Following on from the election results on Friday there will be quite a bit of work to do arising from changes in the political balance at St Albans. This will largely relate to helping the new Council set its priorities and helping the staff team understand what’s changed and what has not. That’s all that I will say about the change as anything else is outside the remit of this blog. However I thought I would cover a few thoughts about culture as I have not done so for some time, the reflective background, if you will, to the more prosaic activities of day to day work.
I find that at busy times like this it’s important to devote as much time as possible to ensuring that one’s mind is fresh and has lots of other stimulus rather than simply dwelling on the immediate issue, and so this weekend has been one of relaxation and refreshment in advance of some busy weeks ahead.
This weekend (7th & 8th May) we went to see the launch of the Aurora Orchestra’s new recording of Seeing is Believing by Nico Muhly. A wonderful evening of stunning new music by Muhly and interesting arrangements of Byrd and Hindemith. The concert was at the excellent Kings Place in Kings Cross which seems to be a regular haunt for us owing to its extremely interesting programme. The concert and the after party were fascinating, not least because of the varied and very young audience for these intense classical chamber pieces. A fast Boris bike back home through the Saturday night traffic completed an exhilarating evening.
Today we again cycled to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see three exhibitions: The Cult of Beauty, Yohji Yamamoto and Figures and Fictions an exhibition of South African Photography. The V&A was very full of a whole mix of people, from tourists to hip locals and a couple in Rastafarian clothing who were doing yoga inversions (headstands) on the grass in the quadrangle whilst students paddled in the pool along with toddlers.
What struck me most about these various events was the impact of diversity on cultural expression, from the impact of increased dialogue with Japan in the 1850s on the aesthetic movement, to the challenge to fashion’s conventions by Yamamoto and the incredible diversity of the photography, especially as it reviewed the development of an independent South African cutural voice, rooted in the cultural soup of the country’s history. Which brings me back to Muhly’s work, a concerto for electric violin and then coming up an opera at ENO, Two Boys, both of which explore in different ways the edges of cultural diversity, knowledge and certainty.
For me, all of these are essential elements in the reason to do what I do. The point of it all is to provide the background in which people can thrive, challenge and develop a voice. That’s what makes a place distinctive and the reason for trying hard to ensure that all of us can imagine our different futures and realise our potential wherever we live. Idealistic of course, but also the reason why emptying the bins and, say, the forthcoming St Albans Festival and all those this summer around the country are of equal importance. For the one of the points about the common good is that it is based upon a common human bond and curiousness, in both senses, no matter how different we might be.