In an excellent film on BBC 4 last night, Visions of the Valleys, Kim Howells looked at how artists have responded to the natural splendour and industrial landscape of the Welsh valleys, and to the lives of those who have lived and worked in their mining communities. Kim Howells was a familiar figure on the left to those … Continue reading Visions of the Valleys: Kim Howells on art from South Wales
I’ve reached the half-way mark in my odyssey through the novels of Charles Dickens – his most ambitious work, and the one which is widely held to be his masterpiece: Bleak House. Dickens began writing Bleak House in November 1851, towards the end of the year of the Great Exhibition, that symbol of the high-water mark … Continue reading Re-reading Dickens: Bleak House
A revival of David Hare’s 1993 play, The Absence of War, seemed an enticing prospect. A drama portraying the Labour Party as lost in ideological confusion, drained of vitality, and unable to mobilise public support or present a vision or values in any compelling way promised to be highly relevant in present circumstances. But at the Liverpool Playhouse the other night I … Continue reading The Absence of War: parliamentary socialism, anybody?
Tomorrow evening I was planning on seeing John Renbourn play at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, one stop on a tour he was doing with guitarist Wizz Jones. This morning I opened the paper to learn that he was dead. With Bert Jansch, John Renbourn co-founded Pentangle in 1967, the brilliant band of musicians which burst … Continue reading John Renbourn: buckets of tears
How to explain the phenomenon of Breaking Bad? I pondered this as we waited for One Man Breaking Bad to begin last night in a sold-out, packed Liverpool Philharmonic. The fact that Miles Allen, a Los Angeles-based actor and comedian could fill the place with his 80-minute précis of five seasons of a series never shown on UK television is quite something. Asking … Continue reading One Man Breaking Bad
In anticipation of tomorrow’s great astronomical event, I have been recalling the last (and only) time I witnessed a total solar eclipse. In Cornwall on 11 August 1999 we saw the last total eclipse that was visible over the UK (though, last time, totality was only fully visible along a limited path that crossed northern France and Cornwall). Typically, being … Continue reading Total eclipse: darkness and light
Leviathan, the latest film from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, opens with waves beating upon a barren shore where rocks as old as the earth face an implacable, slate-grey sea. Tracking inland across barren wastes to an insistent Phillip Glass score, the camera encounters signs of human imprint on this unforgiving landscape: power lines, the hulks of wrecked and abandoned … Continue reading Leviathan: politics, religion, and vodka (lots)