Category Archives: Culture Vulture

Our fine local arts establishment

FILM FLAM

City office movies

A dull photo-op last month of old men in suits vacantly sat around in an open plan office while the Reverend Rees waffled aimlessly to journalists about homelessness signalled the launch of the Reverend’s big idea – THE CITY OFFICE.

The ‘BIG IDEA’ is to get bosses from business, public services and the voluntary sector together to solve the city’s problems. So 75 bosses gathered at the Counts Louse on 29 September to have their photo taken in front of the local press while pretending to listen attentively to the The Reverend as he tried to convince us all that this was all terribly exciting and the whole world was watching and waiting on his initiative with baited breath.

The City Office, itself, we were told, would be focusing on homelessness and rough sleeping to start with. However, the noticeable absence of any CASH TO SPLASH or even any new policy to launch meant we had to settle for a PR RELAUNCH of the ‘Bristol Street Aware’ campaign. An initiative started by corporate retailers in Broadmead last year to clear rough sleepers off their doorsteps by ‘signposting’ them into unpopular homeless hostels run by the charity St Mungos.

This lack of money and ideas for the homeless starkly contrasted with the Vicar’s decision five days later at his cabinet meeting to hand over £692k to a Southville-based consultancy firm to continue running the BOTTLE YARD FILM STUDIOS in Hengrove. This is the film studio that’s already receiving about £1m in public money every year according to the council’s published expenditure accounts. The studios appear especially popular with BBC producers looking for cheap, publicly subsidised deals.

The Reverend and his Cabinet decided to HAND OVER MORE PUBLIC MONEY – grabbed from a restructured loan deal relating to the shadowy Hengrove Park housing development – to the city’s creative industries despite this council owned film studio and its firm of consultants providing NO MEANINGFUL ACCOUNTS or BUSINESS PLAN to support their large financial demands on the public purse.

The Rev and his cabinet have therefore handed over money earmarked for one of the city’s most deprived areas on the basis of UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS by council bosses that this studio will make a £100k surplus next year and – an even more UNLIKELY CLAIM – that it is generating £16m for the city’s economy every year.

Naturally The Reverend’s house-trained Cabinet agreed to this nonsense with no questions asked. HRH Helen of Holland, the cabinet member responsible, gushed that the EVIDENCE-FREE PIFFLE supplied by senior council bosses was “A GOOD NEWS REPORT“. While Deputy Mayor Estella “Tinkerbell” Tinknell only seemed bothered about “developing our media profile as a VIBRANT FILM AND MEDIA CITY“. Presumably regardless of the cost or the fact most of us couldn’t give a toss about “media cities,” whatever they are?

Moreover, the true cost of the council’s latest publicly funded creative industries VANITY PROJECT was carefully hidden by the Rev’s senior bosses who neglected to explain properly that a further £0.6m is also required to buy the studio’s FREEHOLD. That’s a total of £1.3m being poured in then. The same senior bosses also forgot to explain if there’s any RISK attached to their expenditure, projected to gain a paltry income of £100k a year from the studios. Is this the world’s first risk-free business?

The average whelk stall wouldn’t be run like this, let alone a MAJOR PUBLICLY FUNDED PROJECT. But who cares if we’re keeping creative industries bigwigs in the style to which they’ve become accustomed and we’re “developing our media profile as a vibrant film and media city”?

Meanwhile, as the Vicar shovels our cash into creative industries vanity projects, the homeless can make do with a grotty little PR relaunch and photo op can’t they

ART FOR AUSTERITY’S SAKE

Having run his election campaign promising to do something about inequality in the city, Marvin “The Vicar” Rees has wasted no time in feathering the nests of the UNEQUAL in the city.

At the Cabinet meeting on 29 June The Vicar signed off spending of around £3.3m in a combination of grants and loans to the city’s “WORLD CLASS CULTURAL VENUES“.

This means more HANDOUTS to the Bristol Old Vic, the Colston Hall and the St George’s concert hall from our pockets. And it includes a cool £1.6m going straight into the pockets of CONSULTANTS to draw up designs for the refurbishment of the Colston Hall.

It also means that a small impenetrable CULTURAL CLIQUE will continue to coin it in at our expense as the luvvies don’t work for the minimum wage. Plus it’s a very neat little direct SUBSIDY to the consumer choices of Bristol West’s well-heeled middle classes who make up the overwhelming number of customers at these upmarket venues.

These HANDOUTS TO THE POSH came just weeks before The Vicar finally admitted that the council is going to have to make 1,000 REDUNDANCIES to balance the books. This is at a council, which still has services reeling from the 500 poorly executed redundancies they made in 2014 that didn’t save anything like the money claimed.

