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Has Morrissey finally recorded a decent album?

24 July 2014 19:00

Time was when the former Smiths singer surfaced only once every five years or so to do the Carry On Morrissey routine. But the more you ignore him, the closer he gets. Barely half a year after he colonised the… Continue reading

Borough Market, London. Getty Images/AWL Images RM.

The snobbery of farmers’ markets makes me want to run to the nearest Morrisons

24 July 2014 18:46

My friend Cathy once paid £9 for a small bag of green beans from an organic deli because she ‘wanted to support local businesses’. But this shop, in trendy Crouch… Continue reading

(Photo: BBC)

It’s Evan Davis for Newsnight

21 July 2014 10:58

With the BBC set to make a formal announcement about Jeremy Paxman’s replacement at Newsnight imminently, tweets from BBC staff revealing the news were hurriedly deleted. Not quite all of… Continue reading

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Spectator competition: craft a voter-repelling party political broadcast (plus James Joyce and co. give Phil Neville a masterclass in football commentary)

19 July 2014 9:30

Unkind comparisons were drawn, after his commentary debut, between Phil Neville’s style and a speak-your-weight machine. One Twitter user speculated, when the England physio was stretchered off injured, that it… Continue reading

Neville Marriner: still going strong at the age of 90

How conductors keep getting better at 90

Arts feature

‘It’s a bad week. I gather we’ve lost one.’ Sir Neville Marriner, himself a huge name, is talking about the death of one of the world’s top conductors. Lorin Maazel, who died at home in Virginia at the age of… Read more

Natalia Osipova in the Royal Ballet’s ‘Connectome’, choreographed by Alastair Marriott

Natalia Osipova interview: ‘I'm not interested in diamond tiaras on stage’

Arts feature

‘I am not interested in sporting diamond tiaras on stage, or having my point shoes cooked and eaten by my fans,’ muses Natalia Osipova, referring to two old ballet anecdotes. ‘Ballet has evolved and the ballerina figure with it. The… Read more

Darren Strange and Dan Copeland in Invincible at St. James Theatre

When Mr and Mrs Clever-Nasty-and-Rich met Mr and Mrs Thick-Sweet-and-Poor

Theatre

Torben Betts, head boy at Alan Ayckbourn’s unofficial school of apprentices, has written at least a dozen plays I’ve never seen. Invincible, my first encounter with the heir apparent, is a sitcom that pitches London snobs against northern slobs. The… Read more

‘The Scyther (Mower)’, 1912, by Kazimir Malevich

Malevich: Are Tate visitors ready for this master of modernism?

Exhibitions

Kazimir Malevich (1879–1935) is one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and as such entirely deserves the in-depth treatment with which this massive new Tate show honours him. But it should be recognised from the start that this is a… Read more

La Traviata, Glyndebourne

I can’t see the point of Glyndebourne’s La traviata

Opera

One of the highlights of last year’s Glyndebourne Festival was the revival of Richard Jones’s Falstaff, spruced up and invigorated by Mark Elder’s conducting of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a beautifully balanced cast. Elder is also… Read more

Obstacle on the footballing front: Natascha McElhone as Georgie’s mother

The problem with Believe is you simply won’t believe any of it - unless you’re a child

Cinema

The trouble with Believe is that, unless you are ten years old or under, which I’m assuming you are not, you won’t believe. Not for a second. Not for a minute. Not a word of it. This doesn’t see itself… Read more

Otherworld, Comedy Feeds

In which James Delingpole gets down with the kids, finds they’re sex-obsessed…

Television

If there’s one thing everyone knows about BBC comedy it’s that it’s going downhill. According to Danny Cohen, now Director of BBC Television, it’s too white and middle class; according to producer John ‘Blackadder’ Lloyd, it’s run by idiots like… Read more

Roger Wright Photo: Getty

Does Radio 3 need a new controller?

Radio

Where next for Radio 3? Last Friday was the First Night of this year’s Proms season but it was the last night at the Proms for Roger Wright, who for 15 years has masterminded the station and for seven of… Read more

culture-notes

Alexander Pope, inventor of celebrity

Culture notes

‘The Picture of the Prime Minister hangs above the Chimney of his own Closet, but I have seen that of Mr Pope in twenty Noblemen’s Houses,’ wrote Voltaire in 1733. Alexander Pope’s start in life was not promising. A crippled… Read more

‘The Goldfinch’, 1654, by Carel Fabritius

The home of Holland’s celebrity paintings gets a makeover

Arts feature

If things had turned out differently for Brazil — I don’t mean in the World Cup — Recife might now be known as Mauritsstad. But when the Portuguese expelled the Dutch in 1654, the name of the new capital of… Read more

Handel's statue in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Photo: Getty

Is Handel’s Messiah anti-Semitic?

