High art: 'bald men with cellos'

17th December 1999 at 00:00
CLASSICAL music concerts are "baggy and sad", art galleries are "quiet and boring", ballet is "pointless" and historic buildings are "not for young people".

The findings of a new study on teenage attitudes to high culture will make depressing, if predictable, reading for arts professionals and educationists alike.

Launching the report, Trevor Nunn, artistic director of the Royal National Theatre, said: "This is the strongest evidence yet of the challenge that we in the arts face." He called on the Government to provide more funding for youth access projects.

Twenty teenagers aged 14 to 18, from widely differing backgrounds were asked by researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research what they thought about art galleries, theatre, dance, classical concerts, historic buildings and museums.

Only theatre generated any enthusiasm while the most commonly-used word to describe other forms of art was "boring".

Many were seen as the preserve of the old and the rich. Only one of the 20 teenagers was positive about classical music.

One 14-year-old girl said that at the theatre: "You are looked down on by the old people, like 'oh, you are not meant to be in here'."

Of classical concerts, another teenager said: "You have to sit for ages in an uncomfortable seat, with the tiniest pair of binoculars, viewing some bald fellow with a cello."

The authors acknowledge that half of the battle for arts organisations is getting teenagers to a venue in the first place. Only three interviewees had been to a classical concert and 14 to the theatre in the past year. But of those most had ended up enjoying it.

The teenagers suggested venues could make themselves more attractive by staging shorter performances or laying on facilities like coffee bars.

Among solutions offered in the report, commissioned by the arts awarding body the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Arts Council, are "arts mentors": older people who would accompany teenagers to events.

'Crossing the line: extending young people's access to cultural venues' is available at pound;5 from Turnaround Publishing Services. Tel 0181 829 3000

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