Sunday, October 24, 2021

From pre-Raphaelite Soho to modern Tottenham, via apocolyptic & other tales

Holburne Museum in Bath currently has a 'special exhibition' of Rossetti's Portraits, and they really are something special. Dante Gabriel Rossetti has been my favourite of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ever since 2009 when Aiden Turner took that role in the brilliant TV series Desperate Romantics - see right -  but the gentle, generous sketches of his friends which are among the portraits displayed  actually suggest a far more sensitive personality than the BBC's portrayal. Certainly he had a passion for red-heads, and after the laudanum-overdose death of Elizabeth Siddal ("accidentally and casually and by misfortune" the official verdict decided) he become infatuated with Jane Morris, pictured above.  In modern eyes these paintings may not look unconventional, but they flouted the Royal Academy's norms as established by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in their vibrance, detail, and subject matter. 
The museum gardens seem mainly under reconstruction or self-rewilding, though lovely, with bedraggled blooms and spiky stems tumbling around in every bed. It was still raining when I left, but Bath buildings look wonderful in the rain, their blonde stone enriched by the saturation and a velvet white sky beyond.

Staying with imagery: Frome Wessex Camera Club offered an excellent show of individual work inspired by the pandemic in Corsley Reading Room - sadly only for four days so this will end on 25th.  With 21 screens plus projected imagery,  Closing Down and Opening Up covered a range of responses from personal stories of hospitalisation with - luckily - happy endings, to a focus on new skills or personal memories, with photographers on hand to discuss their work.  Free, fascinating, and with tea & cake, this was a brilliant way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon.  Here (above) is Julian Sandoe's graphic saga of a son in intensive care plus a first grandchild, and my snap of Mick Yates, who superbly curated the whole exhibition. 
(late addenda - can't resist adding Mick's reciprocal snap, which also shows the exhibition stands much better than mine:

On the music scene, autumn has begun with a flurry of gig cancellations, as cautiously-emerging bands have had to recognise what our alleged leader currently doesn't: that the 'new normal' will always trump careful planning. So it was great to catch the fabulous Hot Club de Frome playing hi-energy jazzy blues at Lotte's Bar on Wednesday night.

In a different genre, Frome musician John Law, nationally esteemed for his 'kaleidoscopic fusion of jazz, rock, electronica and classical,' performed his new composition CONGREGATION at the Wiltshire Music Centre, offering a sumptuous taster here. The full session is still available on livestream here.
As prohibitions on social gatherings seem set to continue into another season of discontent, one  unexpected bonus has been an extension of communication skills among the determined: Frome Writers Collective's Gill Harry, who initially took our meetings zooming online, this week successfully created a hybrid session from the meetings room at The Crown, with sound for readers provided by Lisa Kenright & Mike 'Herb' Herbert. The evening's theme of 'Spooky Stories' inspired ten readings and a range of tales from shivery to satirical: I particularly liked Brenda Bannister's quirky take on the Little Shop of Horrors theme. 

Story-telling on a grander scale from The Art House in Southampton where The Travelling Talesman is also maintaining an online option, this time with a topical little saga titled The End Of The World As We Know It. This extensive Apocolyptic tour begins in Mesopotamia (latterly know as Iraq), source of the first written tales of constructed history which, like all legends, concern man's struggle against malevolent deities.  In a narrative featuring eye-popping atrocities, this extensive saga of the gods' war on humanity travelled through varying mythologies through wars, floods and plagues from Valhalla to Fukushima and beyond.  Most interesting of all was the after-show question session, which inspired this monologue from the Hampshire griot: "There are no 'things', everything in the world is make out of vibrations tiny flashes of energy...but Time is the fundamental frequency of the universe - the reason we can't see this is that we're all on that wave ...dark time and dark energy are such big frequencies we just can't see them."  What happens at the end of the world? he was asked. "Every note eventually dies away. Entropy carries us to a constant state, until we achieve the death of the universe. Only then is the end of all life as we know it."  

And it's not yet too wet, or cold, for walking the lanes: hips and berries are doing their jazzy thing all around the hedgerows, and a sunset walk to Marston Park offered the usual superb lake views.
This post was originally planned to conclude with the poem Begin, in homage to Irish poet Brendan Kennelly who died on Sunday, but because those inspiring words have been shared here previously (and because you can read it here - or hear the poet read it here ) instead here's the poem which last week won its teenage author, Giovanni Rose, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awardbeating over 6,000 young poets from all over the world - and showing why we need poets. 
Welcome to Tottenham
Where we wake up to the smell of 'Chick king',
mixed with the odour of the corpse from the night before.
Where we cover our blood stained streets with dried up gum,
Where kids have holes in their last pairs of shoes,
Where daddy left mummy and mummy’s left poor.
Welcome to Tottenham.
Where if you look like me then it’s harder for you,
Where everybody’s equal unless they’re darker than you.
Where the police see colour before they see the crime,
Where children get stopped and searched and aren’t allowed to ask why.
Welcome to Tottenham.  
Where the drugs addicts sit at the back of the 149. 
Where education and sports are the only ways to shine.
Where we ride around on stolen scooters,
Where we can’t afford tuition so the streets are our tutors.
Welcome to Tottenham.
I love but I hate my home,
still listen to the voicemails of my dead peers in my phone,
I live in a nightmare. I had to learn how to dream,
Welcome to Tottenham.
The devil’s playground.
We fight over streets we don’t own,
Knife crimes on the rise because the beef can’t be left alone.
Why does no one understand that we just want our youth clubs back,
Why do they claim they’re not racist but label the violence here black?

Welcome to Tottenham.


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