Mudcat Café message #2316609 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110427   Message #2316609
Posted By: Ruth Archer
15-Apr-08 - 04:44 PM
Thread Name: Eliza Carthy in the Guardian
Subject: RE: Eliza Carthy in the Guardian
Well, here's my take on it Steve:

Culture in Britain was, in the 19th century, defined through the "high art" forms of classical music, opera and ballet. Artforms of the people - "folk" art forms - were traditionally seen as "low art", and accorded a lesser status within a society whose upper echelons dictated taste.

These upper echelons continued to dictate the cultural standards in the UK until the 60s. Classical music was seen as better, more sophisticated than other forms of music, which is what led to it being so heavily subsidised. Folk culture was seen as coming from the working classes, and therefore not worthy of equal status - indeed, the term "folk" (originally coined in Germany in the 19th century) was a largely pejorative term for many decades.

So why do we have a Classic FM and Radio 3, but no folk radio station? I don't think it's because people don't want it - I doubt that the listening figures for classical radio really justify its existence in purely commercial terms. But despite relatively low listening figures, we have these things because they are "good for" society.

"The BBC was seen by Reith as an instrument of national culture which had to transcend the different and conflicting groups in society. He felt that it should provide moral guidance and respect for traditional values. One of the ways in which it tried to achieve this was by constructing the listener, typically a male one, not as a member of a particular class but as an individual at home with his family. This celebrated patriarchy, the domestic sphere and the radio itself. However, this cosy image, far from transcending class, actually promoted middle-class culture and values, hence the plummy tones of the announcers, and hence too the attempt of the Music Department to impose "classical" culture on its audience." (Day 1997: 16)

These old values of the BBC are still seen in Radio 3, methinks. Classical music is a minority interest, just like folk: one has its own radio station, the other gets an hour a week on national radio. Because of this history, folk has a monumental mountain to climb.

Folk has suffered because of this prioritisation of classical music and "high art" culture in the past, which has certainly been a contributing factor to its low status in contemporary culture. And if you are tempted to say "But that was then...", just look at the level to which the classical artfiorms are still subsidised today.

And don't even get me started on the national lottery...