July 31, 2013
The Independent on Sunday axes all of its arts critics
by Zeljka Marosevic
The Independent on Sunday is to lose all of its art critics as of September, as the newspaper makes a series of cuts. Although the paper’s editor, Lisa Markwell has insisted that the paper will still feature the arts, its arts section, ‘The Critics’, will be renamed and will no longer be led by review coverage. The newspaper’s music writer, film reviewer, theatre critic, visual arts critic and music critic are all confirmed to be leaving the paper in what is a staggering blow for review coverage in Britain.
The critics and their readers have taken to Twitter to discuss the news. In an exchange with another writer, theatre critic Kate Bassett tweeted:
@deldridgewriter I keep hoping for a media brightening-up backlash v. dumbing down. Huge audience enthusiasm proves they value the arts.
— Kate Bassett (@katebassett001) July 30, 2013
When Art Critic Charles Darwent announced the news, he reminded his followers of just how long he’d been at the paper:
All Independent on Sunday critics sacked as of 1 September, after 13 years in my case. Hey, ho. Offers of work gratefully received. — Charles Darwent (@darwent_charles) July 27, 2013
He later joked about his job prospects, responding to well-wishers:
@BelmaczMayfair @olibasciano Indeed, indeed. Any ideas? I’m too old to take up the cello. — Charles Darwent (@darwent_charles) July 29, 2013
Darwent, and his colleagues seem rightfully concerned and confused about what to do next, and their reactions underline the fact that for these arts critics, and others who might meet the same fate, the number of similar positions available to them are quickly narrowing in an industry looking to save money. The Times’s literary editor Erica Wagner, was also made redundant last month, showing that even the highest and most seemingly established positions in arts criticism have now become precarious.
Such is the fate of Tom Sutcliffe, the Independent’s very first Arts editor, and up until recently a columnist at the paper. He tweeted:
So, after a long marriage it’s been decided that the Independent and I should see start seeing other people again. Back in the game….
— Tom Sutcliffe (@tds153) July 27, 2013
His light-hearted tweet which referenced his ‘long marriage’ with the paper demonstrated that with the departure of these critics, the Independent on Sunday — and other newspapers are sure to follow— will lose the immeasurable expertise of writers who have dedicated their careers to arts coverage, and who know their subjects inside out.
And with these positions gone, it isn’t clear how a culture of thoughtful and professional criticism will be sustained, nor how a younger generation of critics will find their way.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.