John clare

A walled garden in Suffolk yields up its secrets

In the hot summer of 2020, during the Covid pandemic, Olivia Laing and her husband Ian moved from Cambridge to a beautiful Georgian house in a Suffolk village and began work on restoring the neglected, extensive walled garden behind it. She was vaguely aware that the garden had been owned and loved by the well-known garden designer and plantsman Mark Rumary, who had died in 2010. He had been the landscape director for the East Anglian nursery of Notcutts, and I remember him as a genial man overseeing extensive, award-winning tree and shrub exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show in the 1980s. I once owned a copy of the Notcutts

What convinces Jeremy Corbyn that ‘there is a poet in all of us’?

Much like its editors, I have no idea who Poetry for the Many is for. However, the choir it preaches to is quickly identified. It opens with a dedication to Julian Assange, the free speech martyr in no way a narcissist patsy for a hostile state. A member of UB40 summarises the book’s aim on the jacket: to ‘encourage the working classes to embrace and enjoy culture’. Elsewhere, in the course of four separate introductions, I divine some plan to make poetry both politically relevant and accessible to the lower orders. This project apparently requires the literary advocacy of Len McCluskey and Jeremy Corbyn. They have written personal introductions to

Folk music is still very much alive and kicking

As a writer who obsesses over the right title to grab a target audience, seeing a book subtitled ‘Song Collectors and the Life and Death of Folk Tradition’ I say, count me in. It’s a challenging subject, not often trodden with aplomb. I wasn’t even dissuaded when the first line on the inner jacket — ‘This is the first ever book about song collectors…’ — caused me to wonder what those multiple volumes cluttering up my groaning shelves were. Michael Church could have started with Mary Beth Hamilton’s admirable study of blues collectors, In Search of the Blues (2007), an excellent template. Instead, the five-book checklists at the end of