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Paul Taylor: The power of fame in troubled times

Fulneck School principal PAUL TAYLOR writes about the power of celebrity culture – and people working hard to get where they are…

In the past, I’ve not attempted to hide my criticism of celebrity culture. I know that in large part this comes from my personal dislike for some of the TV shows and the antics of individuals seeking fame on these programmes.

I’ve never liked the idea of people becoming famous for being famous as opposed to having done something admirable!

More importantly, I’ve always worried about the message that goes alongside these reality shows: that fame, wealth and beauty are important aims in life and that they are all easily and immediately available.

Of course, that premise was always false; as if these great singers “produced” on the talent shows were singing in the shower one day and earning million dollar contracts the next!

Kelly Clarkson might have won the first ever American Idol but she had also turned down two recording contracts by that stage of her career.

No wonder social media sites are currently full of “we can now start to remember what is really important in life” type threads – the basics of hard work, kindness and being useful to others have for so long been subverted as important aims in themselves.

I wonder for how long the heroic work of the NHS and other emergency workers will be remembered and valued?

That’s why the work of social commentators like The Yorkshire Post’s Graeme Bandeira is so important.

Maybe one day his work will be used in history books. More significantly, at the moment his cartoons are giving our moral compass a big old shove in the right direction.

The one exception to my celebrity “journeys” distaste has always been Strictly Come Dancing.

Yes, some of the celebs involved clearly have some kind of background in performing arts, though that often counts against them in the court of public opinion.

What I like is the concept of the individual with no previous experience, of poor early performances live on telly, who works incredibly hard under the eye of an expert professional, who makes progress through sheer determination and ends up doing fine.

A “seven” and a smile from Len was the measure of success.

Two of Strictly’s professional dancers have been helping to keep us fit over the past fortnight.

Oti Mabuse and Karen Hauer have been running live dance and fitness classes for people of all ages and abilities, though I have proved to be an exception to that ideal!

Joe Wicks has, of course, become a nation’s sweetheart almost overnight because of the amazing PE classes.

I suspect our house is like many across the country: active child, sweating Dad and fawning Mum! Similarly, Michael Vaughan has been live-streaming fitness classes for the over 70s every day.

For the more ambitious, my favourite Kelly Holmes is running the more strenuous sessions.

Other celebrities have joined the crusade to keep our children active. Myleene Klass, Maddie Moate, David Walliams and Dan Snow all produce programmes to keep us engaged.

Footballers have come in for particular criticism during the pandemic over the exorbitant wages.

But we mustn’t tar them all with the same brush. Marcus Rashford has helped to raise over £20m for a charity that distributes food to children normally reliant on schools for their nutrition. Pep Guardiola recently donated one million Euros to the fight against the Coronavirus in Spain.

The contribution of other famous figures is more subtle. In these dark days, with fear and anxiety inevitably reaching high levels, the media’s blanket coverage of the pandemic will impact on our positive mindset.

That’s why the hour or so of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway or the return of Gary, Alan and Ian with Match of Their Day are more important than in normal times. Rarely have we more needed something to smile about.

So, maybe it’s time for me to wind myself in about celebrity culture, but I can’t help myself: what do the celebs above share in common? A remarkable work ethic that has allowed them to achieve what they have achieved and some sense of public duty.


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