Every month, courtesy of Beach Hut Magazine, we bring you a “Culture Update”, a quick look at events and happenings from venues across Torbay that come under this unassertive heading. Like any title it serves an obvious purpose, to encapsulate the feature it precedes, but it perhaps does a little more than this or at least the first word does.
It’s a word that is increasingly treated with trepidation, intrinsically linked with a certain type of person or referencing a certain type of activity, suggestive of exclusivity or inaccessibility, that has become the home of a “not for the likes of me” mentality. In short, when we use it as a label, culture is a dirty word.
When engaging audiences is a critical concern for us this is the sort of tedious minutiae that sticks on our head for weeks on end. Who might we alienate with our choice of words and more perplexingly how do we begin to talk about what we do without using the “c” word?
And why are we increasingly disassociating ourselves from something which is so fundamental to our lives in the first place? The definition of culture that has come to dominate, the one that perhaps calls to mind opera glasses and record breaking auction sales, is perhaps the least representative of what the word actually means, “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Edward Tylor).
To exclude ourselves from culture is to exclude ourselves from society. By reducing culture to this narrow strand and placing ourselves outside of it, we undervalue the contribution we make to culture through our own self-expression. Barriers are built unnecessarily between our galleries and our green spaces, our bars and our ball rooms, our pubs and our playhouses, but ultimately, they all contribute to the same social pool.
We can’t say for certain how we go about changing this mentality, but we’re fairly confident we won’t get any closer to finding a solution by taking the word out of our vocabulary. So, for everyone who wasn’t put off by the title of this article, consider sharing it with someone as a little reminder that culture is not a dirty word.