Sunday, April 22, 2018

Pleasure, passion, purpose - and sunshine

Let's start with the good news. Our national treasure of a health service is 100 this year, and Dr Phil is touring with a new one-man stand-up show to say Happy Birthday NHS! His first stop was Frome last week, to a packed and approving audience at the Merlin Theatre. As an anecdotal comedian Dr Phil is scatological and politically scathing, and as a medical adviser he's intelligent and humane. It's a good combo. He gives a potted history of the centegenarian institution, from its birthing by Nye Bevan to falling into the clutches of Jeremy Hunt. ('I have a mate who went to school with him and he says he wasn't very bright'.) But Dr Phil remains confident of the future - as long as we avoid privatisation and don't go down the other US route of 'incentified' prescribing, which results in a culture of unnecessary drugs, vaccinations, and operations.  The secret of health, he confides, is pleasure, passion, and purpose. Thirty minutes of walking - or any activity - every day is better than any drug. And other such adages which are even more encouraging when a fit-looking doctor insists on them.

Black Swan Arts has a new exhibition: Cicatrix, a wonderful word which sounds like a Greek siren but actually means the scar of a healed wound. Three Wiltshire artists have been commissioned to study and visually report on Salisbury Plain, for the last 120 years a battlefield with no enemy. One early casualty of this destruction rehearsal was Imber, the evacuated village. It's also been target practice for battles in Northern Ireland and test ground for unnamed substances fatal to the juniper trees. Tiny things there, however, are thriving: rare wild flowers and butterflies are rampant. Dawn Gorman led an excellent poetry workshop around the show for Words at the Black Swan on Monday.
There's also a new exhibition at the HUBnub Centre: Fragmental, paintings by Georgina Towler, combining to create vivid presence in a diffuse and expansive space that can be difficult to dominate.

Another author event at Hunting Raven Books - unusual only in that Tyler Keevil's connection with Frome is tenuous though charming: A Canadian now living in Wales, he won the very first Frome Festival Short Story Contest back in 2004 when his talent spotted by Alison Clink who inaugurated this event and it was this success - he claims, and we believe - which emboldened him to find his voice in writing. Tyler now makes his living through fiction and is on tour with his current novel No Good Brother, with his brother Jonathan who contributed a music element to the readings. An unusual launch event - but that's Frome isn't it...
Music information is sparse again this week - I intended to see that irresistibly-named Goat-Ropers Rodeo Band at 23 Bath Street on Saturday but the skies over Frome decided to put on a strobe light show all evening, accompanied by biblical proportions of torrential rain, so I stayed in and watched Dave worked, I mean. Pete Gage in fine form last Saturday created a dance party in Sam's Kitchen, (there was a Prince dance party afterwards too) and Velvet and Stone brought their haunting melodies and songs again to Roots Sessions at the Grain Bar.

And we had four days of summer! which is not strictly relevant to an arts blog, but when temperatures more than double overnight ~ we reached 29° (that's 84° to you, Mo) ~ it becomes essential to channel one's inner Nietzsche and stride out into the birdsong and blossom... especially when the medieval fields and ancient lanes around Frome may not be there to stride in future days...

We owe it to the fields that our houses will not be the inferiors of the virgin land they have replaced. We owe it to the worms and the trees that the building we cover them with will stand as promises of the highest and most intelligent kinds of happiness.
           - Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness.

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