Sunday 26 February 2012


Check it out! Slow the ’Star Wars’ theme down 800% and you end up with something massively preferable to the original! (Described as Star Wars O)))) in the comments, for anyone who gets that particular in-joke!)

It may originally seem like a gimmick or a lolz attack, but that’s not the way I’ve come to respond to it. You can follow the links to other themes which have been stretched the same way, and each has it's own charm. It’s more like revealing a richness to things our perceptions are mostly oblivious to. It’s like one of those Muybridge-style film clips, which slow down a movement enough to make you aware of all the intricacies involved in running or jumping or what seems like basic actions. Or one of those ‘microscope’ films, where they home in on something at greater and greater magnification and more and more details appear. 

But overall I don’t think it’s too fanciful to say it’s one form of music transformed into another. In fact it reminds me most of the work of experimental composer Basil Kirchin, just with less editorial intervention. In a Radio Three interview he claimed that there’s a whole symphony within something like a tram going round a corner, it just has to be made audible to us.

PS: Is it my imagination of does Kirchin look a little like Stanley Kubrick?

Thursday 23 February 2012


David Cameron said today: “Put a young person into college for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month's learning, unpaid – and it's slammed as slave labour.”

In other news, water was described as “wet” and the Pope has been called a Catholic.

Wednesday 22 February 2012


For the first part of this look at the Pallant House’s recent Edward Burra exhibition, click here.

A Sense of Unease

Post-war, Burra did not return to his rakish celebrations of tarts and sailors. If the destruction of war had passed, it’s menace chose to hang about. (In an echo of Adorno, he lamented “what can a satirist do, after Auschwitz?”) In fact this turn to the sinister starts with some of the war works such as ’Blue Baby, Blitz Over Britain’ (1942, above), more ominous and threatening than actually destructive.

Sometimes he simulates this sense of the unease by his faux-naive ability to do the wrong thing and wring a benefit from it. One work (whose title I foolishly failed to take down) is of a street corner, both sides jutting away from us at awkward angles. Leering faces are placed too far in close-up, cut off by the bottom of the frame. The eye roams the composition looking hopelessly for somewhere to rest, alighting only on sinister characters and unexplained goings-on.

In ’The Straw Man’ (1963, above), figures give the titular man a kicking, the composition a frenzied whirlygig of limbs. But their faces are blankly inexpressive, while others chat nonchalantly behind them. This beating is clearly conduced out in the open, both a train and a mother-and-child pass. It’s reminiscent of Pinter plays such as ’The Birthday Party’ or ’The Homecoming’ where violent acts go unexplained, perhaps because they mask secrets but perhaps because they’re simply accepted - an inherent part of life.

The British Landscape

First war and then declining health curtailed trips abroad for Burra. Seemingly uninterested in British characters, he instead turned his attention to the landscape. He had always painted in watercolour as his arthritic hands demanded it, but for the first time his works tended to look like they were. And perhaps watercoloured English landscapes are not everyone’s cup of tea, for these later works divide opinion.

It must be admitted that this section is the most uneven in quality. More interestingly, it’s as varied in subject matter. Some are the rustic scenes the section head might conjure, others head more into his patented sinister style, while others still are quite environmentalist. Of course, this being Burra, one blends into the other as easily as a barmaid’s gender might slip. But let’s separate them into three groups here, for convenience’s sake.

I’ll concede that a work like ’Cabbages, Springfield, Rye’ (1937) looks like the South Downs landscape I know, not the normal twee imposition upon it. But I found the best of the idyllic scenes to be the beach ones, such as ’The Harbour, Hastings’ (1947, above), it’s rope-tugger and languorous central figure balancing labour with leisure.

...but that sense of unease is never far away. In ’Cabbage Harvest’ (1943/5, above) two hunched figures conspire in the foreground, while a third vanishes down a country lane. The landscape behind them is bleak and wind-blasted, a bleak home where people might scheme over cabbages as if they were gold. Kathryn Hughes describes these environments as “a Sussex of rusting farm machinery, animal skulls and the unnerving sense that everyone would rather be somewhere else.”

’Rye Landscape With Figure’ (1947, above) is perhaps the missing link between the sinister and the environmental works. The title suggests another nature painting but the landscape’s strewn with houses, mining and digger trucks. The figure to the right could be one of the cabbage conspirers, but with his placement and red-hued skin he’s surely designed to recall the impish Beelzebub.

