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SOUL OF NATION'S CULTURE IN LIMBO.

Byline: Peter Collins

Listening to the Sunday morning Sport Prom from the Royal Albert Hall, which featured the life-enhancing Soul Limbo by the excellent Booker T and the MGs, I was reminded of why I will never vote Labour again.

The lively piece, which transports one to a sunny day watching cricket in the Caribbean, was used as the theme tune for the BBC television coverage of Test Match cricket in this country.

Listening to it performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the BBC Concert Orchestra, I was taken back to those halcyon days of BBC television cricket coverage with the unforgettable Richie Benaud, Jim Laker and our very own Tony Lewis.

It was in 1998 that the dreadful New Labour government under the inexorable Tony Blair refused to listen to reason and removed Test Match cricket from the "Crown Jewels" - those sporting fixtures reserved for terrestrial television.

Some people contend that Tony Blair is a war criminal. I suppose one might say that the jury is out on that. What is beyond doubt is that he is a cultural vandal, one of several unfortunate traits he shares with the late and unlamented Margaret Thatcher. Oscar Wilde's phrase, "they know the price of everything and the value of nothing", might have been written especially for them.

A 2009 review by the admirable David Davies, former Football Association executive director, suggested that coverage of Test Matches in this country should be returned to terrestrial television on the basis that it had a "special national resonance". Of course, the money-grubbers in Government and at the ECB were never going to understand an argument which didn't focus solely on the bottom line.

Precious sporting fixtures and important national arts events should be available to everyone to enjoy and should not be subject to short-term, short-sighted financial cuts.

Of course, the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall are run by the BBC and will therefore remain on terrestrial television. But the future of our cherished Welsh Proms, run for the past 29 years by the inspirational conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, appear to be under serious threat.

As I understand it, Cardiff council has axed funding for three of the four orchestral Welsh Proms concerts, saving PS30,000.

So, a nationally important cultural event which has given pleasure to countless thousands of people is being put under threat for PS30,000.

Not only that, St David's Hall, the only purpose-built concert hall in Wales, could be flogged off.

Those in charge at Cardiff council have about as much understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the cultural fabric of a nation as did Blair and Thatcher.

As Hughes asked, in an open letter to the council about the importance of St David's Hall: "Do we really realise and appreciate the treasure we have? It would be tragic if we were to lose it.

"All those at St David's Hall have worked tirelessly throughout these austere times to sustain the Welsh Proms - the hall and Cardiff needs the festival, which is admired and respected universally. Generations of all ages and ethnic backgrounds have been exposed to the power, the extensive range, even the therapeutic value of live music in this very special atmosphere."

Ceaseless talk and spin about "the drive to create a dynamic and vibrant business centre in Cardiff" is already becoming tiresome.

Flagship offices and the endless development of stores and restaurants is all very well, but it will surely count for nothing if, along with the diminishing spiritual life of the nation, its cultural treasures are allowed to wither on the vine.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 22, 2014
Words:601
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