Friday, July 08, 2005

What a Week

It's the first week of this blog, and it's been one of the most extraordinary weeks in London's history. The Live 8 concert last Saturday, building up to the G8 summit and all the debates around that, the Olympic announcement and then the horrors of yesterday's terrorist attacks.

Two very telling emails this morning. One from Josip Rainer (French playwright and dramaturg), who says "Looking at all the terrible images, I only wish I could say that it is all so hard to believe, but sadly it is believable. All the more reason for people coming together, crossing borders." The other is from Poul Ruders (Danish opera composer), who says "I have to admit, that composing nice, classical concert music feels a wee bit futile right now, but so it did after 9/11 and Madrid."

They are both right, of course: any artistic or creative response feels woefully inadequate to the enormity of these events - but it is only by the encouragement of cultural dialogue that we can hope to make any difference at all. And I mean real cultural dialogue: not Youssou N'Dour being given a grudging few minutes to duet with Dido in Hyde Park. Live 8 had its value, of course - but in the end it was about the West, not about Africa: it was about the Africa of our imaginations, which we could help on our terms - hence the absence of any real African voice. We cannot expect cultural dialogue to occur solely on our terms any more: one of the reasons the world is in such chaos is that the West has dictated the terms of the debate for so long. We talk about "development", but we mean "becoming more like us": we talk about "enemies of human rights" when we mean people who don't agree with us. What we need now is an open space, in which every voice counts, is genuinely equal and is listened to. And yes, I do believe that theatre - in a small but significant way - can be that open space in a way other commercially driven fora cannot.

No comments: