Thursday, 21 June 2012

Six O' the Best Northern Theatres & the need for the Arts in the North

Christopher Draper in Northern Voices 13, now on sale, tried to judge the best theatres in the North, many serious politically minded people dismiss these kind of articles on the arts and northern cooking in Northern Voices as trivial, but earlier this month Simon Schama wrote a piece in the Financial Times on William Shakespeare arguing that 'almost before there was a true political and institutional "England", there was a theatre of England.'    Some folk will say, and have said, that we are wasting space filling up our publication with stuff on films, gardening, regional beer, or tea time treats, when we could be analysing the economy and the national deficit. 

Simon Schama writes of the Bard:  'Shakespeare would not be the great poet-philosopher he is were he not to have spoken to the universal condition of humanity, but in the beginning he didn't address himself to humanity at large but to the English.'   It was a need for identity of place that he address himself to in an England that was not yet then fully born.  Schama argues persuasively that:  'This peculiar sense of English belonging, kindled in the theatre and then projected on to the streets, fields and villages of the country, had begun in the time of the first Elizabeth, and Shakespeare was its great virtuoso.'

Thus, Northern Voices (NV) commits half of the coverage in its journal to our Northern culture, food, drink, history and the arts.  That it why we supported the Touchstones Challenge campaign to protect the arts in Rochdale; listed the Manchester & Salford Film Co-op; reviewed the 'Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer' Ford Madox Brown exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery; interviewed Eddy Hopkinson on his second-hand bookstall on Church Street in Manchester; backed the Tameside TUC campaign for a Blue Plaque for Spanish Civil War hero, James Keogh in Ashton-under-Lyne; as well as surveying the clash of the classes in Sheffield in the 19th Century and covered a football story on Glossop North End in N.V.10.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)

Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at

c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.



Joe Daniels said...

Spike Lee said a similar thing to Oprah when she asked why people would go to his film about Malcolm X - because the particular is universal. That's the same reason people go to Woody Allen comedies, he continued - because if you look at one situation in various ways - as Allen does in relation to New York intellectuals - you find truths that people anywhere can identify with.

In the same way, Shakespeare found truths particular to the situation of the English people at that time which resonate universally. This is how Shakespeare is so good at providing people of all traditions with opportunities to be multicultural in an English context.

bammy said...

Yes, I suppose evidence of this is what has been happening with the socalled Summer of Olympian Theatrics? In today's 'Herald Tribune', Matt Wolf writes: 'The mother of these theatrical immersions has now finished, alas... refering to the Globe... project at Shakespeare's Globe, which allowed playgoers to sample the Bard's 37-play output in as many languages, not all of them spoken: British Sign Language was the chosen conduit for "Love's Labour Lost," a fascinating pairing given that Shakespeare's defining comedy about male abstinence is also his most verbally knotted.' Then there has been 'Troilus & Cressida' from New Zealand performed in Maori and 'Hamlet' in Lithuanian.