Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Attack on Belfast's Mac arts venue a 'cheap shot'

Writer Lynch under fire for comments about theatre

The Mac opened its doors to the public in April 2012
The Mac opened its doors to the public in April 2012
A dance company performs at the Belfast venue
A dance company performs at the Belfast venue
The Andy Warhol exhibition at the Mac
The Andy Warhol exhibition at the Mac

A leading playwright has been accused of taking a "cheap shot" after claiming that one of Belfast's top arts venues is elitist and out of touch with the working class.

Martin Lynch is facing a growing backlash over controversial remarks about the Metropolitan Arts Centre.

Mr Lynch accused the Mac of middle class snobbery, claiming it reeked of elitism and ignored grassroots talent in favour of "trendy" cross-channel works.

However, Joris Minne, a former chairman of the Mac, branded the comments "a cheap shot".

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Minne says: "The middle class tag just doesn't stack up. Nor does the elitism name calling. And the middle class slur is laughable."

Mr Lynch, who has worked in the arts for the past three decades, made his comments to a Stormont committee investigating working class communities' inclusion in the arts.

He said he was bitterly disappointed by the Mac's contribution to the local arts sector.

"I think it is elitist, I think there is an elitist smell that comes off the building, I think there is a middle class ethos about the place that doesn't make it particularly comfortable or a warm house for working people," he said.

However, Mr Minne said the Mac had "delivered in spades" since opening two years ago.

"Accusing the Belfast Mac of being elitist is a cheap shot," he said.

Mr Minne said feedback had suggested Mr Lynch's views are not an accurate reflection of the kind of theatre working class people like.

"Martin Lynch has a right to criticise what he has determined as the middle class associations of the arts, whatever that means," he added.

"But he should remind himself that he is the darling of the theatre-going classes himself and as a playwright has benefited over the years from support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He should take a look at who supported him throughout his career."

Meanwhile Emma Jordan, artistic director at Prime Cut Productions, branded Mr Lynch's comments "inaccurate".

"Martin Lynch's accusation that the Mac does not engage with local talent is inaccurate," she said.

"The Mac has programmed practically every single independent company since its inception two years ago."

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