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Arts Minister Briefs Journalists

Press Conference: Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 26 January 2006

‘I know of nothing uglier
than random groups of disused shelters at the edge of towns:
workshops closed up, but open to the elements through rows of broken windows,
   cracked asbestos roofs;
a 1960s blue-brick signal box, abandoned;
the tiny office where the weighbridge man no longer sits awaiting custom;
an orphan Portakabin on a square of tarmacked land where nothing else is;
each group adorned with spray-can tags, as if the artists thought that they were
   spoiling something.
No. The awfulness of such non-places is, looked at another way, magnificent.
These are the Tracey Emin’s beds of outer-urban planning, on display to anyone
   with means to travel on the trains.

It is the English genius
To have created such a wealth of truly vile, disgusting, filthy holes, which,
   disappearing up themselves, emerge into a new dimension.
We’ve achieved all this without recourse to Continental theorising. Not our style.
   We English are, above all, practical.
And, if we have a fault, it’s this: unlike our Continental friends, we don’t sufficiently
   congratulate ourselves on national achievements in the arts,
Including those, as here, brought into being with no conscious effort.

That is why
I am today announcing an initiative
To catch the fragile qualities of England’s after-zones before they’re lost for ever.
It will be light touch: a coat of polyurethane all-weather lamination; fencing; an
   admissions turnstile; nothing more.

However, given that the number of these sites of Special Suicidal Interest is large,
There may be downward pressure on our spending plans elsewhere.

I’m happy to take questions. Yes? One over there.’

Audio file

Listen to this poem — read by Peter Hetherington