This country may be the birthplace of Chaucer, Milton, Austen, the Brontë sisters and Dickens, but Britain has only one dominant calling card on the global cultural scene: William Shakespeare. It is now clear that the Bard and his works will loom large in the British arts festival that is planned to run alongside the Olympic Games in London next year.
It is a dozen paragraphs down before we reach the statutory “on the other hand”, and the usual gurus are trotted out to name-check Dickens, Chaucer and Austen.
So here’s a thought:
What about a Lost the Will to Live anti-fest Fest?
- Keep it cheap and cheerful!
- The local library hosts Chaucer’s General Prologue, read with accents and with back-projection of the characters from the Ellesmere Manuscript and from other sources.
- Rostrum reading (with gestures) of non-Shakespearean texts. One might be the most stageable Marlowe — Doctor Faustus — with a walk-on by a local trollop, suitably unclad, as Helen launching a thousand ships and burning the topless towers of Ilium. Malcolm quite relishes the role of Mephistopheles for himself. With an optional extra: a screening of George Abbott’s update, Damn Yankees!
- Love poems which aren’t Sonnet 18. Bring out your Marvell, Clare, Barret Browning, whoever … Definitely suited to a pub, all comers welcome.
- Mister Men for the under Sevens, with coloured drinks and fairy cakes. Like a children’s party, but everyone gets to help clean up.
- Do it yourself rip-off of Richard Thompson’s 1,000 Years of Popular Music, perhaps in the form of Many Centuries of London Music.
- Cricketing poems? (or any other suitable sport). Railway poems and readings? Beer? An endless number of possible theme nights!
Every library, pub, leisure centre should be in on the act, in a true “Big Society” spirit.
Good grief! If Edinburgh can have an ever-expanding fringe, so can London for its one-of cultural olympiad.
Bring out your dead writers! And a few live ones, too.