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The Bank of England’s mild-mannered Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, is bringing in some most unlikely advisers—including potters, poets and percussionists

Rip it up and start again

His office is nestled deep within John Soane’s revered neoclassical temple. There is a vast old desk of the sort that you’d expect to find a mandarin or even a general settled behind. Up on the walls, in gilded gold frames, are old-fashioned paintings of even more old-fashioned buildings.

In the corner, there’s a flip chart, with a bit of econo-waffle scribbled on it—“Phillips Curve, P, U*,” which stirs dim memories of dull lectures about inflation and unemployment. But then another scribble catches the eye: Works, Feels, LOLs. What on Earth, I ask Andy Haldane, does that mean? It is, he relays, the three ways you “get purchase” in the public discourse—doing things, stirring emotions or making people laugh. Says who? “Grayson Perry.”

And what had a transvestite potter got to do with his work at the Bank? Well, it transpired, Haldane had very recently roped Perry in for an event with Bank staff, partly to talk about communication, but partly simply because he thought the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street would benefit from the Turner Prizewinning artist’s “lens on the world.” And not only Perry. “Last week, we had [the Pennine poet] Simon Armitage; next week we have Evelyn Glennie, the percussionist, coming in.” Why? Haldane wants Bank staffers to tap their “wellspring of creativity,” which he believes is always best sparked in what, borrowing a phrase from Armitage, he calls, “the crashing of cultures… the crumple zone.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s May issue: More than a dozen writers critique the current state of economics, suggesting there are still lessons to learn more than a decade on from the financial crash. Howard Reed writes that the ideas we hold about the way economics works need to be ripped up. Ten of the world’s best living economists explain what, in their view, is the single most important lesson economics still has to learn, and Linda Yueh suggests what three of the past masters would think about economics today. Elsewhere in the issue: Vernon Bogdanor outlines why Brexit could cause a constitutional crisis in Britain; Jean H Lee explains why young South Koreans don’t want their country to reunify with their Northern neighbours; Sian Norris writes about the coming battle over abortion and shows where the UK ranks among its European peers; and Sonia Purnell profiles Jacob Rees-Mogg.