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    Remembering – maybe even celebrating – the role of the local arts centre

    It’s now possible to find at least a flicker of middle-class culture in most town centres across the land. The latte has become ubiquitous, thanks to Costa and Starbucks. An M&S Simply Food will often be there to provide sushi or a hummus wrap. You can even get fresh coffee in McDonald’s, if needs be.

    But go back twenty years or so, and many places offered no such comfortingly middle-class fare. In such towns, filled with Wimpys and Spud-u-likes, often only the local arts centre was there to fly the MC flag.  Attracting lecturers, massage therapists and social workers, it was an oasis of cultural aspiration and self-improvement, a role signalled in its filter coffee machine percolating away in the café, its flapjacks, lentil bakes, and carrot and coriander soup.

    There’d often be a ‘European film night’ in these places – where audiences could come and smugly celebrate the fact they’d found an alternative to ‘the Hollywood machine’. A local French or German lecturer might introduce the night’s film, and there’d be an interval in which pre-ordered wine would be supped while audience members struggled to digest the arduousness of their cinematic encounter.

    There’d also be a noticeboard advertising the services of local Reiki healers and psychotherapists, while occasionally there’d be Fairtrade Fairs held during the day, where you could buy woven crafts from Guatemala and chocolate-covered apricots.

    That was the heyday of the local arts centre – in many places, a lone bastion of MC culture in the 80s and early 90s, and worth remembering, for the unique cultural role it played.

    Flickr: wadem

    Reader Comments (2)

    Why does the photo' say 'center'? That's 'no class'.

    February 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRon Superior

    I miss them!

    December 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLucy Fisher

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