ArtBeat with Jane Hardy: Keeping it cool, defending the BBC from Tory defunders and looking forward to Patrick Kielty's return

Notes and musings from the arts scene as it continues to emerge from lockdown, by Jane Hardy

Comedian and presenter-turned-political commentator Patrick Kielty is coming to the Lyric Theatre in March.

WHEN did cool become a thing? You know how it goes. Lennon is cool, Macca not. Snow Patrol may be kind of cool and Chasing Cars (with Gary Lightbody on the streets in the fun vid) is apparently the most downloaded single on YouTube.

Coldplay is definitely uncool - although Brian Eno produced Viva La Vida and the bassist Guy, at school with my niece, was silent enough down the pub to be über-cool.

Weirdly, one critic reviewing Sir Kenneth Branagh's masterwork Belfast - touching and clever and just on general release - noted it was thought clever to not over-rate the genius Ulsterman. Maybe it's Branagh's finger on the emotional pulse, as cool tends to mean detachment, the state of being blasé.

The adjective has been around since Sondheim wrote the lyrics to West Side Story, including the song Cool with the line "Just play it cool, boy", and finger-clicking accompaniment.

What is undisputed is that the British Broadcasting Corporation aka Auntie, 100 years old this year, is defiantly, deliciously uncool (in spite of 6 Radio, the most frequently chosen weekend listening in our Q&A), but remains important.

Nadine Dorries's announcement that the licence fee would be frozen for two years sent shock waves round W1A and Ormeau Avenue. If you remove the flim-flam around its news coverage of the Johnson era, you have our cultural heart.

Take BBC Radio 3. I honestly think the Breakfast show, presented by stellar voices belonging to the likes of Petroc Trelawny, Hannah French, Georgia Mann (who has now escaped to Essential Classics), not to mention Sean Rafferty and co on In Tune, have provided vital counselling to a troubled nation during the pandemic. And they played the swoony second movement of Rameau's Les Boréades for me recently.

When it comes to BBC NI, the significant jewel in the crown has to be Stephen Nolan's eponymous show. Fearless, concerned, he brilliantly articulates ordinary people's concerns. I remember him interviewing an old lady without tap water during the winter floods a while ago, and he did the job with sensitivity. Plus trademark outrage.

Mark Carruthers's Sunday Politics is equally good at calling power to account. There is also the arts output and Northern Irish writers such as Lucy Caldwell and Rosemary Jenkinson, who has a story out via Radio 4 this spring, have got a step up via the Beeb.

If the BBC is forced to go commercial, we lose the significant global voice of the World Service, we lose CBeebies, we may lose David Attenborough and his legacy message in Green Planet. Aux barricades, fans.

Patrick Kielty is coming to the Lyric Theatre in March, which is good news for his many fans. He's one of the most fun, charming and downright interesting people I have interviewed and his sideways move into political and cultural commentary is impressive. Borderline runs from March 15-20.

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