Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday surprise

Andy pretty near tore his finger off playing football today. I tell you, that was a grisly injury; blood everywhere, very painful.

When I got home, had a shower, ate me tea, I cast about a bit for something to do. I could have gone out, read a book, picked up the guitar, but was just too restless to concentrate. In the end I settled for the old standby of channel hopping. Of course, digital integration now means that blindly punching the remote gives you almost as much chance of hitting a radio station as a TV channel, and I ended up listening, absolutely riveted, to Radio Three’s presentation of The Pitmen Painters, by Lee Hall (Billy Elliott).

In the 1930’s, a group of miners from Ashington started an adult education group, and after completing a course on evolution decided to tackle art appreciation, not knowing what art appreciation was. After fruitless attempts to explain art and art history with a slide projector, Durham University lecturer Robert Lyons, in exasperation, tells them to try it themselves. In doing so, he forces them to confront their own desires and disappointments by realising the only way they will ever understand art is to become artists.

What Lee Hall then does with this factual material is create a play, both moving and hilarious, that examines notions of artistry, ownership of art, privilege and overcoming the strictures of class expectations.

It’s a very fine play, and if you find yourselves with nothing to do in the next seven days, you can listen to it using the BBC’s iPlayer service.

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