Saturday, 16 March 2019
What kind of a City is Lincoln?
It is a question I have asked before but in a different context; this time it is much more about whether we are a city that looks back, or one that looks now? Let me explain.
Millions of pounds have been spent at the castle, and indeed are being spent at the cathedral, to enable visitors and, of course, local residents to see what Lincoln was. All this is done in a very engaging and expert way, and that is wonderful. But is that all, and should it be all? What about the creative people of today? More to the point, what about you and me - now?
We all get on with our day to day lives, and much is far from easy. We need, from time to time, to be taken out of ourselves to experience something totally different. Here I declare my hand, I am chair of trustees at the Lincoln Arts Trust which cares for and runs Lincoln Drill Hall. So I would suggest that it is a pretty good thing to go to the Panto and have good laugh. I know, from talking to audience members, that the experience of a performance of Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera truly lifts the spirits. It may be music; it may be comedy or theatre; it depends what is your particular cup of tea.
It is more that just live performance; it is the other ways artists speak to us. The work going on at Mansions of the Future is reaching many more people than some existing venues and that is good, but those other places can too.
As I have written elsewhere, I have come to the world of arts and culture quite late in life. I still remember the thrill of seeing paintings in an art gallery and, rather than shuffling round bored and embarrassed, having someone open my eyes to what I am seeing. I am currently writing about Charlotte Bronte, the author Jane Eyre, and have found in her letters that the same was true for her; she had her eyes opened when she visited London and the then new National Gallery.
In Lincoln we are amazingly lucky because, unlike Charlotte Bronte, we don’t have to go to London to have the experience she had; we have it on our door step. The Usher Gallery is surely in its own way as beautiful a building as the National Gallery, and its setting on the hill nestling below the cathedral surely knocks Trafalgar Square for six. It has in recent years welcomed exhibitions that would make cities many times our size green with envy.
More than this, Lincoln as city is radically different to the one I first worked in only twenty years ago. Its biggest population group by far is 18 to 25. These are young people at an incredibly important time in their lives. They already have world class universities and colleges; for their nourishment, they need access to great performance and truly engaging art. The same is true of you and me, and tragically we are at risk of losing both, for ever.
The Drill Hall is at risk of closure, which is why we are running our Buy a Brick campaign. The Usher Gallery too is as risk of ceasing to be an art gallery at all and the County Council are consulting all of us for our opinion.
With both, the question is the same: do we want to live in a city where we have on our doorstep excellent live performance and a gallery that can welcome world class art? Both need to be accessible and I know that more work is needed to achieve this.
But, what do you think?