Maestro maker

When Margaret Thatcher imagined perfect power, she thought of the orchestral conductor. ‘She envied me,’ said Herbert von Karajan, ‘that people always did what I requested.’ Power, however, is a mirage that fades as you get close. What Mrs Thatcher saw were the trappings, never the essence. Great conductors might get the glory, but someone

Arts feature

City life

In its pomp, they used to say that what was good for General Motors, Detroit’s Medici, was good for America. Detroit was imperial. Like Rome, it stood for the whole. Michigan Avenue was like something from a Roman urbs: a decumanus maximus of this planned city that created and was enriched by the automobile. Then,


Savile exposed

Ho hum. Bit icky. Not bad. Hardly dazzling. The lukewarm response to An Audience With Jimmy Savile has astonished me. This is the best docudrama I’ve seen on stage. From the early 1970s, Britain swooned before Savile. Marketing pollsters found him the country’s best-loved celeb (bar the Queen Mum). He enforced his influence by winning


Better than Bayreuth

Which of Wagner’s mature dramas is the most challenging, for performers and spectators? The one you’re seeing at the moment, seems to be the answer for me. The better I know them, the more apprehensive I get about whether I can rise to their level, and whether the performers can, and whether we can pace


Look back in anger | 25 June 2015

‘Cringe!’ said Boy, after I’d exposed him to a few seconds of last week’s special nostalgia edition of TFI Friday. And he did have a point. From its once almost-daring name to its zany title graphics to its whatever-happened-to guest list (Shaun Ryder, Blur, Ewan McGregor), Chris Evans’s irredeemably Nineties game show now looks so



In the last two decades of her life, Barbara Hepworth was a big figure in the world of art. A 21-foot bronze of hers stands outside the UN headquarters in New York, emblematic of her friendship with secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld — a Hepworth collector — and of her international fame. This was how a modern


Maestro maker | 25 June 2015

The writer and director Peter Bogdanovich has made three of my favourite films of all time (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc?) but I don’t think I’ll be adding his latest, She’s Funny That Way, to the list. It’s a screwball comedy of the old school and, although it is slightly intriguing


Sea sound

It’s often not visual images that stimulate memory but a smell, a taste, the sound of pebbles crashing on to the beach, ice cream being scooped into a cone, seagulls circling overhead. Where was I when I first heard that sound? That’s why the National Trust (in association with the British Library sound archive) has