The word coming from long-suffering staff at the council is that this next round of cuts will DESTROY many of our public services as going concerns. They will simply not be able to cope. Already phones are unanswered; homeless families are unhoused; council houses lie empty flytipping is not collected. What will this next phase of this AUSTERITY MADNESS unleash?

But don’t worry, at least you’ll be able to see a crappy play at the Old Vic produced by a sensitive Oxbridge prat about the appalling ‘state of the nation’ (if you can afford it).

COMING SOON: The Rev Rees’s multi-million subsidies to the, er, film industry!

UNIONS DEMAND MARV BACKS THE BRISTOLIAN!

georgebookfair

Another candidate supporting vibrant news reporting

The “TRADE UNION VISION FOR BRISTOL” sounds like one of the most boring documents ever. Published by local unions to support Marvin “Luther” Rees in his effort to become mayor in May, it actually contains a few gems. Not least its call for Luther Rees to back The BRISTOLIAN!

“A DIVERSE AND STRONG MEDIA is essential for the lifeblood of Bristol. Local newspapers are under severe pressure and need the support of civic leaders,” thunder the union bureaucrats.

“We want a mayor who will: champion Bristol’s creative and cultural life; be an ambassador for Bristol’s arts and creative industries,” and … Wait for it … “support local media and a VIBRANT REPORTING OF NEWS and events”!

We’ll assume the cheque’s in the post then Marv …

COUNCIL CULTURE BUDGET NOT IN ACCOUNTS!

juggling-businessman-image

Council juggling budget up?

A lot of people have asked us how Bristol City Council, according to their annual report, managed to spend almost £10m more on ‘CULTURAL AND RELATED SERVICES’ in 2014 -15 than in 2013 -14 while cutting vital services (Bristolian passim).

The answer is that WE HAVE NO IDEA. This is because the budget heading ‘Cultural and related services’ contained in their annual financial report is not used in the council’s management accounts that are presented to councillors and the public on a quarterly basis. Neither does the budget heading  ‘Cultural and related services’ appear in the council’s annual budget setting papers.

It’s therefore IMPOSSIBLE to work out what Bristol City Council actually spent £62,257,000 of  ‘Cultural and related services’ expenditure on. Neither can we see what caused this increase in expenditure from £52,421,000 in the previous year.

Senior bosses’ promises every year at budget meetings that their accounts will be SIMPLIFIED and CLEARLY PRESENTED to the public and councillors next time around aren’t worth a warm bucket of piss are they?

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being had?

NETHERLAND: we visit Banksy’s Dismaland so you don’t have to

DismalandUnfortunately The BRISTOLIAN’s exclusive invite to last Thursday’s private view of Banksy’s Dismaland alongside leading art establishment critics like the Sunday Times’ Waldemar Januszczak and the Telegraph’s Mark Hudson went mysteriously missing in the post.

Maybe this goes to show that Banksy’s smart enough to know that pandering to the Murdoch press and elite art critics is a far better career move for the upwardly mobile self-consciously anti-authoritarian street artist than courting half-pissed old radicals who aren’t likely to bother talking you or your work up anyway? Or maybe the postal service is just crap?

For a militant anti-corporate, Banksy’s consistently efficient deployment of sophisticated corporate PR techniques has always been at least as impressive as his art. No doubt people out there who ‘get’ Banksy will explain that his well-oiled corporate PR machine is a prime example of the artist’s highly attuned sense of ‘irony’. As, no doubt, are pisspoor ticket booking systems, absurdly long queues and an entire absence of event management skills.

‘Ironies’ the Bristolian experienced first-hand having attempted last Friday to buy tickets through Banksy’s pisspoor web-based booking system. Then instead having to queue on Saturday for four hours to get in to country’s most talked-about visitor attraction because the booking system had ‘ironically’ gone tits-up.

How we laughed at the brilliance of all this ‘irony’ (a crap theme park with a crap booking system, geddit?) Especially hilarious when ordinary punters with shit to do get pissed about while a small band of wealthy establishment critics, journalists and hangers-on from West London – with sod all that’s important to do – get to swan around and leer out of newspapers and TV sets at you from the heart of this radical, anti-corporate attraction sporting their ‘I’ve-brownnosed-all-areas’ passes.

Here at the Bristolian we were particularly delighted to watch that dangerous radical Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Chanel 4 News, armed with one of those incendiary PPE degrees from Oxford University, wandering around an empty Dismaland helpfully explaining its complexities to us. Krishnan even managed to slip into his prime time news package that he knew who Banksy was! Very cosy.

