Exeters' Culture Club

It's official. Exeter is going to become the cultural capital of the South West.

And in a timely coincidence, South West tourist chiefs have hailed the appointment of Sir Michael Lickiss, the former boss of our regional agency, as the Tourism Tsar for Britain (or whatever title he is given when they amalgamate the English Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority).

Sir Michael has already told us that he is looking forward to putting bums on beaches and feet on the fair cobbles. As he said, with magnificent pith, he will help to "implement the exciting marketing strategy developed to attract more visitors to Britain, and create a strategy to encourage British people to experience more of our wonderful country."

It puts me in mind of Winston Churchill's epic speech to the country in the aftermath of Dunkirk.

As Churchill would have put it, "We shall aggressively implement a coastal defensive strategy, we shall implement our task force imperatives on the disembarkation destinations, we shall implement our no-lose strategy in the rural environmental growth areas and the urban development zonal highways, we shall implement our proactive resistance policies in the upwardly sloping altitudinal demarcation areas; we shall never be in a capitulation situation."

Anyway, get ready to rock.

The whole area from Queen Street to New North Road, and from High Street to Central Station, is to become a mega mecca for the arts.

Gone will be the days when artistic activity was restricted to pavement pictures being knocked out by numbers, next to Peruvians pan-piping "El Condor Pasa" outside Boot's - or "chalk and cheese", as it's probably known.

This cultural hotspot will need a name.

The South-West Bank?

The Sat-In Quarter? (There are going to be loads more places to eat and drink.)

Nitty Gritty City? The Cutting Exe? Bohemian Subsidy?

Imagine the scene. You will be minding your own business in sleepy old Southernhay, when in the distance you will hear a joyful tinkle, a clink of glass, and the faint, wheezing sound of an accordion.

This will in fact mean that a garlic salesperson, over from Rennes for the mutual market, has run amok in New Princesshay, after having one glass of vin rouge too many. But at least it will perk up your ears.

Listen closer.

Now you hear the slosh of liquid, a swift explosion, the sound of crackling, feel the heat of the afternoon on your skin. Yes, you think, YES! I am in THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF THE SOUTH WEST!

Actually, this time you're hearing the sound of an arsonist, posing as a fire sculptor, and experiencing the sensation of the Phoenix burning to the ground. Don't worry. That's why they called it the Phoenix: so it could rise from its ashes.

And of course, here is the problem. In The South-West Bank, which will draw everyone to it as flies to a discarded packet of oggie and chips, there are a number of buildings which are of dubious architectural merit. If we're going to have a bit of a round-the-clock culturefest, then we need to get some of the decorations straight.

Take the Library.

No, I mean, take it. Away. It is very functional, but does it look the part? Will it lie on the great casting couch for The South-West Bank of Exeter and pass the screen test?

And what about Tesco Metro? Is it going to open its checkouts to line-dancing etch-a-sketchers? Will its aisles be filled with tuba-playing poets? Will Tesco host installations? These might seem like stupid questions at present, but once the South-West Bank is up and running, or at any rate in joggers and training, then everyone, Tesco included, is going to have to get into the aesthetic spirit of it all.

From Express and Echo