Friday, November 02, 2007

Perception & Reality

I was in the Cornerhouse bar here in Manchester the other day, and, as you do when you're a writer, overheard something interesting. They were talking about the Lowry, and one of them said, "it's not for the people of Salford though, is it?"

Which got me thinking. What is art for, anyway? Opera, for instance, is generally thought to be terribly elitist, especially in this class-ridden island. It's said to be far too expensive for the ordinary pocket. But is it any more expensive than a ticket to see U2 or Madonna? In fact, when I went to the opera last year it cost me about £20 a ticket. Less, I suspect, than U2 or Madonna. Yet opera is said to be beyond the pockets of the ordinary punter...

What's stopping people engaging with the arts, especially the "difficult" arts like opera, or non-mainstream poetry, is perception rather than reality. They think that they're not going to like something, before they've even tried it; or that it's "not for them." It's like a five year old taking an instant dislike to a carrot, even though they've never had a carrot before. The reality is that opera can be a very enjoyable and exciting experience, even overwhelming; every bit as enjoyable as U2 or Madonna, who both use tricks that operas have used for centuries. Non-mainstream poetry often looks odd, and can sometimes be difficult, but is never quite as difficult as you think it's going to be.

Anyway, to anyone who's reading locally, I'm in the Chorlton Book Festival on the 11th of November, in Chorlton Library, at 7pm. Come along, and I promise not to sing an aria.

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