If you’re not a posh bloke off the TV from West London then getting into Dismaland is a lot more difficult. Queue two hours to get a ticket from a pink fibre glass shed weirdly encased in a pointless framework of 4 x 2 (no doubt people out there who ‘get’ Banksy can tell you whether this is ‘ironic’ or not) then wait another two hours while staff let punters in ten at a time.

The extra wait is so that you can experience a comedy security routine created by Bill Barminski from California. Consisting of cardboard cameras, X-ray machines, metal detectors and a team of game security staff asking daft questions, it’s all a bit weird as you’ve already been searched by proper security and had your biro confiscated. Which makes the installShrekation more a satire on Banksy insecurity, paranoia and losing the plot – underlying Dismaland themes – rather than on the intended target: this country’s ludicrous security obsession.

Once inside the ‘Bemusement Park’ the visitor is presented with a dilemma. When the artist’s chosen medium is crap, what’s the deliberate crap and what’s just crap? In the former column we can safely put the main exhibit, the Princess’s Castle. A fully realised three-dimensional Banksy with obvious nods to Disney.

Aficionados of fly tipping, municipal tips, urban river pollution, rundown industrial estates and inner city blight will love this. Well executed with a fine attention to detail, you can’t help but stop to admire the carefully unarranged distressed corrugated iron, top class rusted barbed wire, the lovingly arranged turds, shopping trolleys, litter and half-sunken boat in the moat and a spectacular cop meat wagon water feature. Inside, we’re even treated to a decent Banksy gag. A wry comment on media and celebrity, which, although more relevant to the artist and his celebrity buyers than us, sits nicely in the Banksy canon.

The only problem with it is that it appears to have consumed the whole Dismaland budget. Look around the rest of the show and nothing gets close. OK, there’s three galleries of contemporary art where you can find some Damian Hirst, Jenny Holzer and something totally fucking mental by Jimmy Caunty if that’s your thing. There’s a few interesting sculptures strewn around the park too.

But much of the rest is half ideas and desperate one-liners by Phil Space. The Mini Gulf, “an oil caliphate themed crazy golf course”, says nothing about big oil or anything else for that matter and is an unexplored pun. A selection of unwinnable fairground attractions – hook-a-mucky-duck, the shooting gallery and knock over an anvil – are half worked ideas. While the much-vaunted refugee themed ‘Mediterranean boat ride’ adds very little new on the subject although, in fairness, it is quite smart-arsed.

No doubt people out there who ‘get’ Banksy will tell you that these exhibits are ‘ironic’ and ‘subversive’. And yes they are. But no more ironic or subversive than, say, the ‘Shrek’ movie, which shares many similar themes. Is Dismaland basically a Hollywood production with fly tipping?

Even Banksy’s leisure worker drones in their pink hi-viz working to a corporate script are an aimless cock-up. When we visited later in the day, many had already thrown away the ‘witty’ corporate script and instructions and were interacting with visitors normally. This should be applauded. Whether yoalg-nose-jpgur boss is Banksy or Bob Iger, Disney Chief Exec, not doing what they tell you is a genuinely subversive act.

Another oddity is a protest politics department stuck in the corner of the site. No doubt people out there who ‘get’ Banksy will tell you this is not ironic. Which leaves you wondering if Banksy really thinks staring at a couple of Damian Hirst’s and taking a ride on a rusty ferris wheel is going to get people demanding the immediate overthrow of capitalism and rushing on to the streets to protest? Or will they be heading to one of the well-stocked bars to upload their Dismaland selfies to Facebook?

More bizarre is a roving group of placard-waving anarchists protesting ‘reality’. What’s that all about then? The concern here isn’t even with the bunch of confused youngsters doing a performance of a protest in a satire of a fake but for Banksy himself. Because Dismaland isn’t really about art or protest or corporate leisure or capital at all. It’s a wealthy international celebrity’s fantasy theme park made real. And the last international celebrity to create his own theme park was?

And how did that work out again?

BRISTOL ARTS SECTOR DOWN THE SHITTER AS INFAMOUS ‘URINAL BOSS’ BRINDLEY SLASHES OVER ARNOLFINI!

Following The BRISTOLIAN‘s report last month about the city’s crisis-hit upper class gallery-bar-cinema Arnolfini, it seems that the management team there has decided the best way to right the good ship Analphoney is to appoint KATE ‘SLASHER’ BRINDLEY as Interim Director.

Slasher, a contemporary art bullshitter of the highest order and a former director of Bristol City Council’s Museums Service, is popular among Bristol’s arty-farty/luvvie nexus for her role in bringing the Banksy exhibition to Bristol in 2009 – and because they’ve never had to actually work for her.

