Oona King’s culture policy is not exactly a heavyweight document – littered with management-speak such as “hygiene factors” (no more comprehensible to ordinary Londoners than the Latin phrases with which Boris Johnson likes to pepper his speeches and documents), it chooses to concentrate on re-inventing the wheel rather than coming up with genuine innovation.
She wants to make London:
A place that hosts extraordinary events – that other cities thought were impossible to undertake effectively.
Like The Sultan’s Elephant, maybe, the biggest street theatre event that London has ever seen? Oona’s document is coy about specifics so we’ll just have to guess.
She does have a buzz-phrase: By investing in culture, we invest in ourselves. And, rather like Cameron’s Big Society, it would be up to us to provide that culture:
I also want to promote a ‘DIY culture’, encouraging ‘bottom up’ innovation by giving communities the money to commission their own cultural activity/celebrations and create more pop up cultural performances across the city – both small and large scale. This would essentially create an environment in which Londoners can stumble across culture in their city
Great – I’ll have my own Beer Festival, for a start. Although, you won’t get many punters turning up to events if you rely on people just stumbling across them.
It’s not all going to be bottom-up from Oona. Instead of reducing bureaucracy, she’d like to “reinvent” the existing Cultural Strategy Group and:
…seek to take over the functions of Arts Council England’s London operations
Such an act would politicise the Arts Council, placing its budget under the control of a politician rather than an independent body. Boris Johnson has already been accused of using his Mayoral power of appointing the Chair of ACE London to install a perceived ally in the position and Oona King now proposes that the Mayor should take over the body completely.
Film London was set up by Ken Livingstone in 2003 and has helped London to thrive as a venue for all aspects of film production. Again, when a body already exists, Oona is determined to reinvent it by proposing to create:
…a powerful new Film Council for London
but doesn’t say how she would fight the inevitable cuts when the government abolish the UK Film Council, one of the funders of Film London.
The Rise Festival, abolished by Boris Johnson, would be re-established by Oona King. Very worthy, but Ken Livingstone promised to revive the festival as soon as it was announced that it was being cut and has since been working with the organisers, the result of which is the Uprise Anti-Racism Festival which will take place on 3 October.
The flagship culture policy from Oona King seems to be:
A ‘Londoner’s discount’ for major London attractions to ensure that all Londoners, whatever their background, can enjoy some of your favourite tourist hot spot [sic]
A nice idea, but the most popular fee-paying attractions in London, such as Madam Tussaud’s and the London Dungeon, are commercial operations and would involve a hefty subsidy from the Mayor – where would the funding for this come from?
Taking “hygiene factors” into account, I’d say it will take more than a discount at a few tourist attractions to soft-soap Londoners into being convinced that Oona King would be an effective Mayor of London.