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'Let's fill this town with artists', slogan on bookshop in Manchester. Photo by Wijbrand Schaap

New lesson from Manchester? 'Free the arts from colonisation by the middle class'

"There is a fear among the artistic middle class of oversimplification, as if working-class people are not smart enough for art. I find that really insulting. My great-grandfather would be offended." I found this combative quote in The Mill, an extremely successful local news site for the Greater Manchester Area, a kind of northern English Randstad with a few million inhabitants. It... 

That's how you give your city a real vision. (How Manchester became a leader in international arts in just a few years)

I have often resisted thinking of the Netherlands as a business. After all, a country cannot lay off people, or divest unprofitable sectors to make more profit. So anyone who speaks of the BV Nederland has not understood it. There are no competitors that you can fight out of the market while being entrepreneurial on those few square kilometres of polder land,... 

Anfield's best pasties work against degradation. (Lessons from Manchester, episode 4, the Liverpool edition)

There is something incredibly cosy about it. While outside the storm is howling through deserted, boarded-up shopping streets full of demolished mini houses, baking pasties against the malady. But so it does work. On the side of The Kop, the most famous stand at the Anfield stadium on Liverpool's Oakfield Road, Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk established a neighbourhood cooperative in 2012, when megalomaniacal urban renewal plans... 

Investing in culture is pointless if you can't think ten years ahead. (Lessons from Manchester, episode 3)

When a Dutchman thinks about art, he thinks of buildings that cannot support themselves, played by, or hung with work by, people who cannot sustain themselves. So money must be added, and we call this subsidy. In this way, art subsidies become a suspicious form of welfare, more suspicious than the billions in income support that wealthy... 

Hide the books, if you want people in the library. (Lessons from Manchester, episode 2)

A real estate agent once confided in me that a bookcase in the living room saves thousands of euros in the resale value of a house. In a negative sense. This fact always does well at parties, and book lovers (my network is full of them) grudge it. On a tour of Manchester Central Library, the head librarian proudly told us that the café... 

'Millions still watch the BBC' (Lessons from Manchester, episode 1)

Travelling makes you a better person. Everyone thinks so, and it is a great favour to be able to travel. A privilege to be able to do it. If you go to England by train, the last few minutes before you disappear under the Channel at Calais, you see more and more fences appearing. And we are not talking about the average... 

Better late than never. Employers in the creative sector are asking for an extra 100 million. And counting.

While I was walking around Manchester with some cultural sector leaders, minister Ingrid van Engelshoven sent a letter to the House, telling it how much it would cost to enable state-subsidised arts organisations to get fair pay at the current offer. So that letter contained quite a few omissions: the minister was silent on the role played by regional and... 

'My cat saved me from death'. Seven life questions to author Jeanette Winterson

When it turned out she was in love with a girl, she fled her unhappy childhood with her strict religious adoptive parents. The book she wrote about it, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, made her world-famous overnight. But as an adult, she still got the bill. It was her cat that saved her from a self-chosen death. Seven life questions to... 

Rufus Norris makes theatre out of Brexit: 'Theatres are the echo chamber of the leftist bubble'

The wind blows harder there than elsewhere. The light is greyer there than further afield. London's south bank, for years 'the other side' of the English capital's posh city centre, has been the subject of several waves of renewal in the last century. It began in 1951 with the construction of concert hall 'Southbank Centre', followed in 1976, after years of wrangling, by the building in the same... 

Harrison Birtwistle: from shocking to guttural musical theatre

In his youth, Harrison Birtwistle (1934) was one of the Angry Young Men of English music, now elevated to the peerage and going through life as 'Sir Harry'. He trained as a clarinetist and composer at the Royal College of Music in Manchester, where he was annoyed by the conservative climate. Together with John Ogden,... 

The underdogs by Mark Haddon

His novel The Miraculous Incident with the Dog in the Night, starring the engaging autistic boy Christopher, made British writer Mark Haddon (b. 1962) an instant audience favourite. In his first collection of short stories, The Pier Collapses, he once again shows strength in describing people who are just slightly different from most, yet oh so recognisable in everyday life. Compassion for the underdog, that is what it is all about.

Mark Haddon gave the character Chr...

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This is a must-see at the STRP Biennial!

Eindhoven is the mecca of experimental electronica for a while every two years with the STRP Biennial. In the Brabant city of lights, you can enjoy no less than nine days of leading dance acts. In addition, experimental performances explore the intersection between film, art and technology. Culture Press makes a preselection. Hypnotic dance swell The British Factory Floor has one foot in the past, but looks musically to the future. Their... 

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