Rant: Paris v London

September 2 2011

Image of Rant: Paris v London

Picture: BG

Above is a photo taken outside the National Gallery, London, yesterday. To the right, a not very talented busker is singing the same Cat Stevens song repeatedly, with an amplifier. In front of him a couple of drunks are leering at passersby. Behind, a variety of 'acts' try to entertain the tourists (one is a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes on stilts). To the left a police van patrols slowly up and down. Out of shot are the litter-strewn grass banks in front of the gallery (which at night become home to more drunks). 

It seems to me that the chaos in front of the Gallery diminishes its calming presence in London. The building and its contents often feel cowed by the loud 'events' and concerts which take place in Trafalgar Square almost every other day.

Or am I being a killjoy? Having just returned from Paris, I'm struck by how well its museums and cultural attractions are presented. You'd never see the above in front of the Louvre. When Boris Johnson first ran to be Mayor of London, I was asked to advise him on cultural policy. My one suggestion was that he should make London's cultural areas nicer places to be. London's theatreland, for example, is not a pleasant place to go in the evening. I know the National Gallery have also tried to do something about the noise in Trafalgar Squre. But it seems Boris isn't interested.

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