This was deliberately written before Thursday’s announcement of the City of Culture listings. It’s in response to the MP for Coleraine and Limavady’s call for his community to be given its place in the year’s events.
Now we know the programme. We may already know how it has gone down with the MP for Coleraine and Limavady. Selecting cultural events to please the DUP is a tough task. Gregory Campbell didn’t spell out exactly what he wants and the Culture Company had an unenviable task. It sounds to me a bit like having to buy a present for a curmudgeonly old relative who doesn’t actually like anything.
Gregory Campbell says he’s, “an Ulsterman, an Ulster Scot and British.” He wants, “the UK City of Culture to reflect those identities in what it delivers and,” he says, “I appreciate that other cultural identities that are Irish, Gaelic and many others will be included as well.”
So, let’s hope the programme has included loads of British culture. Shakespearian productions obviously need to be high on the list. “Twelfth Night” would be a good one. That should be a crowd-pleaser for Gregory’s supporters. On second thoughts, perhaps the title could be misleading. It could lead to disappointment. Contrary to what Gregory said, the clue isn’t always in the name. We don’t want angry Orangemen looking for their money back.
Maybe the so-called “Scottish play,” Macbeth would be a better choice for the Ulster-Scots enthusiasts. At least the witches would go down well if it were staged around Hallowe’en. Ah no, silly me, I’d forgotten that some fundamentalist Protestants have no time for Hallowe’en and all that superstitious nonsense.
Perhaps something that would resonate with the political scene would be better. What about a reading of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost? At least the title could remind hard-line unionists of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. Didn’t the DUP think the agreements were so tragic they amounted to their paradise lost?
I suppose it would be silly to suggest a play or two that would stretch people’s cultural horizions? It was abundantly clear from Gregory Campbell’s comments that that wasn’t what he had in mind. It seems that he would prefer to see cultural apartheid. He wants shared out culture as distinct from shared culture. Reflecting, what he calls, “the majority’s cultural outlook” won’t do for unionists. It seems the MP wants both tribes to be kept securely within their own particular comfort zones.
Or, if plays and poetry are too ‘highbrow,’ what about something simpler like Scottish music and dancing. Dances like the Gay Gordons used to go down well. Just to be on the safe side though, we could change the name to something less contentious like, “The Variously Sexually Orientated Gordons”. This is after all, as Gregory also said in his speech, “a politically correct world”. Or what about a spot of Line Dancing? That’s usually popular. Ah no, there I go making the same silly mistake again. Didn’t the Reverend Ian Paisley tell us that Line Dancing was sinful? I think what he meant was that it can be an occasion of sin but that’s obviously too Catholic an expression for the Reverend Paisley to use.
Or maybe a couple of extra street murals or “Murials”, as they’re more commonly known, would be nice?
Oh dear, I’m not doing at all well here. It’s every bit as difficult as I thought to come up with culture to please unionists.
Maybe the best option would be just to go for a monster parade or two. ‘Kick-the-Pope’ bands would certainly to go down well. We’re always being told that they’re a central part of loyalist culture.
Unhelpfully, the MP for Coleraine and Limavady didn’t specify exactly what he actually wanted to see. So, how has the Culture Company done? Is Mr Campbell happy, or is that another silly question?