A WARM welcome from the People’s Republic of Brighton & Hove to all those attending the Labour Conference in our home city this coming week. After the fantastic results locally at the general election we are full of confidence down here and can’t wait for the cloth-eared coalition of catastrophe to fall to bits and bring about another election.
I want to use this week’s column to address Labour politicians and members on issues linked to my two great interests: independent music and performance and grassroots football.
Obviously the great pressing needs of the day — healthcare, housing, education — must come first. But these two pillars of popular culture, so important to millions of people, are being threatened by Tory government policy and a radical approach by Corbyn’s Labour is not only essential but an obvious vote winner.
Take football first. The recent Neymar transfer fee of £198 million is the latest and most grotesque slap in the face in a long line of insults to ordinary football fans and the spirit of the people’s game.
Corporate football is out of control. At a time when millions of working people can’t make ends meet and are resorting to foodbanks, and our NHS is falling apart at the seems, it is simply unacceptable for such sums to change hands and Labour should pledge to do something about it.
My suggestion would be a salary cap, a transfer fee cap and a 10 per cent levy on all TV income with the money going to youth and community development schemes in local communities. Yes, it would mean some greedy global mercenaries going elsewhere. Good riddance! That would make the Premier League a more level playing field instead of the dismal procession (Leicester’s moment of glory aside) it has become in recent years, and young home grown players would have a far greater chance to showcase their skills and progress into the England set-up.
Brighton’s promotion to the Premier League this season is an amazing achievement given our history, but it has simply exacerbated a feeling I have had for a while. I describe it thus: it’s like having a pet goldfish that you have cared for all your life and still have as much affection for as ever — but you loathe the water it is swimming in now.
Issues surrounding the modern game and possible ways forward for those of us involved in the grassroots will be discussed at Football From Below — an event organised by Philosophy Football as part of Momentum’s The World Transformed Festival at Brighton Community Base on Sunday September 24. Speakers include Star sports editor Kadeem Simmonds among many others and we Brighton fans will be telling the story of our successful battle to save our club. More information at theworldtransformed.org.
I’d also urge Labour to pledge to do far more to support small independent music and performance spaces, the lifeblood of our national scene.
Arts Council England funding is hopelessly elitist, out-of-date and massively skewed towards opera and classical music, with 85 per cent of its funding allocated there and just 0.06 per cent to popular music venues.
A grant application by Music Venue Trust, which supports the independent music sector, was turned down — at a time when our venues are closing in droves. I perform in such places, I see it happening all the time and it makes me very angry.
This disgraceful attitude to our culture must end now and the Arts Council of England should be restructured so that its attitudes reflect 2017, not 1950. The concepts of “high” and “low” culture should be abolished and the creative hubs for new and emerging performers in the popular arts cherished and encouraged.
I’m not anti-opera. But I am anti-snobbery. Simple as that.