Among all the bad news this week there is good cheer for the arts

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FILM - NICK AHAD

AS so­ci­ety ap­pears to be go­ing to the dogs, the econ­omy is on its back­side and we’re all go­ing to hell in a hand­cart, here’s my lit­tle piece of pub­lic spir­ited cheer­i­ness.

I am happy to say there is some good news to re­port. In fact, there’s lots. First is Sh­effield Cru­cible’s Au­tumn pro­duc­tion of Othello, star­ring Do­minic West and Clarke Peters, sell­ing out quickly and (the theatre tells me this week) at­tract­ing book­ers from as far away as Chicago.

This news came to me hot on the heels of an­other an­nounce­ment, from cul­tural mar­ket­ing com­pany &Co, that a group of 13 lead­ing York­shire the­atres sold al­most two mil­lion tick­ets at their venues in the last year.

Har­ro­gate is one of these the­atres, and it at­tracted the high­est au­di­ence num­bers in its his­tory in the last year. Wait, it gets bet­ter. The visi­tor num­bers were re­leased this week for the Damien Hirst ex­hi­bi­tion at Leeds Art Gallery – where, in the first week since it opened on July 15, 11,000 peo­ple have gone through the doors. Ap­par­ently the Head­row gallery’s sys­tem was strug­gling to keep count in the first few days.

This great news echoes the story from York Art Gallery, the first York­shire venue to ex­hibit Hock­ney’s Big­ger Trees Near Warter paint­ing ear­lier this year. Un­veiled to the pub­lic on Fe­bru­ary 12, the first week­end saw 5,389 peo­ple visit. Be­tween Fe­bru­ary and June, over 143,000 peo­ple vis­ited York Art Gallery to see the paint­ing. One last bit of pos­i­tive news for con­text. The Hepworth Wake­field, the new sculp­ture gallery which opened on May 21, was ex­pect­ing 150,000 peo­ple in its first year. They tell me this week the visi­tor fig­ures have reached 175,000 – in less than three months.

‘What is go­ing on?’ is a ques­tion that has been asked by sev­eral peo­ple, in sev­eral are­nas, this week. I want to ask it here with a much more pos­i­tive bent.

I’ll tell you what’s go­ing on. We’ve spent the week look­ing at im­ages of loot­ers (not pro­tes­tors – those are peo­ple with a cause) and see­ing the truly ap­palling side of our na­ture.

The facts and fig­ures above are a cel­e­bra­tion of our bet­ter na­ture. That part of us which was re­vealed when thou­sands were mo­bilised this week through Twit­ter to come to­gether and clean up the streets of Lon­don, Manch­ester and Liver­pool.

It is the side of our na­ture that cel­e­brates art, that val­ues beauty, that joins with thou­sands of oth­ers to visit a gallery, or mil­lions of oth­ers to buy a theatre ticket and join in a com­mu­nal, pos­i­tive, up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

It’s been a pretty dark week for our coun­try. Re­ceiv­ing the above news was a timely re­minder that our com­mu­ni­ties come to­gether to cel­e­brate art and cul­ture far more of­ten than for any neg­a­tive rea­sons.

[email protected] Twit­ter: @Nick­Ahad

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