new work alert

Towards the end of the first UK lockdown (circa May/June 2020, who really remembers), I started seriously reading Platonov. As a lover of Russian writing, I found myself ashamed not to have read him before. As translator Robert Chandler notes:  “in his mature work Platonov seems to delight in eliding every conceivable boundary—between animal andContinue reading “new work alert”

some ramblings on debt

Thinking recently about the exchanges people make, in their minds or in some kind of actuality, to make sense or order out of grievances or gratitudes. If we perceive debt as a kind of recognition of some sort of exchange, often between unequal partners, this makes sense of the conservative view of worth. Some childrenContinue reading “some ramblings on debt”

more than the crown jewels*

*In the UK, for those reading from elsewhere, people have started calling the large, hierarchical, national arts organisations the crown jewels (not in a nice way). (I apologise for the length of this, it was written for something else but sharing it here anyway.) Governance & the development of local groups  Arts Council England’s CreativeContinue reading “more than the crown jewels*”

something about the importance of place in governance

‘We are being sucked into a foul, bureaucratic swamp’ Lenin, quoted in S.A. Smith’s ‘Russia in Revolution’.  ‘Within this fetid ecosystem the air was too stale for new ideas to grow’ Gary Younge, quoted in Nesrine Malik’s ‘We Need New Stories’.  There is much fetidness and foulness in the world today. Nigeria, Trump, Tory MPsContinue reading “something about the importance of place in governance”

cultivating sorrow in a locked chest

Reading some old, old letters written by my father to his brother, I came across this critique of the ‘dead sterility of Beckett’: ‘audiences feel at once flattered and reassured by him…the modish despair helps. There is something comforting…how much harder to accept and live up to Blake’s optimism, which is a judgement on allContinue reading “cultivating sorrow in a locked chest”

being and doing in public places

‘It was an exceptionally soft balmy evening for the time of year, which was just that transient period in the May month when beech trees have suddenly unfolded large limp leaves of the softness of butterflies’ wings. Boughs bearing such leaves hung low around and completely enclosed them, so that it was as if theyContinue reading “being and doing in public places”

the politics of incarceration

18 July 2020  ”I was only a working-class boy from a Nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign, independent socialist republic. ” The words of Bobby Sands as quoted in IRIS, Vol. 1,Continue reading “the politics of incarceration”

where are we?

11 July 2020 I often think about what Dickens would be writing about if he had been writing now. I’ve long thought that he’d be writing for television: incisive, insightful portrayals of contemporary life. Maybe a writer like Michaela Coel, whose I May Destroy You is one of the best, most beautifully made, pieces ofContinue reading “where are we?”

social media in crisis?

5 July 2020 ‘The people of Shavi knew that their words were like rags – wherever you leave them, there they will stay’ (Buchi Emecheta The Rape of Shavi). Reading this short novel recently, I was struck by this repeated notion. Social media has been brilliant and terrible. Twenty plus years into this experiment intoContinue reading “social media in crisis?”

the language of uniform

14 June 2020 In renaissance painting, the use of hand gesture is effectively a hidden message. One of the great things about visual arts is its ability to say something and not say it at the same time.   I started looking at football as a metaphor about 20 years ago. This evolved, as thinking does,Continue reading “the language of uniform”