Music

The Hallelujah Chorus crops up in the most unexpected places, says Michael Marissen in his new book about Handel’s Messiah. For example, it’s used in a TV ad ‘depicting frantic bears’ ecstatic relief in chancing upon Charmin toilet paper in… Read more

‘Paul Newman’, 1964, by Dennis Hopper

Had Hollywood not lured him away, Dennis Hopper could have made his name as a photographer

Exhibitions

In an age when photographs have swollen out of all proportion to their significance, and are mounted on wall-sized light boxes the better to show off their high-resolution colour, it’s a relief to see an exhibition of small photographic prints… Read more

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Buxton Festival sticks its neck out with two rarities by Dvorak and Gluck

Opera

Dvorak’s The Jacobin and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the two operas that opened this year’s Buxton Festival, are both relative rarities today, but their creators’ fortunes tell an interesting story. Dvorak’s operas — or at least Rusalka — joined the… Read more

Billie Piper as Paige Britain: gorgeous, stony-hearted news psycho

Richard Bean doesn’t believe in humans - just weasels, snakes, rats and vultures

Theatre

Mr Bean, one of our greatest comic exports, has an alter ego. The second Mr Bean, forename Richard, is the author of One Man, Two Guvnors, which thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. His latest play, Great Britain,… Read more

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How did a New York nanny become one of the great photographers of the 20th century?

Cinema

Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary about the American nanny who led a wholly secretive life as a photographer and who, posthumously, has been described as ‘one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century’. It’s a good story, which… Read more

A series of indisputable masterpieces: Nile Rodgers of Chic

The quest for the perfect guitar riff is a noble one – if not quite the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe

Television

A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old son, who’s taken up the guitar, announced that he’d learned something new. He then played a sequence of chords — approximately, Duh-duh-duuh, Duh-duh-da-duuh — that I’ve been hearing from all guitarists since I was… Read more

The Bay City Rollers (Photo: Getty)

The two men who walked barefoot to the capitals of the four nuclear powers on a peace pilgrimage

Radio

You might (if you’re over a certain age) still think it pretty amazing that TV not only allows you to watch Mario Götze put in that amazing goal, live, as it happened, in Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio Maracanã, but also… Read more

Stuart-McAdam---2014

A celebration of Scottish artistic success over the past 25 years

Culture notes

Since spring this year, art venues across Scotland have been dedicating themselves to a gigantic project called Generation. Involving more than 100 artists and 60 venues, the programme is a celebration of Scottish artistic success over the past 25 years,… Read more

Illustration, from World War I in Cartoons, Mark Bryant, Grub Street.

The completely ludicrous – and sometimes believable – world of the First World War spook

Bookends

There can’t have been this many books about the first world war since — just after the first world war. One publishing craze of the 1920s was books about spying, in which retired war spooks gave away their trade secrets… Read more

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Indiscretions from two veteran producers

Arts feature

Stars, playwrights and even set designers are constantly being lionised in the papers. But why not producers? They, after all, are the ones who choose the plays, the stars, and then make it all happen. Duncan Weldon and Paul Elliott… Read more

‘Hawk Pouncing on Partridges’, c.1827, by John James Audubon

Painted, sculpted and stuffed: a history of the bird in art

Exhibitions

These days, as the sparrows and starlings so common in my youth are growing scarce, there’s less need for a rarity like the osprey or butcher bird (the red-backed shrike) to raise awareness of the plight of birds, and with… Read more

Nederlands Dans Theatre 1, Sadlers Wells

Perfect dancing but boringly beautiful

Dance

Aesthetically speaking, last week’s performance by the Nederlands Dans Theater 1 was one by the slickest of the season. Fashionably engineered juxtapositions of black and white, sets that stun on account of their elegant simplicity and mechanical complexity, chic costumes… Read more

Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of US metal band Metallica perform at Glastonbury Photo: Getty

How do you like your pop: clean, dirty or downright soap-shy?

Music

I am still listening to the new Coldplay album, and liking it more and more, and not just because everyone keeps telling me how terrible it is. There is perversity in all enthusiasm, for sure, but the unanimity of critical… Read more

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Royal Opera's Maria Stuarda: pathos and nobility from Joyce DiDonato, lazy nonsense from the directors

Opera

London is lucky to have heard Joyce DiDonato at the height of her powers in two consecutive seasons. The American mezzo has arguably done less well out of the arrangement, however, finding herself at the centre of two disappointing new… Read more

Naturalistic: Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke as Mason, junior and senior

A miracle: a three-hour film that flies by

Cinema

Richard Linklater’s observational chronicle, Boyhood, was 12 years in the making and is 166 minutes long — that’s nearly three hours, in real money — and I wasn’t bored for a single moment. Isn’t that miraculous? Have you ever heard… Read more

Decent and enjoyable production: Tom McKay (Brutus) and Anthony Howell (Cassius)

The sweating, dust-glazed saints at the Hampstead Theatre tells us nothing new about the miners’ strike

Theatre

Hampstead’s new play about the 1984 miners’ strike was nearly defeated by technical glitches. Centre stage in Ed Hall’s production there’s a clanking great iron chute that stubbornly refused to go up and down when ordered. A bit like the… Read more

Photo: ITV/REX

Your starter for ten: why do we Brits so love University Challenge?

Television

‘Fingers on buzzers!’ says Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge. But technically this is inaccurate. Only one of the teams actually has buzzers. The other side has push-button bells, instead. I’ve been watching the programme religiously for God knows how many… Read more

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The next new presenter of Woman's Hour should be a man

Radio

It seems incredible now but when the BBC’s youth station, Radio 1, was launched in 1967 there were no female presenters. That’s right. Not a single woman’s voice to leaven the mix of Fluff, Blackburn and co. One-half of the… Read more