If we needed a formula to describe the environmental pictures, we might say they put the rustic and the sinister at war with each other. Let's pick an example - ’Picking a Quarrel’ (1968/9, above). Trucks and rapacious diggers dominate the scene, with fiery eyes and gaping mouths, bright yellow and flat against the undulating contours of the hillside. They’re anthropomorphised just as the human figures fade out, not even the soulless destructive Orcs of earlier but shadows or shades, ancillary to the yellow overseers. This is an era where the machines rule.

Once again Burra is using the qualities of naive art to undermine them. We’re used to this trick played on vehicles from children’s cartoons such as ’Thomas the Tank Engine.’ Here those same conventions are used to give us monsters.

In one way, this couldn’t be any more English and parochial. A virtually disabled man, most likely gay or bisexual, a lover of black culture, encounters fascism in Thirties Spain without any instinct to oppose it, even in paint. Then dig across a British hillside and suddenly he’s outraged!

There’s weight to that view, but it’s a one-sided weight. It’s significant that the environmental works come last of all, in the Sixties and Seventies. This was really the ‘open goal’ era for developers, where we had got good at concreting the countryside but not yet good at figuring what we might be losing. The environmental movement was then in it’s infancy, albeit spurred into action by urgency. As in Spain, Burra was in town just as the fight kicked off. (Of course this is scarcely a resolved issue today, with current government policy both greedy and insane. But it’s become popularly accepted that environmental concerns need to be addressed, even if it’s normally only lip service.)

The final room, ’Painting The Stage’ covers Burra’s work in theatre design. It’s apparently something no previous exhibition has staged and it’s worth doing, for some of his backdrops are the equal of his paintings. (For example ’Don Quixote’, 1950.) But as much of it has been inserted into the chronology above, let’s pass it by here...

Good indeed is the news that the once-marginalised figure of Burra has had this exhibition. But better still that it has by and large served him well, and even seems part of a reawakening of interest in his talent. It may be on in a ‘provincial’ gallery, but it has been well-received (check out the gallery’s page of reviews) and precipitated a BBC4 documentary (see below). Perhaps sometimes talent really does win out in the end.

Burra himself would have flicked disinterested fag ash at the whole thing of course. But had those great pictures slowly been forgotten, we would have been the losers. We can only hope this level of interest continues to grow.

I for one came to the show as a fan and left a bigger fan. I’d been prepared for more repetition of theme and more variance of quality, but was most positively surprised. The reticent Burra spoke voluminously to me.

But perhaps he was right all along. Perhaps I was just making it up...

’I Never Tell Anybody Anything’, Andrew Graham-Dixon’s special on Burra:

Burra interviewed by for the Arts Council in 1973, arthritic hands and black outfit making him look like a bohemian Richard III, parrying questions like he invented cantankerousness:

Sunday 19 February 2012


Pallant House, Chichester, to 19th Feb
...yet another exhibition I find time to review just as it closes!

“Glamour and squalor appealed to him in equal measure” – curator Simon Martin
“I never tell anybody anything. So they just make it up.” – Edward Burra, 1973

Not So Naive

Orthodoxy states that an artist’s reputation is either cemented or demolished by his death. But as pretty much everything about Edward Burra was unorthodox, things didn’t work out that way. Despite ill health, including arthritic hands seemingly unable to hold a brush, he worked solidly from the Twenties through to his death in 1976. After which he lay pretty much ignored, for this is the first major show dedicated to him in over a quarter-century.

Which raises the inevitable question, how come? After all, you’d have to be a pretty hasty visitor to skip over his exceptional talent, at least the equal of Otto Dix and others we now venerate. Partly it’s the ongoing prejudice against modern British art, a prejudice seemingly held more deeply by the British than anyone else. Combined with this, he willfully refused to schmooze the art circuit or even join any group for very long. (A career no-no in the movement-centered era of Modernism.)

Moreover, he wasn’t really a painter at all, more an illustrator or cartoonist. His colour sense is strong and vital, but he often uses flat or gradated tones. The few drawings on display (such as ’Le Rue de Lappe’, 1928) look less like preparatory sketches and more like finished works which simply haven’t been coloured in yet. (In one of my few criticisms I could have wished for more of these.)

He neither paraded a series of innovative styles like Picasso, nor demonstrated a visibly great skill. In fact, his work can look quite artless. Something like ’Market Day' (1926, above) has naive art’s flattened perspective and singular vision; every aspect of the picture is depicted in the same amount of detail, and figures appear in a series of flat planes where ‘back’ is merely a function of ‘up’. We simply assume the stuff at the top of the painting (the sea, the chimneys) is behind the stuff below it.