However, she is less fondly remembered by staff in the Museums Service, where she FIRED MORE THAN THIRTY WORKERS and downgraded and de-skilled the whole of the expert curatorial staff to save a few quid.

After all, who needs any knowledge or expertise to care for the load of crap created in the modern art self-promotion industry?

Museums insiders have told The BRISTOLIAN that if the ‘Phoney’s in financial trouble and Slasher’s at the helm, then the gallery’s 24 staff will inevitably be TARGETED FOR CUTS. They have been warned.

So what has Slasher been doing with herself during her five years away from Bristol? Well, she’s been the boss of Middlesborough’s controversial Arts Council-funded contemporary art gallery, MiMA – so any hopes the ‘Phoney has that Brindley will be increasing their visitor numbers may be premature.

Whilst at MiMA Slasher actually oversaw A DRASTIC FALL in visitor numbers at the unpopular gallery, and in 2012 a group of Middlesborough residents branded her gallery “THE MOST EXPENSIVE PUBLIC URINAL IN THE WORLD”.

The claim was made after a group of residents sat in the gallery’s cafe for a week and counted visitors to the white elephant. They discovered that more people visited the gallery to use the loos than to see Slasher’s boring exhibitions!

Middlesborough Council later published their own visitor figures for the week, which were much higher – but included 212 visitors on a Monday when the place was closed. They later had to admit that this was because they counted people who walked through the gallery’s car park as visitors!

The latest fun and games at the Analphoney began on 1 April (when else?) when Slasher took up her post. It remains to be seen who the fool is – the ‘Phoney’s trustees for hiring her, or us for footing the bill come the inevitable bail-out…

WHO PAYS FOR THESE PONCE HOLES?!

Commentary on recent arts funding cuts – and who they really affect – from The BRISTOLIAN‘s Arts Correspondent…

Any of you readers ever venture into Bristol Old Vic? Watershed? Arnolfini? No? Didn’t think so.

Yet you, me and the rest of Bristol’s working class are expected to fund these artsy, fartsy PONCE HOLES every year through our Council Tax. Not a tenner here or a tenner there, but hundreds of thousands of pounds are given each year from our pockets to fund these unnecessary, unprofitable middle class cultural centres.

Meanwhile that smug prick the Mayor and his arse-licking councillors are more than happy to shut down libraries and day centres and cut back on essential services for Bristol’s pensioners and disabled.

According to them if the things we need don’t make a profit then they must be PRIVATISED OR CLOSED DOWN.

Working class culture is something that scares these arseholes. They don’t want large groups of Bristolians meeting up in case we

start sussing out what a con their capitalist system is and start doing something about it. So they are happy to shut down our pubs (for example, try and find a boozer in Knowle), raise ticket prices at the football, or unleash more riot cops in town of a weekend to drive us out.

They don’t want us going out talking to each other; they want us to work for them, fuck off home and slowly rot away watching moronic zombie TV. Then our rulers can sleep in peace with their profits, whilst the STREETS ARE EMPTY. Meanwhile we pay for fucking middle class arseholes called Rupert or Tristram to have a jolly good night out at the Old Vic, Wankershed or Analphoney. Well fuck that…it’s time to turn off the TV and go meet these privileged scum who we’re paying for.

If they won’t spread the wealth about equally, then maybe it’s about time we spread the violence about.

ARTS HOLES: CUTS CAUSE LUVVIE RAGE FOR FERGO’S ‘BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE’

Watershed's big swinging Dick Penny

Watershed’s big swinging Dick Penny

A rare outbreak of common sense last month from Labour’s Southville councillor SEAN ‘DADDY’S BOY’ BEYNON called for a ten per cent cut in the generous handouts for the city’s Key Arts Providers (KAP) as part of the city’s recent slash-and-burn budget.

Naturally there was an explosion of rage from the city’s wealthy and influential luvvie lobby at this small challenge to their large sense of entitlement.

The rage was mingled with disbelief at how anybody could question the overwhelming social value of stuff like the BRISTOL OLD VIC’s latest effort – a five hour, state-subsidised overblown theatrical production of an overwrought Victorian potboiler, Jane Eyre, organised by a Cambridge graduate with a terrible wardrobe!

Legendary local luvvie DICK ‘THE DISRUPTOR’ PENNY, soon waded in with some back-of-the- fag-packet calculations to “prove” that this kind of marginal nonsense is in fact an economic powerhouse for the city and that our luvvie legions are doing a selfless and remarkable job for the masses.

