Maureen Lipman has described Culture Secretary Maria Miller as a “nightmare” and complained that most recent arts ministers know nothing about art.They rarely pick farmers to be Agriculture Minister, or policemen to be Home Secretary either. So what?
Lipman is the biggest name on the bill at London’s newest theatre – the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. Challenged about the virtues of opening a new playhouse when so many other arts ventures are struggling, the 67-year-old said: “Do we need new theatres? That’s a good point. I have a theory that you can always get money for buildings, but not for people. That applies to hospitals and schools. Or The Shard.”
Cue that oh-so-familiar, slightly mocking voice: “A very useful addition to the City. But can you get money for people? No.”Hmmm….
As if to illustrate her point, she insinuates that even designers of swanky new theatres have to be prodded to remember the needs of the people actually using them.Like the staff who serve behind the box office counter, or the audience, maybe the disabled visitors, perhaps?
“I had to insist on having a window installed in my dressing room because I thought I was going to be suffocated in there. “Oh. Clearly not.
Not that the new Park Theatre has had to worry about penny pinching from Ms Miller. Jez Bond, its artistic director, tapped wealthy luvvie luminaries for the £2.5m he needed, with donations from the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Celia Imrie. Lipman said she was “probably” among those who stumped up some cash, adding: “What I give is purely instinctive and on the spur.” Much like her comments on the state of the arts, she said, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.
“Art is essential in a society but it’s the easiest thing to cut because, as you see from Czechoslovakia and everywhere, if you cut it down, if you repress it, it will come out at the sides, like a pressure cooker. So there will always be art.”So we don’t need to worry about subsidising it then, do we?