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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fixation with appealing to Yoof

The artistic director of the UK’s National Theatre (Nicholas Hytner) believes we are underestimating the size of what he called the "literature festival" audience because of the concentration on the young.

He has been saying the same thing for some while. Back in 2003 he said, "According to received wisdom, there's evidently a thing called the young audience and everybody accepts that it's a good thing. And there's also a white, middle class, middle-aged audience and it's a very, very bad thing indeed." He continued, "There is a real danger in relentless and exclusive focus on the nature of our audience....There's nothing inherently good about any particular audience. We mustn't judge the success of an artistic enterprise by its ability to pull in an Officially Approved Crowd (i.e. the young). "

A not dissimilar line of attack was launched by the director of the Edinburgh International Festival who said that many Britons were missing out on “incredible experiences” because of an entrenched suspicion of anything serious, highbrow or experimental. Coherent ideas and intellectual rigour had lost their value for much of society, he argued, to be replaced with a consumer emphasis on simplification and entertainment for its own sake, whether it be through football, pop music, the media or comfortingly familiar classical works.

For time immemorial each generation has had a good moan about the state of intellectual decay of their children’s generation. Also I guess, each generation has attempted to modify its culture to what it thinks will be interesting and engaging for their kids, normally with hopeless results.

It is all a matter of degree. A marketing hotshot in the theatre of TV world looks at their audience figures and sees that it dominated by older people and concludes one of two things. This is great and we had better ensure we respond to this audience, or, this is dreadful and we had better change our content to appeal to the theoretical needs of Yoof. I think we have had far too much of the latter attitude. Dick Stroud

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