Keen to live up to our reputation as doers of derring do (doo)s, the dogs and I went to a new place today. I have really no idea why I’ve never walked them in Crystal Palace Park before, because it’s just a short drive away and far less muddy than our normal haunts. The OH and I bought our first flat just over the road at the bottom of the hill when we were just 23 (imagine doing that today, kidz) and we used to come in here all the time. We’d sneak into the spectacular annual Fireworks Display on 5th November too and I remember that one year a particularly loud banger set off all the alarms of the vehicles in the car park, which made for another display of son et lumière at ground level.
You will know that the Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 but was moved to its site on Sydenham Hill after six months. The building, larger and more splendid than the original, stood here until it was razed by fire on 30 November 1936. The stone terraces and many of the statues remain, as do the dinosaurs further down the hill. There’s a little zoo where I took the offspring when they were small, and the Crystal Palace Bowl, site of summer concerts. Also, of course the National Sports Stadium, where they still hold international athletics meetings. Apparently, that’s currently in need of investment and under threat from bulldozers.
The photo above shows a headless statue. I don’t know who it is but I was fairly amused by it. You’ll see the Crystal Palace Antenna in the background – this is the highest point in South London and I thought it made for an interesting juxtaposition.
The site is more or less derelict now but has there has been much speculation about possible development plans over the years. When we lived there it was going to be houses, shops, a leisure centre and a multiplex cinema but that was 20 years ago. Currently a Chinese investor is planning to develop the site. Such is the state of the building that originally celebrated the pinnacle of design and technology from the whole of the world.
Ah yes. Bromley Council. Much of my day has been spent trying to raise awareness of their despicable imminent act of cultural vandalism: they decided a few days ago that they’re going to cut their grant to our beloved Bromley Youth Music Trust. Now, I intend to write letters of protest to my local councillors, to my MP and to the Mayor of London later this week but I’m holding fire because I want to make sure I get my facts right. We are enraged that a committee of barbarians who, though invited, never make the effort to attend wonderful concerts and, thinking that learning to play classical music at a high level is elitist, seem to want to make it more so. How short-sighted.
Currently the BYMT reaches thousands of children of all sorts of backgrounds all over the borough. Music lessons and activities are subsidised for financially disadvantaged children and they can hire instruments to play if their families cannot afford to buy them. Those in the elite bands have their tour fees subsidised and supported.
Don’t forget that music is being cut back hugely in many schools by people who just don’t seem to appreciate the value of the arts in enhancing young minds and developing intelligent, interesting young people. MsDD will be fine because she attends a wonderful (independent) school where music is at the heart of the everything they do. She will, I hope, continue to learn and grow as a member of the Bromley Youth Concert Band.
It appears that soon the only children benefitting from the work of this wonderful organisation will be those whose parents can afford to pay raised fees. I’m not going to go on much about this here: there will be a whole lot more when I have calmed down enough to be more articulate but it makes me so angry that we are so unambitious for our children. There is more to music than Autotuned cover versions on TV Talent shows and I am really dismayed at how readily people seem to accept mediocrity, at the impoverishment of ambition. This attitude makes our society more polarised, with children of wealthy parents, or the lucky few on scholarships, the only ones able to participate in top level sport, music and drama.
We cut back sport and the arts in state schools and then we wonder why such a high proportion of famous actors, sports people, musicians went to independent schools. Then, of course, we blame the very schools that still see these as valuable in building the character of a child. I can’t help wondering whether classical music and the arts in this country will end up as decrepit and disused as the ruined building in the picture. Pah.