Raeburn - Walter Scott (Detail)

An artist out of time

I was driving home through the Scottish Borders—like Debatable Lands everywhere, this lovely region is used to strangers—when I passed a sign to Abbotsford. I’d seen images of Sir Walter Scott‘s home that had given me the impression of a vast faux-baronial pile, filled with the historical paraphernalia one might associate with the creator of…

A pastel sketch by Edwin Smith of Olive Cook and (knitting) his mother. It was given to me by Olive at our first meeting in the 1990s/

National Treasures

Gunnie Moberg (1941-2007) was a photographer, painter and designer, born in Sweden and an Orkney woman by adoption. A small grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled Orkney Library and Archive to acquire and conserve her archive. A website has just gone live to begin to tell the story of Gunnie Moberg, her work…

396px-Alistair_Cooke,_head-and-shoulders_portrait,_facing_front,_gesturing_with_left_hand,_during_interview,_March_18,_1974

Artful integrity: on Alistair Cooke

In August 1983, New York experienced a heat wave of unusual ferocity. One evening, in his 15th floor apartment overlooking Central Park, the BBC’s correspondent, Alistair Cooke, sought to divert himself with a video. He was disappointed to find the screen displaying only bands of illegible colour, though the sound appeared unaffected. Thinking the tape…

Jochen Gerz, ‘Platz des Unsichtbaren Mahnmals’, Saarbrucken, 1990

What is the Parliament of Dreams?

When I started this site, at the beginning of last year, I called it the Parliament of Dreams because I’ve used that metaphor to suggest how I see the unique place of art in democratic society, It was an idea that I had been thinking about since the late 1990s but I hadn’t found an…

1103px-Woody_Guthrie

All I wanted to do

‘This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all…

Sherlock Holmes (Moore & Reppion)

Copyright vs. the Honesty Box

‘Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing… Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors… to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families.’ The Statute of Anne (1710) The digital reformation The effect of new digital and…

JL-3-800x576

Drawing together

A couple of years ago Deborah Aguirre Jones  began a project working with women experiencing mental health problems in Bristol, where she lives. Supported by a local organisation, Creativity Works, she invited the participants to make drawings to be given to local women artists, who would make a drawing in exchange. Over a period of weeks,…

Mary_Cassatt_The_Reader_1877

Literary novels and the Counter-Reformation

The priests of the Temple of Literature have been issuing instruction, as the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced. John Walsh, writing in the Independent, was relieved by what he saw as the return of the literary novel. Since it may not be immediately apparent what such an object might be, he helpfully…

Evidence, politicians and the value of debate

A meeting of cultural researchers was held in Lefkosia (Nicosia) this week, under the auspices of the Cyprus Presidency of the European Union. Participants from across the continent expressed a common concern about cutbacks on cultural spending, as governments struggle with recession and debt. In country after country, budgets for culture are being reduced and…

‘Billy, Me & You’

Last autumn Nicola Streeten published her first comic book. Billy, Me & You is about a couple coming to terms with the loss of a small child. It is a personal account, some 15 years after the event, of an unanticipated death and a long journey of recovery. Streeten draws on – in every sense…