ticket at the Barbican. Why this form of social apartheid is allowed to go on unquestioned is stunning to me. If the small cushion of public funding is meant to encourage venues to be as open as possible to all, that surely means people without a bank account should have a way to access their services too.

Please consider writing to the Barbican to voice your opposition to this blatantly exclusionary policy. Their contact address is and ask them to forward your message to Sandeep Dwesar their Chief Operating & Financial Officer.

cashless barbican

The notice on the Barbican website explaining the change of policy

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