Greer says farewell to The South Bank Show.

Writing in The Guardian today, Germaine Greer, says farewell The South Bank Show which after more than thirty years as “ITV flagship arts programme” will end when its mainstay producer and presenter, Melvyn Bragg, retires as arts controller in June next year. However, she is quite rightly happy about the fact that its rich archives remains  Britain and will be available for years to come.

The South Bank Show “chat-and-talent” formula worked better than it really had to, treading a fine line between the esoteric and the popular, discussing elite culture cheekily and popular culture in a serious way. The captain who guided it through the rapids was the sagacious Lord Bragg, who would rather be remembered as the novelist Melvyn Bragg. It is not often that you have to deal with an executive producer who is also an artist and knows what creativity feels like (and how hard it is).

The South Bank Show archive will be essential viewing for anyone aiming to give an account of the cultural cross-currents of the late 20th century – essential, if hardly sufficient. Its successors are the current generation of arts magazine shows, grabs at important subjects, presented by celebrities, shot upside down and backwards, with competing soundtracks, arts journalism as art itself, processed for a public with a three-minute attention span. By now the Bragg recipe for high culture mixed with low is de rigueur. Very few people can tell the difference and most of them are wrong.

Let’s hope that her optimism is not misplaced and that those archives, which are as essential as she says, do remain in this country and the country has the good sense to value them at their true worth.


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