Arts feature

Down but not out | 3 March 2012

It’s not every J.D. Wetherspoon’s pub that has a preservation order slapped on it. In fact, I’m prepared to bet there’s only one: The Trafalgar in Portsmouth, Grade II-listed in 2002 for its mural by Eric Rimmington. Rimmington was 23 in 1949 when he won the commission to decorate the clubroom of the old Trafalgar

Natural selection

Andrew Lambirth meets the artist John Hubbard, whose work is concerned with atmosphere and the spirit of place John Hubbard makes paintings about landscape which draw upon his early training in America and the influence of the Abstract Expressionists. But his pictures are far from abstract images: they are about the play of light through

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On the ropes

‘Aerial’ ballets were all the rage in late-Victorian London. It mattered little that they were more circus acts than actual ballets; their female stars, swinging from either a trapeze or sturdy ropes, were worshipped on a par with the greatest ballerinas — as in Angela Carter’s novel Nights at the Circus. I often wonder what


Cold at heart

‘A masterpiece comparable with the last great plays of Shakespeare’, ‘a veritable turbocharged dynamic of music’, ‘a cliffhanger’, ‘a rollercoaster of a drama’ — which opera deserves these and many more ecstatic epithets? They all occur in the brief programme notes to last week’s concert performance at the Barbican of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito,

Bohemian bliss

Strange sort of classic, Hay Fever. Written when Noël Coward was an unknown actor, it won him no converts among producers. He couldn’t get anyone to stage it. The title is weak and vague. The script lacks incident and action. And the humour is more subtle than audiences were used to. Only after Coward had


Kindred spirits

There’s a game you have to play at the BBC and Jeremy Paxman plays it very well — which is why he is currently still the most famous Old Malvernian after C.S. Lewis whereas I’m way down the list at maybe fourth, fifth or sixth. The rules are very simple: no matter how great your


Losing its edge

Last November the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles held its annual fund-raising gala. Previously the event had used the tried-and-tested formula of wheeling in celebrity hosts such as Lady Gaga to try to persuade the great and good of Los Angeles to part with cash to fund the museum’s programme. This time, however,

All the fun of the fair | 3 March 2012

It is easy to take the art and antiques fair for granted. After all, thousands of them take place every year, from humble events in village halls — cardboard boxes, old newspaper and cups of tea — to fairs so glamorous that on opening nights the ticket alone can cost $5,000. It was not ever

Miniatures to dazzle

Alongside his distinguished career as a painter, Howard Hodgkin has also long been a collector of note. As a schoolboy at Eton he was given to bouts of running away but while briefly in situ his art master, Wilfrid Blunt (the brother of Anthony), borrowed a 17th-century Indian painting of a chameleon from the Royal


Going nowhere | 3 March 2012

The first and perhaps only thing to really say about Hunky Dory is that it is anything but. It is not hunky dory at all. Instead, it is half-baked and tiresome. I’d had rather high hopes for it. It’s a ‘let’s-put-on-a-show!’ film set in a Welsh comprehensive during the long hot summer of 1976 —

People like us | 3 March 2012

This week A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s deceptively simple domestic drama, added the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film to its trophy case. Its success abroad has been attributed largely to its universally recognisable premise; unlike much Iranian cinema, Farhadi’s film feels modern, offering an intimate snapshot of social divisions in present-day Tehran. Most Western audiences


Archive treasures

It’s a bit of a surprise to discover that my young nephews are huge fans of radio. Since Radio 4 abandoned programmes designed for children, and CBeebies disappeared from the airwaves, radio has become a kids-free zone. What on earth do they find to listen to? Why, of course, Radio 4 Extra, and especially the