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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The final curtain

In April 2008 the arts page changed forever (or two years at least). Out went actual content about art and culture that required anything above a superficial level of knowledge. In came the Matt and Finn vision for lowbrow, massappeal pop culture — well, it worked for Andy Warhol. If you build it, they will come, we thought/plagiarised.

We had no real qualifications for being arts editors, bar unhealthily large DVD and CD collections and a previously untapped knowledge of popular culture. What we did have was a pass in CA3 a.k.a. ‘the communications exam’, which — when combined with a wasted youth and some questionable ideas — formed a vaguely plausible argument for taking on the role. Sadly for readers, this somehow managed to convince then editor, Margaret de Valois, that we were suitable (alcohol may have helped our cause).

From this point on, standards started to slip. Is it coincidence that the FTSE100 finally capitulated around this point as well? We think not. Occasionally the page enjoyed a brief respite when third parties were sourced to write articles, but the standard soon returned to its former level.

While you, the reader, could always skip straight to the puzzles or the jobs, spare a thought for the hard-working staff at The Actuary who had to patch up the actuarial speak we submitted. Each month they would work their alchemy finding some strand of cohesiveness and correcting our numerous spelling and grammar mistakes. We always got the page numbers right though — done by Finn, checked by Matt. This miraculous publishing surgery was often performed under pressure of fast-looming print deadlines as invariably the copy was submitted two or three weeks late. It is a testament to the team that they could meet this challenge. Sharon [Maguire, managing editor”, we salute you!

A regular quest was to find actuaries with links to the world of art and culture, and some would say this was the only thing of value that we brought to the role. We came across actuaries involved with a whole range of non-numerical, non-work-related activities — performing on stage, writing novels, taking photos, painting, making music and posting questionable videos on YouTube. This voyage of discovery inspired perhaps our greatest vision of all — the creation of ‘ActuaryFest’ — equivalent to Glastonbury, only with actuaries instead of bands. It was to be a showcase for the profession’s breadth of talent and skills, all wrapped up in one great festival. Sadly this grand idea was never to be. It seems that as well as vision, you need hard work.

Another aim was to suggest venues where busy actuaries could go out and impress and entertain clients. Some complained that these were a little London-centric, a criticism we duly took on board but failed to rectify. Matt’s ex-girlfriend noted that the list of places seemed to exhibit a very high correlation to both our social lives. Some may argue this was either an inflated sense of self-worth or a selfless act on our behalf to discover the best places for actuaries to visit.

We would like to extend our thanks to every reader who has stuck with us through thick and thin, those who have contributed to the page, to the team involved in producing The Actuary and to SIAS for buying us drinks every now and then. We have had a great time producing the page and meeting (or at least e-mailing) interesting people through the role. Best of luck to Richard Elliott, the new arts editor. He has lots of good ideas and we are very sure will raise the standard far north of ‘lowbrow’ and ‘average’. Our final wish is for all actuaries out there to get involved in the arts. So it is goodbye from us. We leave you with some poignant comments from readers:


‘Matt and Finn’s inspiring articles often reminded me of a quotation from the late Oxonian Kenneth Tynan: “The buttocks are the most aesthetically pleasing part of the body because they are nonfunctional. Although they conceal an essential orifice, these pointless globes are as near as the human form can ever come to abstract art.” I think these words sum up the success of Matt and Finn in muffling the voice of the art world to the readers of The Actuary during their tenure.”’ Ben Joyce, pensions consultant ‘


I’ve enjoyed the postmodern approach to culture, where everything from pop art to paedophilia [Polanski” was given equal billing.’ L Currie, pensions consultant