Archives for posts with tag: arts


Three Score Dance has been commissioned by the Brighton Festival to work with famous choreographer Lea Anderson (The Cholmondeleys, The Featherstonehaughs) to make a new piece, Tall Tales.The Founder’s Room at Brighton Dome is rather small for a rehearsal for 50 people. No collisions even though we’re all moving rather quickly in different directions (and that’s just the warm-up). Because the company is so large (yes, 50), we’re split into two groups to rehearse on alternate sessions, but we all do the exercises together. We’re looking forward to the finished piece in the Festival, though we don’t yet have an idea of the final shape of it. Working with Lea is really exciting, and her designer Tim Spooner has dropped some intriguing hints about possible costume designs (I’m not telling!)

The piece is based on paintings and designs by the Bauhaus artist/designer, Oskar Schlemmer.


A rosy dusk outside the De La Warr Pavilion’s stairwell. The camera swings in slow-motion side to side across the curved banister, and outside on the balcony, elderly couples waltz gracefully to Schubert’s Nocturne in E Major. It’s a beautiful and moving experience. I’m in a large dark gallery, at the De La Warr, and in the middle is a large double-sided screen on which the film is projected. Outside the room is the actual stairwell. And outside that, outside the curved glass, the waves are crashing onto the beach.

It’s part of Breakwell’s exhibition Keep Things As They Are. (The title is taken from his anti-Conservative leafleting campaign Vote Conservative and keep things as they are). It’s also ironic, as his work was experimental and groundbreaking, and he was one of the key members of the British art avant-garde. He was, but died in 2005, shortly before the re-opening of the Pavilion and its first exhibition, which he’d curated. He is mostly known for his Diary, which he started in 1965 and kept for forty years. It takes different forms: collages, photographs, drawings, text and calligraphy, and video.

I am in a small room now, and on each of the four walls is a life-size charcoal drawing of Thelonious Monk in profile, walking in a circle. I put on the headphones and walk in the same direction, round and round, hearing 12 bars of Monk’s Misterioso played over and over, seeing my reflection in the glass of the drawings. I can make the 12 bars last one circuit if I walk slowly.

Finally, I see a text on a wall: 50 Reasons For Getting Out Of Bed – and they are beautiful reasons: …’Lionel Hampton solo on Stardust. Freshly poured pint of Guinness settling on the bar. White butterfly on purple buddleia…’ (It’s shocking that when he finally gets up it is with pain and nausea from his chemotherapy). Inside the dark room is what appears to be a huge photograph of his face, while his rasping voice reflects on his life. After a while you realise that his face is slowly changing. It has changed from baby to its final sunken state.

It’s deeply moving, and you leave the De La Warr with a New Year’s resolution: make every day count. See it if you can: it closes 13 January.

Look at this photo. I love it. Here I am, in Ilderton Road, Bermondsey, on Coronation Day, 1953. I’m in my new Hopalong Cassidy outfit, hat, gun, chaps. I rather fancy Britannia, in a 5-year-old way, but am scared of the 100-per-cent-burns victim behind me. I haven’t yet met a black person, so I’m not yet appalled by the blacked-up boy with the bow tie.

For some years after this was taken, I wanted to dress like your son: white knee-breeches, buckled shoes, red gold-frogged frock-coat… he’s a bit younger than me, but he was my fashion icon. He’s not now, no no no. Your coronation was just what the country needed after the war, in the midst of bomb-sites and real austerity. Although we did have a new National Health Service for people like us. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?) Your parents had done sterling service, touring the ravaged East End, bringing succour to the poor while bombs were still dropping. And, since then, you’ve done a grand job, being a Mother to the nations of the Commonwealth, dispensing wise and sometimes caring words on Christmas Day, and holding a rather dysfunctional family together. Ish. Not to mention what you’ve done for tourism!

Anyway: time’s up, Ms Windsor (respect – I don’t know you very well).  Thanks a lot, but 1300 years of monarchy is enough. Time to flatten the class pyramid, confound your family’s inheritance, and become Common. After all, you and your family have worn uniforms, and  even fought in wars, just like real people. Join us. No more Majesties, Lords, Ladies, Knights (in or out of white satin), Dukes, Earls, Duke of Earls, Counts… you can still be fabulously rich – that’s OK. There’ll be enough to share round your dependents, though I daresay a few palaces could be given to the nation – well, I suppose they’re ours anyway, aren’t they? in the long run?

Come on: enough’s enough. We’ve got the History, which is great: Offa, William, Richard III, Henry VIII, Charles I, etc etc. We’ve so much to look back on. Let’s look forward.

I can understand why some people walk out: they probably came for the Manga element in the performance of War Sum Up, at the Dome: ‘a multimedia manga opera on the nature of war, ghosts and superheroes’. But here are no big-eyed girlchildren with fox ears or spikyhaired boys with swords; there’s not much action at all. In fact, no action. Just ten figures in strange padded costumes, almost motionless behind layers of gauze. The action all takes place projected onto them: drawn images of eyes, hands, explosions, flowers, mouths. Which is where the manga comes in.

In front of the black grid a woman in a yellow twin-set plays a music-box, then sings the story, in Japanese; but she, like the other singers, is from the Latvian Radio choir. Created by Hotel Pro Forma, the Danish performance company; the libretto is based on texts from Noh theatre. The music is by the British band, The Irrepressibles. There are three stories – of The Soldier, The Warrior, and The Spy. But the sur-titles don’t help much. In the end, it’s about war being terrible for everyone.

