Clemency Burtonhill

The public arts

At a press conference at the Hay Festival this week, broadcaster-comedienne Sandi Toksvig began with a wistful reminiscence of what arts broadcasting used to be like when she started out. ‘You could have an idea, go and see your editor, and they’d say okay, let’s do it’ she explained. ‘Now, you go to, ahem, certain

The view from Hay

As sun breaks through last night’s cloud and the beautiful Wye valley is once again bathed in dazzling sunshine, Tuesday morning seems a good moment to take stock of what was a triumphant, record-breaking bank holiday at the Hay Festival. As ever, the opening-weekend programme contained a plethora of luminaries from the worlds of books,

The laureate of intractable conflicts

Looking every inch the Brit that he isn’t, American playwright Christopher Shinn takes a bite of a sandwich in a Shepherd’s Bush rehearsal room on a rainy summer afternoon and confesses that, although grateful, he still finds it ‘a mystery’ that it should have been London’s theatrical community, rather than New York’s, that made his

Behind closed doors with the maestro

‘It has to do with the condition of being human,’ Daniel Barenboim smiles, looking remarkably relaxed for someone who’s just battled through rush-hour traffic from Stansted. The conductor, along with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, is in London on the latest stop of a European tour, but instead of resting before the next day’s epic Proms

Diary – 9 August 2008

One of the great adventures of being an actor is filming abroad, when suddenly you have the opportunity not only to visit, but actually to work somewhere else; to feel temporarily part of another city’s fabric rather than floating along its surface. This, then, comes to you from glorious, sweltering Rome, or more precisely from

Clemency suggests | 12 July 2008

Festivals In only its third year, the laid-back Latitude (17-20 July) has gained a reputation for being one of Britain’s finest festivals, and it certainly has one of the most enticing and interesting line-ups of any event this summer. More than a merely musical extravaganza, the beautiful site on Henham Park Estate in Suffolk will

Clemency suggests | 26 January 2008

FILM One of the most remarkable things about Africa is how rare it is to see Africans cry. You meet so many human beings there who are forced to endure the most unthinkable, unconscionable poverty, disease and neglect; and yet invariably they do so with a smile so big and true it breaks your heart.

Arts Council seems distinctly un-excellent…

In Piccadilly Circus this lunchtime, under an apocalyptic grey sky and wearing plain white face masks to evoke the classical symbol of the dramatic trade, a ‘flashmob’ of hundreds of actors, directors and stage professionals gathered on the steps of Eros to silently express their continued grievance with the Arts Council of England (ACE). Today

Clemency suggests

January may traditionally be the year’s grimmest month, characterised as it is by broken resolutions, misery-inducing detox diets and frightening reminders from the Inland Revenue, but at least there are some artistic treats around the corner to beat the blues (until the Arts Council get their way, that is…) The Royal Ballet is in the

Is a TV drama about the royal family sacrilege?

Filming on The Palace was only a few weeks in when the rumours started flying. ‘A tawdry and offensive affair’ trumpeted the Sunday Telegraph; ‘dreadful and offensive and very near to the bone’, added Lord St John of Fawsley; ‘a real danger [it will] undermine support for the [royal] family’, weighed in a media watchdog.

Clemency Suggests | 15 December 2007

It seems bizarre to me that book shopping at this time of year should be about negotiating your way through mountainous piles of ‘Things You Never Knew About…’ or ‘The Book of Absolutely Useless…’ -type miscellanies. Surely Christmas, with its long, lazy afternoons and that strange week of limbo between Boxing Day and New Year’s

Clemency Suggests

Books Letters of Ted Hughes – ed. Christopher Reid/Faber Finally! Moving, passionate, angry, funny, striking, brilliant and beautiful beyond belief, the collected letters of one of our greatest poets have now taken pride of place on my bedside table, and may, I suspect, be a permanent addition to the pile. They are extraordinary. For too

Politics regained?

Joe Klein, the legendary American journalist and author of Primary Colors was in town last night to talk about the US election. TimeWarner threw a champagne-soaked gathering with the great and the good at Soho Hotel, and a very lively panel discussion – with Jim Naughtie, Bronwen Maddox and Trevor Phillips – ensued. Unsurprisingly, the

One of the best places in London to hear music

I spent last night in one of my favourite places in the whole of London: Wilton’s Music Hall. Anyone who hasn’t yet been to the magical, near-derelict building which is hidden down Graces Alley near the Tower of London: go. A treat is in store for you. The place where the Can-Can was premiered—and promptly

I am proud to have been on Dave’s Rwanda trip

He was damned because he did, but he would have been equally damned if he hadn’t. David Cameron’s decision to come to Rwanda this week — which honours commitments he had made both to the country and members of his own party who are out here working on a two-week volunteering scheme called Project Umubano

‘All because of The Spectator’

Chinua Achebe is chuckling as he attempts to describe how much it means to him to have won the Man Booker International Prize. ‘How do I answer that?’ he wonders, in his soft, sing-song voice. ‘It means I am appreciated in certain quarters, that my work means something to people. When I started writing all

Cameron is taking on Brown

Nothing much is certain in British politics these days, but assuming that the next general election will pit Gordon Brown against David Cameron, we can be sure of one thing: its result will be a referendum on rebranding. Can the slick young pretender convince the cynics out there that the Conservatives are no longer a

Blood Diamond should help

Diamonds are a guerrilla’s best friend. You may have heard that it’s ‘girls’ who share a special relationship with the little sparklers, but don’t be fooled; females have simply had a rather more sophisticated advertising campaign working for them over the years. Drug-addled soldiers, morally lobotomised mercenaries and bloodthirsty terrorists are more appreciative of the

Diary – 13 January 2007

The new year is little more than a week old and while everybody else is no doubt still righteously munching lettuce leaves, joining gyms and going teetotal, I’ve already broken Personal Resolution Number One: to reduce my carbon footprint. Barely off a Ryanair flight from Provence (where we’d spent New Year in freakishly hot sunshine,

Three welcome new voices

Liars and Saintsby Maile MeloyJohn Murray, £14.99, pp. 260, ISBN 0719566444 Darien Dogsby Henry ShukmanJonathan Cape, £12.99, pp. 279, ISBN 022407282 ‘Short’ as Peter Dimock’s potent novel about the Vietnam war may be, it packs a not insignificant punch. The curious title is to be taken literally: this really is a ‘rhetoric’, in the classical