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The launch of the Mayor of London’s new cultural strategy at the end of November was widely reported, in part because of Boris Johnson’s comment that art chiefs should stop patronising young people by targeting them with hip-hop and movies rather than high culture.

Elsewhere on this community of practice colleagues have pointed to the contribution that the arts can make to regeneration projects, and as we give increased focus to youth engagement, we are recognising how music and the arts generally can prove helpful in taking new initiatives forward.

Growing up I was lucky to live nearby to Springfield Library in Maidstone which was Kent’s county library and a fantastic resource – doing sterling service on many a school project.  It also had a wonderful record library.  Interestingly, the record library had no pop music at all.  While you could find virtually any piece of classical music you might be interested in and the most obscure of jazz albums, you would search in vain for Sgt Pepper.   The library’s policy would be seen by many as elitist and embodying that sort of cultural snobbism which says ‘ this is really the kind of music you should be listening to’.  Of course, nowadays things have changed and the racks of CDs in libraries are full of pop records – many of which you will find in the high street.

But I think the point that Boris Johnson makes is an interesting one.  The ‘elitist’ approach of my local library perhaps meant that I explored a world of music that I might otherwise not have experienced.  Publicly funded arts provision needs to offer a broad range of cultural experiences, including more specialist interests that the mainstream media might not cover.  In the end we all make choices about how we choose to spend our leisure time but those choices can be informed by the opportunities that schools and councils provide.

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