But the visual and aural impact is astonishing. Phrases are repeated over and over, Glass-like, and initially you wish that it would speed up. Then you let go and bathe in the glory of the music and just let it be slow. Muti-layered images of brilliant colour explode over the singers as their voices soar thrillingly. Narrative? well… actually, it doesn’t matter too much. The Spy eventually transforms into a manga fantasy heroine, Super-Woman: tall and dominating in her wide shoulders, goggles and high-soled boots, she stalks the stage, a staff over her shoulder, a triangle moving. Gorgeous. War is hell though.

Just off Pusher Street, at a table outside the whole food café, the plump girl is looking lost, as her cool slim friend is talking speedily, spliff in hand. I can remember that feeling, stoned in the open air in the afternoon. I could walk over to one of the hash-shops and buy a perfectly-rolled joint, but it’s been a long long while, and I can’t find any inclination. It makes me feel sad just to watch…

And, sadly, this is the received story about Christiania: you can sell, buy and consume marijuana here – not legally, but without being arrested. (I’m guilty of promoting this image, too: look how I started this piece). Christiania was (is) a brave experiment in alternative living. It’s a 32-year experiment, a ‘self governmental green Freetown’, in the former military barracks and parade ground in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn district. It covers 85 acres and has almost a thousand inhabitants. And a million visitors a year.

Since local people knocked down the fence in 1969 to get access to the abandoned space, people have made their homes here, planted gardens and playgrounds, governed themselves, represented themselves on the City Council, and fought off many attacks, often brutal, by the police and government. In 1972 they came to an agreement with the Ministry of Defence to use the area, and it was recognised politically as a ‘social experiment’.

There are trees and benches carved out of logs, meeting places, cafés selling doner kebabs, burgers, organic food, good espresso; the Christiania shop selling certificates of shares in the place, as well as T-shirts, hoodies etc. In the information hall, there’s a notice of Christiania’s Common Law: No weapons, no cars, no hard drugs, no violence, no bikers’ colours, no bulletproof clothing…

Residents on cycles with big boxes on the front weave in and out of the tourists, going about their lives; it must be like being a living exhibit. At our table are four older tourists (all right – my age) wearing expensive outdoor clothes caps and shades, and looking around them. Just like me.

‘But the dream of a life lived in freedom and the idea of a city ruled by its inhabitants continues.’

Over lunch of schnaps, herring, paté and beer, Karen tells Gill about her childhood. Gill’s, that is. Karen was the au pair for her family 50 years ago, and has many stories to tell about Life with the Lipsons, most of them new to Gill. Karen met Peter, her husband, in London then. He was a Danish cabinet-maker working over here, and they’ve been together ever since. Guests at their home near Faaborg, south-west Fyn, we are treated handsomely, shown the countryside and town, and plied with exquisite food and drink. And Gill’s early life.

After cabinet-making, Peter became a designer and architect, and inventor. In his studio and workshop he shows us some of his ideas and products: a hair-treatment hood (hundreds of them, boxed and ready to go); a vacuum-pillow for radiology treatment; a wood-and-magnet, er, thing, that rolls around inside cows’ stomachs and collects all the bits of metal that they swallow with their grass; a simple sprung clip that stops your walking stick from sliding over onto the floor; a calf-feeding tube, a cat-pill-squirter, a pig-inseminator….

But his invention that even I (no great animal-lover) know already – though, sorry, it still makes me laugh – is the lampshade pet-collar, that stops animals from licking biting chewing fiddling with their dressings. Cats, dogs, rabbits, budgies the world over wear them (not fish or snakes though. But I like the idea of, say, a rhinoceros wearing one). Without a hang-dog face looking piteously out, I take this design seriously…

In Copenhagen I’m in the Design Centre, in the exhibition Hello Materials. There’s an alternative plastic made from fish-scales, artificial bone-growth material, floor-coverings made from recycled trainers, paint that lights up on your skin, soft stuff that goes hard on impact… exciting, cutting-edge, sustainable materials from the world’s scientists, inventors and designers.

Brighton in the sunshine! Glare on the dome of the Dome, and a huge snaking purple shadow of a tree fanning across the paths and grass of the Pavilion Gardens. There’s the hypnotic pattern of the mbira played by the Zimbabwean busker, his back to the Pavilion fence. I’ve been watching the BHWAC flash-mob’s reading of a Maya Angelou poem outside the Library to mark International Women’s Day, and now I’m heading for a favourite place.

I love the main hall of Brighton Museum, the 20th-Century gallery. Through the ogee-shaped entrance, to your right there’s the display of chairs, curves in plywood, metal, cardboard – extraordinary radical designs, then a huge A-rack of classic designs – leather, steel, bright orange. On the left there’s the ‘baseball-glove’ chair in brown leather, and, of course, Salvador Dali’s ‘Mae West’s Lips’ sofa in red velvet. Henri Navarre’s translucent bust of Beethoven from 1930, its gold plinth atop a Lalique glass and metal table, is bright against a dark lacquered screen. Further down, two naked men eye each other in David Paynter’s L’Après-Midi. It’s the sexiest image in the gallery – with the possible exception of Dali’s sofa.

The ‘Oriental’ style building, beautiful art, craft and design objects everywhere, the Mods&Rockers display, ancient Egypt, the Dirty Weekend – and coffee and cake. Excellent.