Monday, March 10, 2014

Duty of care?

Last week I went to a concert, as one does. A little way off from where I was sitting, I spotted a small African-American girl, probably aged about 8, with her mother. She sat very still and kept very quiet all the way through the first half. Then in the first piece of the second half she bent down and took a sweet out of her bag. A man in front of her turned round and glared daggers. 

When the piece was over he reprimanded her. He'd reckoned without her feisty mum, who was not going to take it. "She had one chocolate! She wasn't talking. She's a child! Were you never a child?" He retorted, with policeman-like pointy gestures: "You're at a performance." The mother, while heads turned nearby, declared: "You're a mean man!" 

Several points here. 

1. The mum and daughter were the only faces of colour in the hall that I could see, other than one or two of the musicians on stage. 
2. The little girl was the youngest person in view - indeed, as far as I could tell, the only child in the audience. I wonder if she will ever want to come back. Kids don't forget things like this.
3. Adults frequently behave far more badly than that in theatres and concert halls. 
4. The man was, regrettably, a critic. 

Don't critics have a duty not to put kids off classical concerts? 

Btw, when I posted this anecdote on my private Facebook page one well-known concert pianist responded by saying that if we can find this mother and daughter he would like to offer them comps to his next recital. That's more like it.