BBC John Peel Lecture with Brian Eno

This year’s BBC John Peel lecture was delivered by one of the most influential people in the music industry, Brian Eno.

We have selected a few of our favourite points from his talk as he explores the importance of art and why it is only considered to be a “luxury” within the “creative industries”.

He begins by attempting to define art…


Culture is the creative arts. Art is everything that you don’t have to do.

By this, he means that art is not a necessity of life; art is the stylisation of things that are necessary for survival. For example, we must move to survive, but we don’t have to dance. We especially don’t have to do “the Tango, the Charleston and the Twerk”, these are just movements we have made more complicated than they need to be, for no reason. The list of things that we have stylised is endless, from “symphonies, perfumes, sport cars” to “doodles, poodles [and] apple strudels”.

Children learn through play, but adults play through art.

Imagination is key to a child’s development, and all of the things Eno listed above are constructed from an accumulation of our imaginations, or as he prefers to call them, “little worlds”. When we grow up, we don’t really stop playing, we just continue to play in our own way “through this thing we call art”. For example, we stylise ourselves by choosing a hairstyle, and by doing this we are identifying ourselves within these “little worlds”.

Eno studio


Art is the exposure to the joys and freedoms of a false world in order that we might recognise and locate them in the real world.

He discusses how art gives us a “serious function in our lives”; art gives us the ability “to discuss something that [we] wouldn’t normally be able to discuss in real life”, for example, with a television or radio show, we “can just switch off” when we want to. By immersing ourself in art we can make comparisons and have feelings that might normally be “quite dangerous”.

Culture is a set of collective rituals.

Eno goes on to define his own phrase, “scenius”, which is the talent of a whole community and genius is the talent of an individual. By comparing culture to an ecosystem, he explains how we are actually very “richly interconnected and co-dependent in many ways”, especially British musical culture. This is where art comes from and helps us to keep in sync with one another.

We are going to be even more full time artists than we are now.

As technology continues to move so quickly, we are moving into “an era of abundance and cooperation” and begin to rely on the use of robotics more and more for productivity. He questions, what will we be left to do?  In conclusion, we need to be “thinking about art and culture, not as a little add-on or a bit of luxury, but the central thing that we do”.

Eno studio 2

To listen to the full lecture, click here