Australia has often struggled against perceptions of it being a colonial backwater and cultural desert populated by uncouth people with funny accents. ~ Mike Reddy
I thought we were over it, I really did. I thought we'd moved on, grown up. It seems not. Which is embarrassing. Donald Horne was carping on about it over 30 years ago when I was at university. Don't know him? He's the man who coined the catch~phrase, The Lucky Country ~ Bet you know the phrase if you're an Aussie! A scathing condemnation of the laisse faire attitude of Australians to just about everything. I bet our present politics would give him a right old conniption ~ but I digress.
There's something about the people of a country where being able to fix a fan belt with a pair of stockings is a basic survival skill~ a marketable commodity. We have produced more than our fair share of innovators. We have produced more than our fair share, per capita, of medical breakthroughs, science breakthroughs, & performing artists. We produce them, then won't pay them, don't value them & complain bitterly about the country's *brain drain* as all these clever & innovative people take of for distant shores & more appreciative countries. Hence Donald Horne's book, The Lucky Country, which was, at least in part, an indictiment of our acceptance of the mediocre when we could be so much more than that.
Which brings me 30 years on. I thought we were over the, if it comes from Europe/America it's gotta be better mentality. I mean, we have the Sydney Opera House, recognizable all over the world. I'm sticking with the arts thing, which I know something about, but I figure if we're still caught in the arts department, which is generally less conservative in its thinking, what hope is there for any other field?
Now my beef is multi~layered. There's the We don't value the Arts thing. We don't teach it in school. Phuleese! Half an hour of singing a week while the class teacher champs at the bit because she has a class full of remedial mathematicians does not constitute training in artistic appreciation. Nor does painting class on Friday afternoons if no~one has got more than 3 demerits that weeks & all their spelling right. Nope just doesn't cut it.
Then there's the whole snobbery thing, which believe you me is alive & well & thriving in Australia! I adore the ballet. I have loved being able to sit in on rehearsals, watch it on the monitors in the Green Room, see the actual performance. I choke on the ticket prices. The cost is prohibitive. It puts a lot of the Arts beyond the reach of the average Jo. Even when I was working at a very well paying job in Sydney I could not afford the ticket prices. However I had a good friend who worked in the ticket office at the Opera House & she passed along tickets to dress rehearsals for just about everything! I saw some wonderful productions because of it. As a nation Jo Average should not be reduced to scabbing tickets to Arts performances. Really. Sadly, but far too true, the Arts are for the well to do ~ which then means we continue to produce a population far more interested in the State of Thuggery than the latest ballet, or musical, or symphony. After all, a ballet dancer is a better & far more flexible athlete than your average footballer.
Then there is the whole, attitude of the Arts being an extra ~ something you get as a leftover & not really worth spending money on, certainly not as a first priority. Now, I do not know who is to blame, state funding, National funding, or Arts companies, but when a part is dictated by whether or not an auditioner can fit into old costumes or not, something is very wrong! And it wasn't just Star & Tosca. It is other performances as well. I hear a lot of gossip at different times & this one just breaks my heart.
So what brought this on? Well, the Hamburgh Symphoniker. It is being brought out, at great cost & public expense, to tour Australia next year. Or so I've heard. Ticket prices are soo far beyond the Pale that even if I wanted to I'd have to do more than sell my soul to afford just one ticket. We are paying for air fares [for both musicians & instruments], accommodation, & performance costs. I have no doubt that this is a great symphony & performances will be fantastic. BUT, & it is a very big but, all that money could have been better used to promote our own artists! Get bums on seats out here for our own people. We are not 2nd rate! We just aren't. Most of our people have trained & worked with the best there is overseas because that's where they can get work. That's where the scholarships are. That's the Cultural Cringe. Still. Time to grow up. Time to reverse the snobbery & make our own symphonies, our own opera, our own theatre a priority; sink the money into our own productions; educate our kids to appreciate something besides the schoolboy antics on the footie pitch. After all, that's what the rest of the world does!