It’s a simple enough mistake to make in Nottingham. You say to a mate with the faux confidence of someone who hasn’t got a clue what they’re talking about, ‘Meet you at the Left Lion’. Something that people have done for generations it seems.
So you turn up at what you think is the Left Lion only to find your mate is conspicuous by his absence. You tap your feet, prowl moodily around the stoic beast for what seems like ages and foam indignantly at the mouth as you create scenarios of being dumped at the last minute for a better offer. You give your Left Lion a kick on the plinth for good measure and head over to Hockley. Very soon – within seconds – you bump into mate who has been prowling around his Left Lion and has also left his indignation on his Left Lion’s plinth. You soon realise that left is a relative concept in Nottingham and what’s your left is his right and vica versa.
You wouldn’t be alone in that regard either. There are generations of mates missed, dates foiled and fates sealed by the misinterpretation of what’s left and what’s right down at Market Square. It all depends on what you’re facing and what’s behind you.
If you’re in the know, you’ll know that the two lions are named after the two Greek brothers Menelaus and Agamemnon who were big roundabout the times of the Trojan War. That neither lion has its name tattooed on its forehead doesn’t help the visitor’s sense of orientation but you’re reminded – via Greek tragedy this time – that if my Menelaus Is your Agamemnon then we’re heading for a big time fall out.
The same is happening across the country right now too: peoples certainties of what’s left and right are being confused by their choice of standpoint. Some strange allegiances are being forged in smoke filled bunkers which are offering all sorts of promises on the future of arts funding after the next election. Brothers are standing alongside or in opposition to each other and the challenge for us is to know which way we’re facing and who’s behind us.
In the weeks to come the arts community is going to be asked to vote for a candidate of their choice who may go out of their way to persuade us of their artistic credentials and assure us that they’re looking in the same direction as us, have the same moral leaning as us and are as vociferously supportive of the arts agenda as the next poet down the street.
There’ll be a lot of time and energy spent in persuading us that their left is our left, that their right is our children’s right to a creative education and that all would be fine in the glory of the garden that is the arts funding system in the country if only we didn’t get so stressed out about what we were looking at and what was behind us as when were looking at it.
So in these times of political rhetoric, just remember Menelaus and Agamemnon and double check that your Left Lion is their Left Lion too. Otherwise we will be facing another era of arts funding savagery when we were promised an era of milk, honey and lions laying down with lambs. There’s only one outcome when a lion lays down with a lamb. One replete smiling lion alongside a bloody mess of bones and lamb kebabed.