“Combined turnover of not for profit arts and museums organisations in the West of England last year was £55m,” huffed Penny, “and that’s a pretty major return on BCC investment.”

“And none of this takes into account the huge benefit to social cohesion, education, tourism and inward investment,” he puffed. Although he failed to produce a shred of evidence to back up his claims – and what the hell is “social cohesion” anyway?

What he also failed to explain is how this small cut, which would amount to just £100k, would have any effect whatsoever on an industry with a turnover of £55m. Are we meant to believe that a reduction of just one fifth of one per cent of its turnover is going to bring this industry to its knees?

Penny further neglected to point out that one organisation, WATERSHED, receives city council grants in excess of £300k in 2013, which, er … Pays his wages! He also neglected to point out that an increase of just one pound in cinema tickets for the very well-heeled ABC1 audience his venue attracts would make in the region of £100k a year!

So that’s what “social cohesion” is all about, then: the poorest directly subsidising elitist entertainment and the wages of the wealthiest.

ABANDON SHIP AT THE ARNOLFINI AS ‘PHONEY WAR CONTINUES!

Never more than one overpriced, underperforming art installation away from self-inflicted disaster, the elitist arty-farties of Harbourside’s ‘contemporary art’ gallery ARNOLFINI really have been surpassing themselves over the last year or so.

Not only did they manage to lose an entire ‘Executive Team’ in the space of a month, but their tenants – spread over three voluminous floors of their prestigious, cash-generating Bush House headquarters – all quit. If that wasn’t enough, they then uncovered a large black hole in the finances of around £360K – and promptly FIRED THEIR OWN AUDITORS, Grant Thornton!

Meanwhile, a deranged “recovery plan” to convert the top three floors of the Bush House bunker – at public expense! – into an “art hotel” predictably flopped.

At the height of last autumn’s crisis, the place had to be run by a sub-committee of posh twits from the Analphoney board of trustees. That was because centre director TOM TREVOR was frogmarched off the premises in October so that he could, er, “pursue a number of international curatorial projects”! Presumably he didn’t have a family to “spend more time with”, then?

Trevor was escorted out the door right after the other half of the “executive team”, finance chief and our old friend BRENDA ‘WISE MONKEY’ MCLENNAN, was herself ‘disappeared’ from the organisation without explanation last August.

Brenda, you may recall, is currently vice-chair of Bristol City Council’s financial watchdog, the Audit Committee. So despite an organisation apparently sinking faster than the Titanic on her watch, she got a job overseeing sound financial practice at the council! (But then again, between 2009-2013 she notched up a not-to-be-sniffed-at £1,958.53 in expenses from the council, which suggests a certain amount of flair…)

You may recall that Brenda – she of the £800k Clifton Wood mansion – was a candidate at the last election for George Ferguson’s INDYREDPANTS PARTY, promising that she was going “to shake things up” at the Council House. Well, she’s certainly managed to shake things up at the ‘Phoney!

Other victims of the mass clear out include colourfully-named former chair LOVEDAY SHEWELL. She quietly left after six years in the post in July 2012. Although oddly, despite the UK’s arty-fartie-bore-in-chief Sir Nicolas Serota describing the ‘Phoney as “one of a handful of the most significant cultural centres in Europe,” Ms Shewell has mysteriously left her time with the gallery off her extensive CV. Why could that be?

Meanwhile, that renowned patron of the arts, business genius and financial whiz – MAYOR FERGO himself – hastily quit his post on the board of trustees in December 2012.

Demonstrating, yet again, that George’s instinct for survival outstrips his business acumen by some way.

ANYONE FOR MONKEY TENNIS? FERGO GOES ALL MARIE ANTOINETTE-MEETS-ALAN PARTRIDGE ON THE RADIO

Another fine example of exceptional diplomatic skills from our SOFT-HANDED MAYOR, who was born with a silver spoon and has never done a hard day’s graft done in his entire over-privileged life.

During one of his regular morning appearances on Radio Bristol’s Alan Partridge and Friends show (surely you mean the hard-hitting Steve Le Fevre at Breakfast show? – Ed.), Fergo was asked about his madcap plans to make an eighth of his workforce redundant seemingly at random.

“Well,” blustered the Mayor, unable to explain coherently what he’s doing or to understand the effect it may have on the city’s public services, “the council isn’t an employment charity.”

No doubt this vote of mayoral confidence in his hardworking staff and his view on the workings of the city’s public services will go down a storm with a demoralised workforce.

Because it’s always nice to be told by some wealthy, idle tosser that you’re just sat on your backside doing sweet F.A. for a living isn’t it?