It sometimes suited Burra to play the role of an outsider, but don’t believe a word of it. He had studied at the Royal College of Art, and his sharp eye knew exactly what it was doing. ’Harlem’ (1934) has a building running down its right side, the perspective forcibly exaggerated, crashing against the flat planes at the back. But Burra clearly wanted it to look that way. When he wanted something else, as in ’The Nitpickers’ (1932, above), there’s nothing but note-perfect perspective.

Nor was naive his only influence. Writing in Art Quarterly magazine, curator Simon Martin comments on “his ability to draw together disparate influences into his own distinctive worldview.” You can see contemporaries Dix, Grosz, Rousseau and Picasso, plus historical figures such as Hogarth or Goya, all taken up and absorbed. At several points the show points out where another work is being referenced.

Only over one instance does this power desert Burra. He’s clearly influenced by Modernism’s reduction of shapes to basic forms, as seen in artists such as Leger. (For example, in ’Soldiers Playing Cards.’) After all, why bother with considering how all the muscles and ligaments shape a leg when a simple cylinder gets the same information over? Isn’t it like cutting the extraneous words from a sentence? But Leger is interested in the language of gesture and movement; universalising, de-individualising his figures works for him. The very same thing works against Burra.

The show has the good taste to spare us the man at his worst. But
’Marriage a la Mode’ (1928/9, above) has some of it, the limbs a little too tubular, the colours a little too sharp. It’s reminiscent that on his off-days Burra could be Beryl Cook for the intelligensia.

High Art, Low Culture

Burra’s early years virtually epitomise the Roaring Twenties, where sexuality was as explosive as popping champagne. They’re works which exude sexual display and conquest like they invented it, which given the era isn’t too far from the truth. (See
’Saturday Market’, 1932, above, or ’Harlem Striptease’, 1934.) We encounter successions of barmaids of dubious gender serving sailors of uncertain proclivity, as likely to be found dancing with each other as with the girls. (See for example ’Dockside Cafe, Marseilles’, 1929, up top.)

They often have titles like the start of dirty jokes, such as
’Three Sailors at the Bar’ (1930), to which the works don’t scrimp on punch lines. As Kathryn Hughes comments in the Guardian: “Phallic jokes abound, with obscene shapes thrusting up and out from every corner.”

These are often achieved through perspective games, where characters ‘touch’ despite being at different points in the picture plane. For example, the tradesman in ’Saturday Market’ should by logic be staring ahead. But we all know he’s actually ogling that pink-stockinged leg as he handles his peppers. Yet Burra uses this effect for more than risque jokes...

A truly great artist can straddle apparent contradictions. In violation of one of the central tenets of Modernism, Burra’s drawings are scenes – windows upon real-world spaces, merely built up through paint. Yet simultaneously they juxtapose their elements, as in a collage.

For example, ’The Snack Bar’ (1930, above) takes place in a physical space, a room we could map out if we had a mind to. The three figures don’t look at each other. Yet they overlap, forming a central line running up from the lower left corner then snaking back to meet the man in glasses. Burra has lined them up for us, he’s inviting us to compare them.

His biographer Jane Stevenson has called him a “camera,” an idea which seems to have become a meme. Martin tells us Burra was “a spectator with an extraordinary eye for detail”, but then later qualifies this - “such scenes were no doubt a combination of memories and elements drawn from the movies he watched avidly.” (Burra never made sketches.) Yet ’Market Day’ was made before he visited the Mediterranean, without looking particularly different to the works after. For it’s part, ’Silver Dollar Bar’ (1953), is a scene of a Boston bar drawn after Burra was back in England.

“Camera” suggests a photographer, a one-man paparazzi crew usefully turning up for us in all the right places. Indeed, Burra had just such a knack. Yet ultimately this view is inadequate.

Let’s start on a point of agreement. Burra can certainly draw a teeming crowd yet make each figure completely individualised. His letters home, enthusing over his foreign visits, would be peppered with caricatures and sketches. Combined with their apparent artlessness this makes his compositions look, in the most positive sense of the word, arbitrary. In the inverse of the traditional God-like “artist’s perspective” they are ‘snapshotty’; we feel we have merely happened to turn up on the street at this time, at this point.

