Tristram Hunt

Tristram Hunt is director of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

How Damien Hirst ruined Devon

There are few better locations to resist la rentrée than the wilds of Exmoor. The late August heather and gorse. The hidden coves. The bracken and this year’s superb crop of blackberries. Then the rain. So much rain (though of course the reliably incompetent South West Water still has a hosepipe ban in place). The

Tristram Hunt: How to repatriate art

At the start of last year, the Leopard Inn in Burslem, the scene of the celebrated meeting between potter Josiah Wedgwood and engineer James Brindley to agree the navigation of the Trent and Mersey Canal, ‘went on fire’. Close by, the Wedgwood Institute, founded by William Gladstone in 1863 as a design school, and proudly

As V&A director, I won’t save Clive of India

‘Pray for us St Sebastian that we may deserve to pass through this pestilence,’ reads the inscription on a 15th-century reliquary imploring the patron saint of plague victims to assist Augsburg as the city faced another disease outbreak. Today, this exquisite silver offering — set with rock crystal, pearls and sapphires — sits alone in

Diary – 7 February 2019

‘There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much,’ enthused the great French couturier Christian Dior. ‘I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking.’ And that was in the 1950s. If pre-sales for the V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Diary – 28 March 2018

On the gently lapping shores of the Persian Gulf, in the steely shadow of the Burj Khalifa, I bump into former chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw: I in my dishevelled blue trunks, he in his well-fitted white T-shirt (always strong on uniforms). We are guests of the Varkey Foundation’s global summit on education

Diary – 12 October 2017

I used to long for mid-October when I could say goodbye to the hot rooms, cold buffets, and warm white wine of party conference season. But ever since I swapped politics for the world of museums, I have happily rediscovered those autumnal weeks of blackberries, spider webs and London returning to life after summer. At

Diary – 22 September 2016

‘Are you here to seek political asylum?’ asked a clever young student after my lecture at the National University of Singapore. It has certainly not been a great start to the political year: the Boundary Commission abolished my constituency and Jeremy Corbyn’s office declared me a ‘non-person’ by placing me on a list of 13

Theresa May has done a poor job of stealing Labour’s clothes

‘I don’t think we are a charity.  We are a successful, multi-national educational institution,’ explained the public school head to me. And he was right. As it happens, he was a highly progressive head committed to using the wealth and resource he enjoyed to collaborate with an under-performing local academy.  For the first time, their

Labour’s England problem

In the window of a council house on a working-class estate in Exeter was a sticker bearing the cross of St George and a simple warning: ‘If this flag offends you, why not consider moving to another country?’ For some canvassers working on Labour MP Ben Bradshaw’s 2015 campaign, such a symbol naturally meant the

Diary – 14 January 2016

Whatever you do, don’t allow your six-year-old to be caught short at Crewkerne station. With the rain pouring and the wind howling, my daughter needed the loo. But it was locked. And no staff anywhere to be seen. So I pressed the ‘Help’ button on one of those machines that have replaced stationmasters. ‘How can

Diary – 3 September 2015

‘Devon, Devon, Devon/ Where it rains six days out of seven.’ Nothing beats a British seaside holiday. And north Devon is especially blessed when it comes to vibrant weather patterns. We have watched in awe this summer as high-pressure systems from the Continent have collapsed in the face of sturdy Atlantic lows and extreme weather

Here’s why we should save the Wedgwood Museum

A public appeal has been launched to save the Wedgwood Museum pottery collection, which is being sold to pay off the ceramics firm’s pension bill. The museum entered administration in 2010 after the firm collapsed and its £134m pension debts were transferred to the museum trust. The Art Fund said it had raised about £13m

Caught between Marx and a monster

‘Curious to see Mrs Aveling addressing the enormous crowd, curious to see the eyes of the women fixed upon her as she spoke of the miseries of the dockers’ homes, pleasant to see her point her black-gloved finger at the oppression, and pleasant to hear the hearty cheer with which her speech was given.’ So

Labour must make itself a movement again

‘As you enter the dock the sight of the forest of masts in the distance, and the tall chimneys vomiting clouds of black some, and the many coloured flags flying in the air, has a most peculiar effect … Nearly everywhere you meet stacks of cork, or else yellow bins of sulphur, or lead-coloured copper-ore.