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British Royal Wedding Spotlights Interest in All Things Regal

This article was first published on Suite 101, 9 April 2011. With continuing interest in the Queen’s Jubilee of 2012, it still has something to say about the monarchy in Britain today. Kate and William’s April 2011 nuptials are like a British movie with a global audience and a reminder of how films about royals endlessly fascinate people. Peter Kellner, President of the UK’s YouGov Opinion polling organisation, said in April 2011: “For 123 of the past 174 years, we’ve had a female monarch. For how many of the last 174 years has American democracy produced a female president?” His point was wider than a dig at Americans; it illustrated a British acceptance of the Royal Family in general and The Queen in particular. Whether Brits are naturally Royalists or not, … Read entire article »

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Downing Street Is More Than Merely the Prime Minister’s Residence

  Number 10 and neighbouring buildings make up an iconic part of the both the “Westminster Village” and the world’s view of the seat of British government. To date, fifty-two men and one woman have entered the famous black door of No 10 as Prime Minister. It has been their family home; nerve-centre of governments and nation during war; and in times of political difficulties, ‘the bunker’ of beleaguered premiers. It’s the soap opera of the nation. The front masks a rabbit warren of rooms and passages, a mix of styles and periods, including the very latest security technology. TV crews are almost constantly camped outside, across the cul-de-sac, facing the door. Who comes in and out could be newsworthy. Ministers, visitors, officials, celebrities: the arrival and departure of everybody tells … Read entire article »

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Crowd-Sourcing Is the New Business, Politics and Arts Democracy

The internet has provided many innovations. Now comes the harnessing of collective wisdom of untold numbers of people to solve problems, create new ideas. In the UK, in the months before the March 2011 Budget, the Chancellor, George Osborne, opened an ‘online portal’ to accept suggestions for financial changes from anybody who wanted to log on. How many did that may only be known by civil servants, but it’s an example of a new phenomenon: crowd participation. Businesses, artists and politicians are waking up to the natural corollary of universal social networking. If people have suggestions, grouches/grumbles, lateral thinking, they can come up with ideas others haven’t thought of. In the early 2000s, Web 2.0 was vaguely ‘using the web as a platform’. Now it’s a web democracy about the production … Read entire article »

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English Piers: Long Walks Into the Past, Present and Future

The Victorian/Edwardian walkways off Britain’s coasts hold enduring fascination, are historic legacies and business opportunities, mixing past and future. There’s something beyond quaint curiosity about standing on a platform, off-shore, enjoying views and bracing air. ‘Pier’ describes a raised, supported walkway over water, freely flowing around its piles and beneath its planking. Piers can be simple and short or a major structure a mile long. Warehouses and cargo functions define US and Australian piers, but the British cast-iron model became associated with the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment, although Lowestoft South doubles as harbour wall on its north side. Cromer Pier and Britannia Pier, Gt Yarmouth still sport working theatres. Piers were beloved of Victorian/Edwardian architects, town planners and citizens as they became symbols of civic pride. They are cast-iron icons … Read entire article »

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Puppets and Performers on Stage Together Creating Reality

Even when actors manipulate puppets in front of audiences, the puppet comes alive, absorbing, compelling, believable. It’s a powerful dramatic device. ‘Puppet’ has been a useful English language word for centuries. Some kind of political leader installed by a more powerful force is often referred to as ’puppet government’ or ‘puppet regime’. The term, broadened out, means simply anyone weaker controlled by somebody stronger: a puppet, pulled by strings at the behest of a controller. Some have it that ‘poppet’, meaning a term of affection for another, as in ‘pet’, ‘doll’ or ‘dear’, is from the same root. It is a representation of a person, a kind of surrogate human-being, which on stage can be extremely moving, unpleasant, sinister or comic. Puppets are, in fact, a very ancient theatrical form. Historic, Cultural Puppet … Read entire article »

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Westminster Hall, the Jewel in the Crown of Britain’s Parliament

For 900 years, the Hall has been a focal point in British democratic history, and today it’s a priceless, unique tourist, political and cultural attraction. Built in 1097 on orders of William (Rufus) II, son of William the Conqueror, to show his new subjects the majesty of his authority, it was, and still is, a magnificent architectural achievement. But even more significant has been its role in some pivotal historical moments in British history. Architectural Wonders It was Europe’s largest, 73 x 20 metres, so large that the royal household usually ate elsewhere. The outside stone walls were at least two metres (6 feet) thick, and slightly curved making it thicker in the centre. They were plastered, painted and hung with drapes. The roof was the most impressive. It was centrally unsupported, hammer-beams of … Read entire article »

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Norfolk Youth Music Theatre at Norwich Playhouse Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 13 April 2012.   Stephen Sondheim’s ground-breaking, musical revenge thriller is heavy with gore and bodies. This Norfolk Youth Music Theatre production puts some professionals to shame. Adrian Connell directs a highly talented ensemble. Callum Bicknell plays the barber with an amazing voice, towering morosely over victims and innocents alike. Harriet Millsopp is just outstanding as the amoral Mrs Lovett, turning bodies into pies. High soprano Emily Stangham, as Todd’s daughter, and Emma Hume as his tragic, lost wife, are superb. Fraser Davidson (the love-lorn Anthony), Daniel Herman (the depraved Judge Turpin), Jack Edwards (his accomplice), Alex Salzado (the rival barber) and Marland Barsby (the young, simple Tobias Ragg) are all exceptionally strong singers and actors. This is extremely challenging musically. Mark … Read entire article »

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Blonde on Blonde Revisited and Reinterpreted for Today

From a man as controversial as Bob Dylan, who reinvents himself regularly, it’s hard to choose one album to mark a pivotal turning point, but this is it. In a 2006 review of the All-Time 100 Albums on Time, Alan Light included Blonde on Blonde (1966), coming at the end of a 14-month period of creativity from Dylan, that he never equalled. Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited preceded what became labelled ‘rock’s first significant double album’. Significant it was, and remains a seminal work. Light described it as having ‘a tense, shimmering tone’, and after the ‘tiresome’ opener, Rainy Day Women 12 and 35, it went on to achieve Dylan’s greatest heights, ‘the very pinnacle of rock’. British Dylan devotee Roger Ford agreed, publishing a major work, reconstructing … Read entire article »

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The Incredible String Band Revisited and Reinterpreted for Today

One of the more quirky, hard to categorise British 60s bands, ISB were influential as musicians’ musicians. Have they still got a relevant message now? Usually defined as exponents of late 1960s ‘psychedelic folk’, The Incredible String Band (ISB) were called by Making Time, a website resource devoted to compiling an encyclopedia of 60s’ British beat music, early devotees of ‘World Music’. They were eclectic, deriving influences from many genres, cultures and sounds, fusing them with poetry as lyrics. Robert Plant, Billy Connolly, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones were among their fans, and they started as Clive Palmer and Robin Williamson playing in a Scottish folk club in Glasgow. Mike Heron joined to play guitar and record producer Joe Boyd signed them to Elektra label. In 1966 they released their first … Read entire article »

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Politicarts

There is a large area where the arts and politics overlap, collide and feed off each other. This at the heart of my various interests in my life and work. In April 2012 I launched a new online magazine, The Performance, to publish material about this fertile ground of crossover of the arts and the world of politics. … Read entire article »

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