Paternal pride

It is a glorious moment in the life of any music-loving parent when your progeny develop their own fierce musical tastes, and start looking rather askance at yours. My case may be extreme, as my two children have had to put up with my music for years. As previously mentioned in these columns, my tinnitus

Period piece

Opera North’s latest and most ambitious outreach project is a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, which will end its tour with a month’s run from mid-August at the Barbican. The second performance in the Grand Theatre Leeds went down very well, and I’m sure that the whole run will be a great success. 

Arts feature

Long revision

In 1966, under the influence of ideas about chance, the artist Tom Phillips pledged to take as the foundation for his next work the first book that he could find for threepence. That book, discovered in a junk shop on Peckham Rye, was a long-forgotten Victorian romance in journal form, A Human Document by W.H.

Outside edge

Unimpressed by the relentless barrage of blockbusters, Andrew Lambirth singles out some small-scale gems Although it can’t be easy to run a major museum in this country, and balance the books as well as fulfil a remit to provide the best possible conspectus of past and contemporary art for the general public, our museums are


Select all. Delete all

If you want to see Scotland’s superiority complex in action, take a look at its literary culture. The works of Hume, Boswell, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson adorn libraries the world over, and it suits Scotland’s arts lobby to pretend that the age of excellence is still alive. It’s great PR and it justifies


Fond farewell | 19 May 2012

Now and again a sitcom gag lodges in the public mind. In 1974, Ronnie Barker, in Porridge, was reminiscing about Top of the Pops and its all-girl dance troupe, Pan’s People. ‘There’s one special one — Beautiful Babs,’ he says. Beat. ‘Dunno what her name is.’ Her name was Babs Lord. She attracted the attention


Domestic bliss

At Home with the World, the Geffrye Museum’s latest exhibition (until 9 September), reinterprets objects from its permanent collection, highlighting those from overseas or those that have been influenced by other cultures. Because the museum concentrates on the changing styles and tastes of the urban middle class, rather than of the aristocracy, we can appreciate

Continental drift

Why did Florence become a hotspot for Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century? Henry James, Edith Wharton, John Singer Sargent and a gang of other American artists and writers descended on the Arno, often for years at a time. Sargent, born in Florence, the son of a Philadelphia eye surgeon, didn’t get

A most eccentric master

In 1895 the Spanish art collector John Charles Robinson donated a picture to the National Gallery. ‘On the whole I think it is very much above the average of this most eccentric master’s work,’ he phrased his offer less than enticingly. ‘At the same time you know the man was mad as a hatter and

Inside No. 10

We are standing in the wood-panelled anteroom to the state rooms at No. 10 Downing Street — myself, Mo Hussein, David Heaton and Janice Blackburn, the former curator of the Saatchi Gallery who has been putting examples of contemporary decorative art and design into No. 10 since last July. We gaze up at Michael Eden’s


Tough at the top

The first thing you should know is that I love, adore and worship Sacha Baron Cohen and have this fantasy whereby we get married and set up home in Notting Hill as a power couple and when the phone rings and it’s Richard Branson I will say, ‘I’m so sorry, Dick, but we can’t come


Lives of others | 19 May 2012

He was accused of listening too much to the ‘wrong people’, of being ‘too deferential’, not judgmental enough. Sometimes those he interviewed afterwards said that he was like ‘a ferret’, who pried too deeply into their lives, ‘looking for the facts that he wanted’. But Tony Parker, who died in 1996, gave a voice to