A land lacking culture

PUBLISHED: 12:49 04 May 2007 | UPDATED: 22:46 28 May 2010

Fenland is a land of Philistines. That is, as an area, it s a cultural and artistic desert. Even more depressing is the fact that few of the inhabitants seem to give a damn that s the case. I ve yet to unearth any councillor who secretly feels the distric

Fenland is a land of Philistines. That is, as an area, it's a cultural and artistic desert.

Even more depressing is the fact that few of the inhabitants seem to give a damn that's the case.

I've yet to unearth any councillor who secretly feels the district's funding of the arts should be substantially increased.

Take bookshops. Ely has the magnificent Toppings. It stocks 35,000 different titles. You are welcome to go in there and browse. They provide you with cafetières of fresh coffee while you do so. Free. It's worth going to Ely for the sheer pleasure of buying a book there.

Equally you could go to Spalding. Their bookshop, Book Mark, also has a huge stock and a café. Both shops offer regular chances to meet authors, other readers and staff who are really helpful. But what have we got in Fenland?

It's one of the very few districts in England without a dedicated bookshop. Yes, I know there are a few discreet reading groups and book circles but I can't help feeling that Fenlanders simply don't read books.

If the 'Getting to Know You' interview opposite regularly asked: "What was the last book you read?" we'd get the answers Woman's Own or Loaded.

Then there's theatre. Spalding has the marvellous South Holland Centre, supported by the district and county councils. This summer, it's offering professional jazz, ballet, plays, folk and comedy club nights.

King's Lynn also has an Arts Centre and its handsome Corn Exchange.

But where's our arts centre? In the whole of this month, we've got just two one-night stands in March Town Hall and various events at the tiny, noble Angles Theatre in Wisbech, struggling on against the odds.

Yes, there are one or two privately-run art galleries such as the Skylark Studios at Tydd Gote while St Mary's Church, Whittlesey, hosted a large art exhibition the other weekend. But where's the official support and endorsement?

Some of the hotels stage jazz, blues and folk events but the cynic in me suspects these are as much about as bringing punters to the bar as a mission to widen interest in the arts.

If you think I'm exaggerating, go to the 'arts' page of the Fenland District Council website.

As I say, a cultural desert.

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