Issue 218
September/October 2021

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Oct 23, 2021

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Editorial Comment

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K-Pop is not the answer!

THE YEAR 2021 has been a particularly testing one for the arts in general and particularly for the performing arts. But for all the formidable obstacles that have had to be surmounted, many successes have been chalked up.

In many cases just getting back on stage has been an achievement in itself.

The Edinburgh Festivals – for they are now many – are a good case in point. Back in the dark days of Covid winter, the International Festival organisers took the brave decision to mount some sort of music festival that could attract an audience.

New venues were investigated which could host a plein air audience. At the time this was a brave decision and led, on the whole, to some highly successful offerings. True the elements did their best to make their presence felt, but the show went on.

The Fringe too came up with some imaginative solutions to the problem of attracting a paying audience.

But it was all too plain that a pretty terrible day of reckoning was coming.

The financial pressures, all too present before Covid struck, have been amplified many fold. A shortfall of many millions has opened up for all the festivals and will require some very creative thinking – and hard bargaining – to bridge.

There have been some not too helpful suggestions put forward. The UK minister of culture, one Oliver Dowden, reading, it would seem from a somewhat discredited Brexit rule book, suggested looking to the East.

'Global' Britain – fresh from its successes in Afghanistan – should, he argued, look to the Far East for its arts audiences, embracing such cultural crowd pullers as K-pop – whatever that might be!

The reality may be rather more sober – and yet the crisis could provide the incentive to re-evaluate the Festival and possibly re-discover the artistic flair that marked the early, groundbreaking years of the Festival.

Some inspiration might be taken from the BBC Proms, which have been carefully and cleverly widening their appeal without compromising standards.

ArtWork Cop-26 guest editorial*

Gridlocked – by the Grid

THE NATIONAL GRID is a technological marvel but few will be aware that it is also a national embarrassment. It hums away 24/7, balancing power supply and power demand, but its joint-primary purpose is to act as a cash machine for its shareholders, guiding millions of us to pay rising bills for dirty power, that will slowly become clean over the next 30 years.

UBS bank estimates the total global cost of decarbonising all power grids at between $120 and $160 trillion dollars – bills that will ultimately be paid for by taxes and energy consumers – i.e. by us all. Both globally and in the UK, there is a consensus that we ought to pay out this money to cement into place the very system which has caused and is exacerbating the carbon problem in the first place. And there has never been a debate about this – it is just assumed that the same energy companies are going to continue receiving the same subsidies, or in fact much larger subsidies.

While they talk about 'greening the grid,' politicians and energy companies have put very little effort into reducing demand – a key weapon in our efforts to decarbonise. Demand for energy continues to rise, both in the UK and even more so across the world. BP says energy consumption from all sources is up nearly 50% from 2000 to 2018. In the UK, as fossil fuel sources are successfully wound down, the demand for electricity is set to double over the next 20 years.

National Grid is already softening up public opinion ahead of price rises this winter to pay for 'decarbonising the grid.' National Grid UK says consumers should welcome price rises this winter to pay towards the costs of decarbonisation, and 'future-proofing' the grid.

The sums of money are enormous. The stakes could not be higher. Perhaps we should ask the question: should we pause and consider switching away from the centralised energy grids in the UK, and towards micro-grids, preferably locally-owned and locally managed?

What is a micro-grid? Micro-grids work locally within the grid system, but they can operate independently of the grid if the need or want arises, to power homes, cars, factories or hospitals.

Micro-grid technologies are well-developed, but there is no clear, unbiased and readily available information leading to consumer demand.

Why is this important? Micro-grids emit less carbon, are locally controlled, politically less sensitive to global conflict, with significant opportunities for export incomes. Jobs would be created locally, where the energy is created, and fair pricing is integral to its success.

What's not to like? *Contributed by Nick Rosen, author of 'How to Live Off Grid'


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