Isaiah Berlin by Richard Wilkinson

Why we need parliaments

Yesterday, Canada’s Parliament was attacked by an armed man. Twenty years ago, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Toronto. The following speech was read on his behalf at the award ceremony and has just been reprinted in The New York Review of Books. It is worth hearing again…

The Pinning Stones

The Pinning Stones

Portraits from The Pinning Stones by Ray Smith On Thursday, the residents of Scotland decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and establish their own state. Whatever your view of the possible outcomes, we should be thankful that negotiations are not being conducted with arms as they are now in Ukraine. Democracy has its failings, as elected demagogues…

The Wounded Angel - Hugo_Simberg

Rulers are unteachable

Why does art not reliably improve people? After all, the argument that it has transcendent, even spiritual value has been used to justify investment of time, money and care in its acquisition since the Enlightenment. It still is today, except among the Utilitarians who foolishly persist in their belief that other people can – should…

Nash,_The_Ypres_Salient_at_Night

The darkness, in this twittering world

The revolution in information and communication technology has given us 24 hour news, social networking and instant access to the world’s horrors. The darkness in Joseph Conrad’s story was not just evil, but evil hidden: reporting it meant a long, dangerous journey to face things that even then were barely understandable. Today, as children hide on…

Boston1

Great art everywhere

A baking July afternoon in Lincolnshire. Everything feels flattened under the heat: sheep, crops, fields. The houses I pass are quiet as if people are waiting for the cool of evening to come out of doors. A wrong turn has brought me to Asgarby, a village I’ve never seen: a few houses and a lovely…

Ania Martin as Emma in the 1972 BBC production

‘When will I be loved?’

I’ve been made blue, I’ve been lied to When will I be loved? I’ve been turned down, I’ve been pushed round When will I be loved? Phil Everly (1960) For three decades, at least, the subsidised arts world has been sending love letters to the political class in the form of reports explaining why it…

Featured Image -- 2542

Can you see beyond the tent?

Originally posted on Regular Marvels:
Nicole & Martin live in a caravan: it may be the least interesting thing about them. People who live settled lives – most of us nowadays – have always regarded those who don’t with a mix of fascination and fear. Life without (apparent) ties is easily romanticised from the comfort…