Opera for all shows why we need to stand up for arts for ‘uz’
LAST weekend Tony Harrison was at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Most famous for his epic poem V, he was as funny and angry as ever.
During the evening he read a couple of poems about the idea that the arts are not for certain people. They’re not for people who pronounce it ‘uz’ instead of ‘us’.
When I got home, I watched Bollywood Carmen, an incredible spectacle in the middle of Bradford and it got me thinking.
Thousands rammed into the city centre to watch a Bollywood twist on Bizet’s opera. I’ve seen the opera adapted before; I’ve never seen it feature dance numbers around a fountain in a city centre and Carmen’s mates speaking with Bradford accents. Every now and then on the live BBC3 broadcast, there was a glimpse of some of Bradford’s other artistic jewels. On one side was the Alhambra, beautifully lit with a thousand bulbs, looking stunning against the darkening Yorkshire sky.
Just to the right was the Odeon, boarded up and covered by scaffolding. Together they neatly summed up the two possible fates of Bradford’s other gem, the National Media Museum.
The museum is under threat of closure along with Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry and the National Railway Museum in York.
Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group, which runs the three attractions along with a number of London museums, delivered the hammer blow last week. Budget cuts have been blamed and many already fear Bradford will emerge as the poor relation.
I first went there as a kid, when it was the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. It inspired me, a lad from Keighley, to want to be a journalist and I’m not alone. You couldn’t begin to count the number of people who have been inspired in millions of countless ways by a trip to places like that museum.
If it does close, they might as well put a banner over it saying the “The Arts are not for Uz in Bradford”. Really? Tell that to the thousands who packed Bradford city centre last weekend to watch a version of an opera by a Frenchman.
We deserve the National Media Museum in Bradford, just as much as we deserved Bollywood Carmen. And we have a duty to ensure the future of the arts is protected for those coming behind us.
It’s time to stand up and make our voices heard. Bradford needs a museum of national importance. If the National Media Museum is allowed to stay, we might just protect a future where the talent to create Bollywood Carmen will continue to exist and thrive. Let it wither and die and it won’t. It’s that simple.