Of the many curious things that have happened in the world of culture while I have been away for five months writing a book on Roman Britain (Jeremy Hunt’s gradual self-immolation; the suggestion to disband the culture department, etc etc) the footnote to Leveson that is the question of whether Alex Salmond did, or did not, fix tickets for Rupert Murdoch to attend a performance of Gregory Burke’s play Black Watch, is one of the oddest. To a question posed at the Leveson inquiry last week Murdoch said he had not attended the National Theatre of Scotland‘s production at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, in 2007. But the National Theatre of Scotland has said that he did. Phil Miller, the arts correspondent of the Herald in Scotland wrote about this late last week.
The full statement from the NTS reads:
The National Theatre of Scotland was asked by the Scottish Government in late Autumn 2007 to make available four tickets for Rupert Murdoch to attend a performance of the Company’s production of Black Watch during its run at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. These tickets were provided for a performance on 3 November 2007. It is the National Theatre of Scotland’s understanding that Mr Murdoch did attend.
Leaving aside the Murdoch-Salmond aspect for a moment, what intrigues me is the relationship between the National Theatre of Scotland and the Scottish Government. The NTS is funded directly by the Scottish Government. And it feels rather as if Salmond were using the production as a kind of advanced version of corporate entertainment – certainly using Black Watch to reflect well on his Government, in a way that’s harder to do (I believe rightly) when the arts are at arm’s length. Too close for comfort? It certainly makes me feel a little queasy.