For example, in ’Harlem Scene’ (1934/5, above) you feel the two background figures standing by a lamp-post could as easily be in the foreground, the space behind them opened up into a new scene peopled by new characters. The sense becomes a tug, pulling you into the picture. It’s that city feeling of the streets running endlessly, an unreachable vanishing point no matter how far you might walk.

But Burra’s quite unlike the Impressionists, insistently trying to capture the world as it fleetingly manifests before them, painting from life and obsessing over qualities of light. His work is simultaneously lifelike and larger than life. If he never sketched scenes, that was most likely a deliberate act. He wanted that filtration process, where some details faded and others enlarged in his mind. Real people and actual places were to him just triggers to a more symbolic attempt to capture the essence of a place. As previously said of Gauguin, Burra is “more fable than documentary.” His figures are idealised. He just idealised low-life, that’s all.

Types are commonly encountered in the culture of the interwar years, and very often in it’s art. It was as if there were only so many blocks for us to be chips from, that they can be listed and categorised. The paradox inside Burra’s talent is that he could individualise each figure yet also make them the epitome of a Type, the Tart, the Drunk, the cocky Sailor and so on.

Painting Black

Burra’s depictions of black people come into play here, appearing first in his views of Marseilles but then in greater numbers as he visited Harlem in New York. Simon Martin takes what would seem to be the general view: “At a time of widespread racist imagery in the media, his pictures were conspicuous for the lack of prejudice and genuine warmth towards black people.”

In ’Harlem’ (1934, above) the foreground figure leans insouciantly, hand in pocket, staring absently off from under a pork pie hat. No servant and certainly nobody’s fool, he emits effortless cool. The Twenties may well have been the point where white folks started to sample black culture, as Harlem became something of a Mecca to thrillseekers and bright young things danced to jazz.

It’s true that there is much that is positive in these images, and they might well have been pushing the boundaries of the era. While in New York Burra would stay in Harlem, and a photograph in the exhibition show him sharing a joke with a black man, a fraternisation which was then highly unusual.

Yet is that really the whole of the story? I wonder if we subconsciously associate artists with higher thoughts, rather than people who merely painted what everyone else was thinking, making them into beacons when they were really barometers.

As we’ve seen Burra was given to depicting Types, and when a white artist of this era depicts black people as Types, it was never going to end quite so easily. A positive caricature by a white man of a black is still a caricature, a white conception of blackness projected onto him in a fundamentally unequal relationship.

As one obvious point the standard white-perspective depictions of black features are still present. In fact they can be seen still more strongly in other works, such as ’Harlem Theatre’ (1933, above) - the bulging eyes, the thick lips, the gurneying grins. Burra’s depictions were a genuine advance but only a partial one. It seems indulgent and remiss not to point this out.

White folks’ tendency to see black people as epitomising cool, that’s admittedly a little more complex. After all black people of the time were often keen to exhibit this, to the point of inventing the term! Nevertheless, there is an element of reducing black people to an image. Which seems rather different to reducing sailors to an image. Ironically the ‘Harlem Renaissance’, which doubtless brought Burra to the area, was often concerned with black artists presenting a more nuanced and sophisticated view of themselves.

The Descending Boot of War

The Spanish Civil War (or Revolution, depending on your political persuasions) could be seen as the pivot-point of the inter-war years, when what remained of Twenties optimism was shot down by the return of war and the arrival of fascism. Burra, present in Spain as it broke out, certainly had that reaction. The change in his work between the first two rooms is as abrupt as it is extraordinary – marching replaces dancing in the shortest time.

However, Burra’s response is contrary to something like Orwell’s eyewitness accounts. We lose any association with reportage as we move from character studies (however crowded) to symbolic scenes. These much larger works are more like a cross between surrealism (earning Burra his “English Surrealist” tag) and the Biblical allegories so beloved of the Victorians. (In particular see ’The Three Fates and the Pot of Gold’, 1935.)

The first picture we encounter is ’War In the Sun’ (1938, above). Where Burra’s focus had once been the face, virtually all the foreground figures here have their backs to us. One buries his in an oversized hand. The paraphernalia of modern warfare (tanks and guns) is willfully mixed with history, as figures dress as Conquistadors. After the horrors of the Great War, many refused to accept that it could have come back to this. Burra’s timeless picture suggests it was ever this.

At first glance the composition is divided by a definite horizontal line, like a battlement, a figure-strewn road stretching away from it. You immediately attempt to resolve the work into two halves, advancing military and fleeing civilians. But you realise the division doesn’t work. The cloaked figures are too ambiguous, the one with head in hands behind the barricade. They’re victims together at the very same time that they’re divided. The Great War at least conscripted you before killing you. Not this time.

