Friday, 24 November 2017

European Capital of Culture

The news yesterday was buzzing with the story that five UK cities: Belfast, Milton Keynes, Leeds, Nottingham and, I think, Perth, had been banned from applying to be the European Capital of Culture in 2023. There are, we’re told, a number of strict criteria concerning which countries are allowed to apply, none of which a post-Brexit UK would fulfil. Of course the slant of the story was that this was another example of European cattiness and bureaucracy. How dare those bastards take this wonderful gift away from people who have spent time and money preparing their pitches?

Of course, I have a huge amount of sympathy for the teams who have worked on these, now pointless, bids, but I wholeheartedly support whichever European body has made the decision to pull British cities out of the running. We voted for Brexit. We’re constantly told that it was the will of the people, and wills, even those based on nebulous whims, have consequences.

There’s a fabulous arrogance in the UK which is fanned by the notion that we’re so important we can leave the EU, dump everything that’s crap about it and reimport all the good bits. We call the shots because we’re British. And great. It’s this same sense of entitlement and hubris which probably means that many Brexiteers still think they’ll be able to retire to Benidorm if they fancy it.

And don’t we hate it when the rest of Europe calls us out on it? A woman on the radio went on and on about the cruelty of the people who decided to pull the plug on our bid for Capital of Culture status. She regaled listeners with facts about the massive investment opportunities which were generated by Liverpool winning the title in 2008. And she was right. It’s a wonderful gift for a city and, my love for Leeds aside, the combined Belfast/Derry bid could have proved really important for the future of Northern Ireland, but we no longer have a right to expect to gain from these European initiatives. It’s like divorcing someone and still expecting to have sex when you feel like it. We made it very clear that we wanted to go alone, so now we have to face up to this fact and stop expecting everything to be brilliant. The economy is in tatters, we’re facing a second decade of financial catastrophe. Before we entered the EU we were known as the poor man of Europe. And we’re heading back there. Brilliant.

And whilst I’m talking about the news, I watched with horror the stories about terrorist atrocities in Egypt today. But I was suddenly struck by how much the reporting of news has changed. I want my news to be factual, not floral. I’m not interested in a journalist trying to use words to paint a picture of how awful a catastrophic bomb must have been for those involved. Let those people involved tell me or simply tell me the facts and I will paint my own picture. The phrase which really leapt out at me was the reporter saying, “they came here to kneel in prayer but instead they laid down in death.” Sentimental. Mawkish. Badly written. Just tell me the facts.

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