Culture

1 April 2022News

Climate activists have recorded two major successes in their campaign to stop oil company sponsorship of cultural institutions.

Scottish Ballet ended its partnership with BP (formerly ‘British Petroleum’) on 31 January. The ballet company said its partnership deal no longer ‘aligns with the company’s green action plan – to be carbon neutral by 2030’.

Three weeks later, on 22 February, the National Portrait Gallery in London announced that it had also ended its BP sponsorship…

1 December 2021Comment

Ambrose Musiyiwa interviews the author of a ground-breaking oral history

'I Was Content and Not Content': The Story of Linda Lord and the Closing of Penobscot Poultry (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000) explores the impact of industrial decline in the US through oral history.

Central to the story is Linda Lord, a veteran of Penobscot Poultry, a factory in Belfast, Maine, who was one of the 400 people who lost their jobs when the plant closed in 1998. Lord worked at the plant for more than 20 years and lost the sight of one eye on the job.…

1 October 2021Comment

Ambrose Musiyiwa meets the poet Catherine Okoronkwo

Recently, I interviewed the poet Catherine Okoronkwo, who is the advisor on racial justice to the bishop of Bristol, Vivienne Faull, helping to deliver on commitments made following last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

Okoronkwo, who was born to Nigerian parents and grew up in the Middle East, is currently vicar of All Saints and St Barnabas in Swindon.

Okoronkwo sees her father, who passed away recently, as one of…

8 December 2020Review

Dissent Games, 2019; £29 plus p&p. www.disarmthebase.com; dissentgames [at] gmail.com

From the household copy of Risk to the paintable figurines of Warhammer to the eternal Chess, war is a fixture of many boardgame genres. Why then should it be so surprising when a game designer subverts the expected formula of war games: lots of little men being pushed around a board and then falling over?

Jessica Metheringham’s Disarm The Base does just this.

The goal of the game is not to kill people but to disarm warplanes that will be used against…

8 December 2020Review

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. Tues — Sun until 8 March. Free.

Play Well is a wonderful, joyful, mind-prodding exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in Central London on the importance of play in child development, in mental healthiness and emotional resilience.

It reaches from Rousseau’s treatise on education to computer gaming. The pedagogies of play shaped Paul Klee’s art, Buckminster Fuller’s design, the Bauhaus movement and Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and from town planning to identity politics toys and psychotherapy.

8 December 2020Comment

It's too important not to sing just now, says Penny Stone

When the world is in such a turbulent state, it can seem hopeless to ‘just’ sing songs.

I am a great believer in music and action working together, but it is also true that simply singing songs can help to change ideas and perceptions (for better or for worse!).

Music is powerful – if singing songs wasn’t a powerful human act, then governments and dictators wouldn’t bother to ban them.

To give a few of examples, Edwin Starr’s ‘War – yeah, u-huh, what is it good for?!…

8 December 2020Comment

Pat Gaffney reviews the new biopic of Franz Jägerstätter

It is not often that we see our peace heroes on the big screen. It can be a source of great joy or a complete disaster. So it was with some anxiety that I watched A Hidden Life, written and directed by Terrence Malick, telling the story of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska (‘Frani’).

The name may be familiar to readers. Franz was an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to serve in Hitler’s army and who was executed in Brandenburg an der Havel in 1943.

18 November 2020Review

PM Press, 2018; 128pp; £11.99

The physician and award-winning writer Michael Blumlein, started his career as a medical researcher in San Francisco. Published in 1988, his first science fiction novel, The Movement of Mountains, set the tone for his subsequent work: short stories, essays and novels merging science fiction, fantasy and horror and featuring his own signature perspective on the human species. His stories are imbued with a deep sense of social justice and individual freedom - as well as a good dose of…

8 November 2020Blog

The politics of sound bites and Twitter  need to be replaced with a refreshed politics of sensibility, argues Robin Holtom

'Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world' - Shelley

Suppose that Shelley is right and poetic sensibility (and by extension) artistic sensibility really does create the underpinning of decisions by the legislature. If so, a country with a taste for good poetry and art will make good laws. It also follows that bad poets and bad artists lay the foundations for bad laws.

The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross is a salutary lesson in this process.

1 December 2019News

Bangor city council follows Aberystwyth’s lead

For once, the sun shone on Remembrance Sunday as poppy wreaths were laid across Wales.

This year, , officially laying a white poppy wreath alongside their traditional red one.

Aberystwyth saw an additional five white wreaths from local groups plus a purple wreath for animal war casualties.

After the official parade, Côr Gobaith sang songs of peace at the Aberystwyth Peace Tree, including Sue Gilmurray’s ‘The Ones Who Said No’, which ends with the words: ‘Cry…

1 December 2019Blog

Esme Needham reviews the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition about the women who helped to create the Pre-Raphaelite style

There were seven of them, to begin with. Seven expensively-educated young men from wealthy families, whose decision to pioneer a new art style sparked an artistic craze which continued for decades. Whatever you know of Pre-Raphaelite art, the chances are that you have images you associate with it: Dante Gabriel Rossetti's baleful “Proserpine”, perhaps, or John Everett Millais's “Ophelia”, covered in flowers and staring helplessly at the sky. Images of women were always at the heart of the…

1 October 2019Feature

Emily Johns celebrates Joan Littlewood's 'university of the streets'

Penny Dimond reading Joan Littlewood’s description of a Fun Palace from a ladder, October 2018, Torriano Meeting House. Photo: NEW FACTORY OF THE ECCENTRIC ACTOR

Imagine a place where the latent genius in all of us becomes ripe, expresses itself and communicates with others.

A place where the human mind and human creativity explore the arts and the sciences for the delight of being alive.

No certificates are awarded at this university, no prospectuses have to be printed…

1 October 2019Comment

PN surveys the winners and shortlists of two British radical book prizes

These are the winners and the shortlisted books for two British radical book prizes given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers.

The Little Rebels’ Children’s Book Award is a radical fiction award for readers aged 0–12. This year the award has been administered by Letterbox Library and Housmans Bookshop.

The winner for 2019, announced on 10 July, is Freedom by Catherine Johnson (Scholastic): ‘There’s no escape – even when you escape. Where can a slave like Nat…

1 October 2019Comment

Penny Stone takes to the street to defend UK parliamentary democracy

This weekend, we found ourselves in the unexpected position of having to demonstrate in the streets to try and preserve parliamentary democracy in our own country.

As a system, it’s far from perfect, but I’m sure most of us agree it’s a lot better than a potential Brexit dictatorship with Johnson at the helm.

Thousands of people gathered in the streets all over the UK to witness their opposition to the closing down of the Westminster parliament.

In Edinburgh, I met a…

1 August 2019Review

Pluto Press, 2017; 224pp; £12.99

Music resonates in all corners of our lives. ‘It walks us down the aisle and marches us off to war.’ Dave Randall manages to sing music’s political praises while keeping his feet on the ground, siphoning the best of what has been thought about music into a book that is straightforward, intimate and downright delightful.

As a performer himself, Randall is no armchair theorist. We are with him as he plays with the band Faithless; and later pogo past him in a rave. Here in the club, we…