Burra was not long back in England before the Second World War had started, and such themes stuck in his work. For example ’Soldiers’ Backs’ (1942/3) again concentrates on faceless figures, soldiers trying to climb aboard an already-overstuffed lorry, almost obscured by the push of teeming figures. Once again their faces are obscured, their thrusting backs alternating between grey and rusty red as if they’re in conflict between themselves, their round caps like parodies of halos. At the time Burra wrote to a friend of staying in wartime Rye, “the whole place is an armed camp with crashing tanks roaring up and down the road.” (A quote from the show, but rather inexplicably placed by another picture.)

Sometimes he takes the change too far. Previously, in much smaller works, he could take any level of detail and put it in service to his compositions. In some pieces here, such as
’Storm in the Jungle’ (1931), the sheer welter of detail becomes too much and throws off your eye.

Yet other works keep the cartoonishness and balance it against the horror. For example
’Skull in a Landscape’ (1946, above) features a rather Disneyfield skull, but where you might expect a grin you instead face a blank-eyed grimace. 

The Danse Macabre

In this period, when figures aren’t faceless they either wear masks or might as well do. ‘Beelzebub’ (1937/8, above) balances both. In the background a bunch of identikit figures remorselessly destroy a church, their faces chillingly impassive. They’re reminiscent of the theory that Tolkien’s Orcs represented the soulless destruction of war.

(As a sidenote, Burra’s choice of a church seems somewhat partisan for someone who otherwise saw the Civil War as self-destructiveness run riot. It was the Republicans, and in particular the Anarchists, who attacked churches, as Catholicism was so in league with the Fascists. But perhaps it symbolised something else for Burra. The now-broken columns and arches of the Church suggest Classicism. Burra had been associated with neo-classicism, a movement following World War One which reincorporated classical motifs into Modernism. Perhaps by the Church he intends us to see the hordes assaulting art and culture.)

But beside and above this scene stands Beelzebub, his figure running the height of the painting. Against the more somber colours behind him, only the tip of the spear matches his blood-red hue. His face is grotesquely expressive, his pose relaxed and nonchalant. He stands outside the picture, gloating at the handiwork of others made at his instigation. Apparently unnoticed, perhaps we shouldn’t see him as inhabiting the picture plane at all, but an outside force looking in just as we are.

He represents the force of evil. His grotesque laugh is not a mask over his face, it’s more like a mask that
is his face. It’s reminiscent of K-Punk’s comment about Heath Ledger’s Joker in the ’Dark Knight’ film: “What Ledger does, in many ways, is play the make-up.” Our culture is obsessed with masks as disguise or cancellation, the wardrobe of bank robbers. But most societies see masks as having a ritual purpose, you put the mask on not to hide something but to let something out.

More obvious masks abound in this period, with a particular penchant for carnivalesque bird masks, as in
’Bird Men and Pots’ (1946, above).

A Sea Change?

It’s perhaps a paradox that the perennial outsider, who never attended even his own openings, was so great at capturing the zeitgeist. The change in his work seems extraordinary, faces once so characterful becoming so anonymised. Yet it’s not actually the sea change that it looks...

In the Twenties pictures, women’s faces in particular are already starting to resemble masks, with their heavily made-up eyes and lipstick so thick it resembles a false mouth. (Check out for example
’Les Folles de Belleville,’ 1928.) A black woman in the foreground of ’The Tram’ (1927/9) has the African mask face we often see with Picasso, with the line running neatly down the middle.

But it’s not just the girls. Check out the face on the central figure in
’Silver Dollar Bar’, (above) an expressionist distortion not so far away from that of ’Beelzebub.’

More widely, the change in tone is not as great as it may seem. In another wrongly placed quote George Melly should be beside
’Beelzebub’ when he says: “some of [Burra’s] phantasmogoria are evil, but many of his creatures are simply louche and disreputable... he was acquainted with imps as well as demons.”

The figure of Beelzebub exists precisely in that interchange, as if sacking a Church was a simple practical joke played on a grander scale. There’s no absolute break between him and the equally louche figure we saw in
’Harlem.’ In fact it’s the reverse, it’s knowing how to have a good time that makes the devil 
simultaneously more horrific and more seductive.

To restrict Burra’s range in such a way may seem a criticism. But in fact it’s not at all. Burra simply knew what he could do well, what he wanted to do and succeeded in putting his best foot forward.

