A month since Inside Croydon revealed how the Arts Council and Croydon Council had jointly put up £48,000 of public money in grants for an arts festival which included an act that sought to “demystify the anus” and another where the artist induced incontinence for her performance, and Oliver Lewis, the council cabinet member who is supposedly in charge of the borough’s cultural reputation, has finally ended his silence over the (fecal) matter.
“The festival involved more than 70 performances,” the callow councillor for New Addington told a Town Hall meeting last week.
“I can appreciate that some of this wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.”
It was not clear whether Councillor Lewis was taking the piss or not.
As Inside Croydon revealed, with a report which has been followed up by newspapers and magazines to once again earn the council the ridicule of the nation, the arts festival was organised by a group calling themselves Tempting Failure.
Arts Council England bunged them a grant of £38,000, while the council ponied up £10,000, plus allowed them free use of the Town Hall chamber and Braithwaite Halls for performances during July.
The festival included the work of Joseph Ravens, whose performance was described by the organisers as containing “a series of modified butt plugs… Always sculptural and gracefully schizophrenic, each sex toy will embrace a different mood, from poignant to playful.
“The actions and objects are designed to enrapture rather than repel, in an effort to demystify the anus.”
Also booked for the festival was “body artist” Arianna Ferrari. Describing their work, the festival website stated: “After ingesting a quantity of laxatives and diuretics … microphones are attached to the performer’s belly, detecting the sounds of their intestines.”
Lewis, the one-time “head boy” of the Croydon Labour group on the council, has more recently acquired the nickname of “Caddy”, for his liking for a convivial game of golf, perhaps with the clique of Tony Newman, Paul Scott and John Wentworth.
For weeks, Lewis refused to comment on the use of public money for the butt-plug performance art.
But at last week’s full council meeting, he finally had to face what passes for scrutiny in Croydon.
In the Town Hall chamber, Dutch-educated Lewis tried to claim that the performances in question were in some way about mental health and, “one artist’s expression on a very important subject of bulimia and anorexia”.
Which almost makes it seem all worthwhile.
But there’s a problem with Councillor Lewis’s statement.
The publicly funded programme for the Tempting Failure festival described in graphic detail the “interactive performance” with “a series of modified butt plugs” by Joseph Raven, and the work of Arianna Ferrari, who took “a quantity of laxatives and diuretics the performer inserts a catheter in their bladder and a tunnel plug in their anus”.
However, the document fails to make any mention of mental health, bulimia or anorexia in its descriptions of the two acts.
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