Damian Thompson

Matchless mono

Record companies: if you insist on sending CDs to my home address without so much as a covering note or a press release, well, that’s just fine by me. West Hill Radio Archives, I can’t say I’d heard of you, but the discs of Toscanini and the BBC Symphony Orchestra that landed on my doormat

Arts feature

Lonely Lakelander

Five years ago I had never heard of Percy Kelly (1918–93). I knew the work of some Cumbria artists, and much admired the dark and moody landscapes of Sheila Fell (1931–79), for instance, but Percy Kelly had not then registered on my radar. He was already highly regarded in the Lake District, but it was

More from Arts

A world apart | 22 November 2012

Although the starving artist in the garret is no longer the favourite public stereotype, painters and sculptors remain something of a mystery even to those who spend time looking at their work. So a film that helps to explain their assorted motivations can only be a good thing, and one as lucid and entertaining as

The Dagenham Dustbin

For those of us who find passion in national iconography, this is a melancholy historical moment. It’s a very bad time for British manufacturing and an even worse one for British symbols. The Chinese-owned maker of the London taxi (which Charles Eames described as one of the greatest designs of all time) is going bust.


Warring outcasts

Are we barmy or what? Our mawkish obsession with the first world war demonstrates that we’re in the grip of a mass delusion: institutional sentimentality. The latest symptom of our death-mania is Nick Dear’s engaging play about the pastoral poet Edward Thomas, who was killed in action in 1917. Thomas began writing verse aged 36


Change of heart | 22 November 2012

I think I have developed a crush on Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, which is strange, considering that it is so evidently adorable a work that most opera-goers fall for it straight away. I have never been averse to it, in the way that I am to quite a lot of Donizetti’s work, but in the light


Top of their game

God, I’m jealous of Michael Gove. Not for being a cabinet minister in the same coalition as Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, obviously, but for being outed as a queer in the new series of Harry & Paul (BBC2, Sunday). Now that’s what I call fame. Harry & Paul has had mixed reviews. Some of


Keeping the faith

In 1929 the founder of Italian Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, reported from Milan that, after a wartime setback, the movement was ‘in full working order’ under the leadership of ‘the very young and very ingenious Bruno Munari’. Bruno Munari (1907–1998) was 22 at the time. He had arrived in Milan two years earlier as a

Concealed treasures

The Holburne Museum of Bath is a delight. Its collections were formed by Sir William Holburne (1793–1874), a naval officer who first saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar at the age of 12 and retired to Bath in 1820 to dedicate his celibate life — he shared his house with his three sisters —

Dressed to impress

Does the costume make the man or the man the costume? Well, a little bit of both if the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A is to be believed. Five years in the making, this collection of more than 100 of the most iconic outfits in movie history, from Scarlett O’Hara’s green ‘curtain’ gown to


Faking it | 22 November 2012

The star of Gambit, it seems, is the Savoy. And why not? Nobody else seems to want to lay claim to this movie, a refashioning of the 1966 art con caper that starred Michael Caine. Not even Colin Firth, who spends a fair amount of time in the new film unhappily legging it, trouserless, up


Short changed

Was that it? Was that the sum total of 90 years of radio? Radio Reunited, the three-minute ‘celebration’ of the first BBC wireless broadcast in November 1922, was a very odd affair. Billed as a revolutionary simulcast to a ‘potential’ 120 million listeners round the world, playing out on all the BBC’s radio stations at