Tuesday 23 January 2018

Not a golden moment when those who make teabags can decide on what's art

We have to stand firm against any attempt to undermine the role of the arts, writes Trevor White

LAST week, I was asked to chair a panel discussion on the value of art, as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival. I wanted to make sure that the debate went beyond platitudes about the inherent worthiness of art, so I asked the people from the Fringe to pick a panel that was not composed of the usual suspects. They agreed that we should have articulate, passionate voices representing all sides of the issue. The sponsor had other ideas.

Two of the speakers proposed for the discussion, John Cooper Clarke and Amanda Coogan, were vetoed by Barry's Tea. Why? Because, according to a PR representative of the company, "they might say something controversial". Barry's Tea is, I was told, enjoyed by families, as if this gives the company the right to censor a public discussion in Dublin in the year 2009.

While the vetoed artists do, at least, have a new badge of honour (Too Strong For Barry's Tea) I cannot imagine how they might have scandalised Irish society. Remember: the discussion was not about suicide, prostitution or making love to plastic dolls. It was about the value of art.

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