Tuesday, November 07, 2006



The Philharmonic's chief exec, Michael Elliott has been brought on board the sinking ship of the Culture Company.
Elliott (known as 'Mick' to counter
the Phil's famed cultural elitism) has been appointed for two days a week as yet another 'Cultural Advisor' following the departure of Robbing Archer.
Elliott's qualifications for this Titanic role are a bit of a puzzle.
First of all he is a bureaucract and has no cultural credentials whatsoever.
Secondly, the '
Phil' has always shown a lofty and arrogant disdain for 2008.
It was alone amongst the city's big cultural institutions in making hardly any contribution to the successful 2008 bid.

And it has been noticeable by its absence from all things Culture Company ever since.
The Phil is famous for always going its own way and
doing its own thing - despite the heavy public subsidy it receives from the city council's taxpayers (a bumper £1.3million last time, ed.)
So if Elliott has been brought on board to try and tackle one of the Culture Company's biggest faults - the lack of consistent, comprehensive and sustainable engagement and involvement of Liverpool people - then he does not have a proud track record at the Phil.
After all, the Phil is hardly famed for serenading shoppers at Tescos, or inviting inner city kids backstage, or sending out string quartets to entertain the crowds at Anfield or Goodison, is it?
That would be mixing with the hoi polloi a bit too much, wouldn't it?
Far nicer to stay safe with its Wirral-based clique of conservative converts.
So our guess is that Elliott has been brought in to try and sort out the Culture Company bureacracy, which under The Chief Executive of Nothing, has signally f
ailed to deliver anything whatsoever.

The official press release says this:

"Michael will work with the Culture Company Chief Executive, Jason Harborow,
(thought the Harbarrowboy was still interim? ed) and the creative team (Robbing's nervous early appointments, ed) to advise on the Culture Company's planning and its relationship with the cultural organisations and practitioners in Liverpool and build on the already close links with the DCMS and Arts Council England. ( I don't understand a word of this either, but neither do they, so we can all remain in total ignorance, ed)

"He will also work closely with the Chief Executive in assessing the artistic and cultural structure required to manage the future development of the 2008 programme, its communication and delivery. "
(gawd help us, ed)

In other words, Elliott has been brought on board at the last minute to try and keep the sinking ship afloat and:

a) to keep an eye on the money
b) to keep an eye on the bureaucracy
c) to keep an eye on The Harbarrowboy

Whether his appointment works, never mind reconciles the various warring factions on the Culture Company Board (of which more later, ed) remains to be seen.

The job should obviously have gone to Lewis Biggs, whose successful Biennial is one of the few cultural events to put the city
on the international map, but he clearly refused to partake of the poisoned chalice.

Other things that should be said about Elliott:

1) Henshaw once memorably dismissed him as a 'lightweight' (that's recommendation enough then, ed)

2)Henshaw also conspired with Elliott and the shadowy Phil Chairman, Roger Lewis, into getting rid of former conductor Gerry Schwarz in the most disgraceful and shameful way. So Elliott is a ruthless hatchet man. (And we shall be watching Lewis in future, ed)

3) No one likes Elliott at the Phil.

So I wouldn't hold your breath for any great changes in direction as the Culture Company ship goes steaming towards the 2008 iceberg.


Phil chap said...

I thought rats LEFT sinking ships?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they were all made for each other they certainly deserve each other trouble is the people of Liverpool deserve better

Anonymous said...

Bit wide of the mark on this one, ed. For one thing, Lewis has left the Phil chair as he's effectively landed the best job a welshman can get - running the Millennium Stadium and Welsh Rugy Union. His track record (radio one, record company exec, music publisher, classic fm, itv wales) suggests he knows a thing or two. Elliott is clearly a safe labour party pair of hands to stabilise the barrowboy when the wibewal-democwats of wibberpool get too wobbly. And there was nothing wrong with getting Schwarz out of the Phil - he was a bloody awful conductor who was strangling the life and morale out of the band: if you buy the "Jerry was treated badly" nonesense then you're buying Storey/Makin spin. He was a disaster musically, and isn't that the whole point? On that score Elliott deserves a bit of credit. From what I hear, he's better liked in the Phil than Schwarz was, anyway. Of course, it'd be far more notable if he sticks with the Phil for a few more years to see if his masterplan is sustainable. And the Phil's certainly got a phuck of a lot better in recent years as a venue for everything else.

friend of the phil said...

Thanks to, I suspect, anonymous the 2nd above for bringing this to my attention. He's right: if you want to be cultural critics, at least stay in tune with what's going on in the city's culture, Ed!

Elliott's been at the Phil since 2001. He's old school New Labour, an old mate of Blunkett's and a former treasurer of CND even - he's fond of telling people this when trying to establish his leftie credentials! You label him a bureacrat, but he does have cultural bureacracy form: headed up both Arts council West Midlands and Heart of England Tourist Board, I think, or something similar.

But banging on about the Phil and elitism says more about your mindset than the recent reality: to give Elliott his due, he's overseen the Phil getting something like financially stable, got rid of Schwarz - and anonymous above is right in suggesting that the fuss about this was exactly ecause of the kind of elitism/cabalism that I thought this blog was criticising. Your statements about the orchestra not serenading shoopers at tescos is way off: they do loads of work in schools in Kensington, and the new conductor Vassilly Petrenko (apparently known as Basil Peters to the staff) opened up by playing with Wylie, The Christians and co at Mathew St, and a load of free gigs at Hope Street festival. The Philharmonic Hall regularly does exactly what you say it doens't do, and hosts events with loads of "inner city kids" (your phrase) and has become quite a cool gig venue again - look at the programme. A lot of this isn't so much down to Elliott directly (he's clearly a posh bloke) but to some of the people he's dragged in - Andrew Cornall, in charge of the orchestra, snapped up Petrenko and really knows his music, whilst Simon Glynn, Elliott's first key appointment, is about as far from elitist as you can get. He's brought all kinds of things in and is very well respected for genuinely opening the place up and working with festivals, partners, all kinds of things in a non-patronising and very practical way.

So credit where it's due: Elliott is still clearly more politician than artist, but the Phil's got a buzz about it now that's been missing for years, and he seems to have started this even if its others who are delivering it.

None of that is to say that he'll sort out the culture company of course. For one thing that's a bit much to ask of anyone at this stage, and for another it is a very odd move for him to make.

Anonymous said...

He's been promised a knighthood.

Anonymous said...

Should "Lord" Yates be questioning him?

How the council use Ripa to spy on you....

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