Part two (briefer, honest!) here...

Sunday 12 February 2012


Brighton Dome, Sat Feb 11th

Robyn Hitchcock, as we’ve noted before here at Lucid Frenzy, has a particular interest in evoking a four-in-the-morning feeling. (Something said in Ye Olde Print Days, so I can’t link to it – you’ll just have to trust that I said it!) It’s the point where, while you may theoretically be awake, your brain decides to disregard all that and act as if it was dreaming. Logic becomes as floppy as one of Dali’s clocks, boundaries blur and things morph into one another. In short, it’s when we’re at our most receptive. So when he plays, that’s the time he’s striving to convince us it is, and never mind any badgering from that contraption on your wrist.

And what are platform nights about but assortments you never expected to see, associations you wouldn’t normally make? So, I would guess, Hitchcock gathered five of his musical compatriots to see if they could gang up on rationalism a little? We had Martin and Eliza Carthy (folksters both known to this parish), singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb and “American soul diva” Krystal Warren. (Nope, I’d never heard of that last one either.) Laureamont had famously described surrealism as “the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.” This was ‘the chance collision of a folk ballad with American soul in the Dome theatre.’ So... what happened when this pack started permanently reshuffling before our eyes?

In short, it was a night of great highlights. You could make it sound fabulous through selective YouTube clips. (Something which in fact is soon coming up.) The royalist connotations of ‘palace’ were perhaps deserved with both Carthys aboard. I had previously observed KT Tunstall had a gloriously husky voice, but had tended to think of her as One Of Those People On Rotation On Jools Holland. Yet I was set to thinking I should check out her music more. Krystal Warren had a shaky first song, but got better from therein. I’d seen Giant Sand before and hadn’t liked Howe Gelb then, there felt something affected and show-offy about him which he hadn’t shaken off since. But that’s perhaps three-and-a-half out of five, not a bad innings.

But I’m not sure if this palatial crew ever actually floated. Hitchcock once described his ambition for his first band, the Soft Boys, to be like playing with plasticine that still kept its different colours. (As any Seventies child can tell you, the stuff soon turned sludgy brown.) This night the plasticine kept it’s pristine separate colours too well, and failed to mix together much at all.

Instead it rather fell into units. And when, for example, the Carthys were playing their songs, or Hitchcock his, you’d get into that and not want to leave again for the next thing. Often the less natural pairings failed to spark. Admittedly, I was no Howe Gelb fan to begin with but his pairing with Martin Carthy in particular lacked chemistry.

There were, we should concede, points where the unexpected collisions did throw up strange new crossbreeds. One such moment was when Tunstall sang ’Shanty of the Whale’, a haunting hunting song told from the whale’s point of view, a cappella with the two Carthys. Another was when she launched into a spirited version of ’I Want You Back.’ (Though that was partly unexpected as Green Gartside had just been brought on as a special guest, yet was reduced to the odd backing vocal.)

Perhaps there were inherent obstacles to negotiate. Four in the morning may be a difficult feeling to evoke beneath the lights of so large a venue, no matter how much dry ice you waft. And platform nights have a tendency to feel bitty. They’re a live version of a format better suited to radio or TV. When the indie landfill band comes on Jools Holland I make a cup of tea, I flick through the Radio Times or some other thing. I am home and have distractions to hand. With live events I want to drink deep of something, not just taste it. this plethora of YouTube clips a tribute to the number of highpoints the gig had, or an admission it lacked for defining moments? You the reader decide!

The classic ’Uncorrected Personality Traits’ from the Barbican gig:

Eliza Carthy keeping up the folk corner, also from the Barbican:

’I Want You Back’ from Glasgow:

I couldn’t find a YouTube vid for ’Shanty of the Whale’ from this tour, this is Tunstall from Union Chapel in London last year. (Sung, it would seem, from the pulpit.)

Coming soon! Yes I know I’ve been perpetually promising a post about the Degas exhibition. (Which I expect everyone has guessed I meant by those supposedly humorous references to “ballet.”) Hopelessly overdue, it is incoming - honest! (Even if I’m not too sure when...)

Tuesday 7 February 2012


On the Freak Trigger site Mark Sinker has posted a tribute page to Martin Skidmore, writer and editor of so much about comics and myriad other subjects, who sadly succumbed to cancer last July. Even if you didn't know Martin or his work, it's well worth a read, and the wealth of links will give you an inkling into why he's so missed.

My own more modest tribute, 'A Good Amateur Table Tennis Player', is here.