We’ve all heard about dumbing down. But there is plenty of evidence that the opposite is also true. Is this, in fact, the age of mass intelligence? John Parker reports…
Russell Southwood is queuing outside his local cinema in south London, listening to his iPod. Hip-hop and jazz, as usual. What is less usual is what he is queuing up for: not a film but a live transmission of this season’s opening night from the Royal Opera House. “I like hip-hop and opera,” he says. “Not a big deal.”
That’s increasingly true. Every other Saturday, Darren Henley is at the Priestfield football ground cheering on his beloved Gillingham. In the evening, he goes to a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra, because he is also the boss of Classic FM, a radio station that sponsors those orchestras.
Cultural incongruities are popping up everywhere. When the Guardian, which sponsors the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, picked ten visitors to interview, one turned out to be a check-out clerk at Tesco who saved all his money during the year so he could go to the festival for his holiday. He was far from the most unlikely visitor who might have been found. High-ranking officers from the SAS (Special Air Service), Britain’s crack covert-operations regiment–who have to remain anonymous–have been known to spend their holidays each year travelling from their base at Hereford to Hay for lectures on Wordsworth and Darwin.