Parental guidance

Whisper it ever so quietly, but I think we might just be through the worst that winter has to throw at us. I’m writing this down in Dorset, and though there was a ferocious wind at West Bay, whipping up huge waves that broke spectacularly over the pier, and a peculiarly spiteful heavy shower, precisely

The Wow factor

Next month, a formidable band of women will take to the stage at the Southbank Centre for the Women of the World Festival, now in its second year. The line-up includes veteran Annie Lennox, who will perform with rising stars Katy B, Jess Mills, and Brit Award winner Emeli Sandé as part of an eclectic

A deafening silence

One morning in 2007, the music critic Nick Coleman woke up to find that he was profoundly deaf in one ear. ‘The silence did not descend silently, however. It made a small sound. You might compare it to the sound of a kitten dropping on to a pillow.’ Within an hour this pffff had developed


Retro rubbish

Joy of joys. Huge, fat, inebriating doses of adulation have been squirted all over Josie Rourke’s first show as the châtelaine of the Donmar Warehouse. It’s a breakthrough production in many ways. You have to break through the treacly tides of critical approval. Then you have to break through the Donmar’s overenthusiastic heating system, which


Sturdy specimen

A few weeks ago I was speculating anxiously on the possibility that even the greatest masterpieces, in opera or other art forms, might be exhaustible, or that anyway I might not be able to find anything fresh in them, and therefore might succumb either to a state of mild boredom, or else, like some critics,


All eyes on Melvyn’s hair

An American reporter once said to me that all television in his country was fundamentally about race, and all TV in this country was about class. There was some truth there, I thought, if exaggerated. Then in one week along comes a new Melvyn Bragg series about class and another attempt to revive Upstairs, Downstairs,


A break from posh

The actor Ed Stoppard is kicking off the year in some nice period costumes. One of our brightest young actors, he’s back at 165 Eaton Place in the new BBC Upstairs Downstairs (reviewed on page 60) playing the diplomat Sir Hallam Holland. It’s got gas masks, the Munich Crisis, cocktails, a dead pet monkey, the

The Picasso effect

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) cast a very long shadow over the 20th century, not least in England. Although he did not visit this country often, he apparently had a high regard for it, despite his somewhat sketchy knowledge of its contemporary painters. He once complained, ‘Why, when I ask about modern artists in England, am I


Golden oldies | 25 February 2012

A young Indian entrepreneur, Sonny (Dev Patel), has a brilliant idea: to open a hotel that caters for the ‘elderly and beautiful’ British tourist. He plans, in other words, to exploit that pot at the end of the service industry rainbow, the ‘grey pound’. Sonny fakes some photographs depicting what he hopes his hotel will


New world order | 25 February 2012

Not much fuss has been made about it. We might not have realised it was happening if news of the leaving bash with its tales of uninvited guests (former staff members) had not been gossiped about in the press. But from March the BBC World Service will no longer be broadcasting from Bush House, that