I used to go regularly on a Friday to Jerwood Hall in St Luke’s up Old Street for the free “Discover” lunchtime recitals and collected Hugh Masakela’s and other illuminaries’ autographs there. I’d meet my octagenarian Polish mate and she’d bring salami and beetroot sandwiches and we’d share chocolate cake and a cup of tea down in the crypt café. “Ah, lightsome days!” as they say in Westray. My friend became immobile and I became annoyed at the unchecked crawling babies under my Jerwood Hall seat when I was trying to educate myself about stringed instruments or whatnot. I complained about babies and toddlers being allowed to spoil my experience and was indeed told by St Luke’s/Barbican staff that others had complained but that nothing could be done because the lunchtime programmes were not age restrictive. I turned away from the beautiful venue and settled to SkyArts without hassle. Mahler would bounce off my living room walls.
Things changed at St Luke’s in that now there are specific under-5s musical experiences so the au-pairs and parents, mainly mothers as per, can take Tarquin and Cloud along to run around on the massive play mat. Babies are welcome even though there’s only one baby-changing cubicle and unseen to the naked eye those future inmates of fee-paying schools socialise and rank accordingly as they look on at another mother’s full breast of milk. Classical music experiences are destined to remain the domain of the white middle and rising classes. (As I write the presenter on BBC Radio 3 has a pop at Bacharach not really being Radio 3 material. Imagine that?)
The events are professionally child-centred and cost almost nothing (£3 and you do wonder why the charge is attached). See how the change went from a free Friday event when everyone and anyone could come to a fee paying parents and babies event. Let you know that the baby and parent market is a money- net at present. There are baby yoga classes around at £8 for 20 minutes and, of course, mothers pay or someone does. There’s a lot of money being exchanged for old rope. Business is business and anything which can produce better citizens in the future gets my vote.
The music for kiddies at the event in St Luke’s yesterday was just lovely. We or rather the toddlers were treated to a Billy Goats Gruff story-telling a la Peter And The Wolf, then we had some “Westering North” and “Frere Jacques”, some West Side Story in “I Like To be In America”, and some jazz and when the musicians smile the picture of joy will be complete.
Well done, Jerwood, St Luke’s or what’s in a name. St Like’s is appropriate.