Earlier in the week, as I was wandering Budgens trying to remember what I was supposed to be buying – in a manner which is all too frequent when I have not compiled a formal list – I meandered (in a manner only slightly reminiscent of a mature river) past the wine department. Here I found my eye drawn to a bottle of cheap North American plonk which proudly boasted that it came to the mean streets of Sawston from the official wine provider to Wimbledon.
I did wonder if the London Borough of Wimbledon had an official wine – perhaps to go with its official flower and bird? However, subsequent research has shown that Wimbledon was annexed by Merton (the Borough, rather than the Paul) several years ago – and I doubt a vassal state is permitted its own official beverages (but presumably does have to provide troops if Merton ever goes to war).
No, it would seem to be the tennis tournament which has an official wine provider. Now, if someone had asked me to guess as to the official beverage of Wimbledon, I would have plumped for some sort of citrus-flavoured squash rendered cloudy by the infusion of rather heavily processed pearl barley – accompanied by the banana as the official fruit. Surely imbibing a glass or two of vino every 6 games would cause some degree of deterioration in the quality of the tennis on display? It would certainly favour those players with a higher tolerance for alcohol.
Now, obviously I am being disingenuous here for very mild comic effect. In this market obsessed age, every sporting event has to have a list of sponsors as long as your arm (assuming your arms are quite long, or the font and/or line spacing are pretty small) covering everything conceivable (and many things which are not). I assume Wimbledon will also have an official whiskey, stout and elderflower pressé within the sphere of beverages alone. There may be official providers of cymbals, wetsuits and cummerbunds too – for all I know.
As a result of this official sponsorship, many sports seem to have slowly taken over the world – and their practitioners are paid the kind of salaries previously reserved for high-ranking feudal overlords. Perhaps the arts could learn a trick or two in these difficult times? Why does the Wigmore Hall have no official wine? Doesn’t the London Symphony Orchestra need an official timekeeper? (Or would this rather tread on the conductor’s toes?)
Actually, thinking about the typical audience at a classical music concert, organisations staging such events should be pursuing those companies that advertise during Countdown for sponsorship. Official funeral insurance provider to the Queen’s Hall, anyone? (Don’t worry – no salesman will call). Or, official walk-in bath provider to the Barbican? Perhaps the performers (or the larger instruments) could be delivered to the stage on the official stair lift?
Given my own interests, I feel many venues could do with an official ice cream and cushion provider (not necessarily the same company). Many years ago, I used to rather enjoy a bottle of Mackeson in the theatrical intervals at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle (a stout that goes rather well with an ice cream) . Could theatrical sponsorship revive the brand and provide much needed support for regional theatre? Or, was it just me with that particular interval habit?
Yes, I am targeting a new career in Arts Management – so Nicholas Serota should beware!