Yesterday, on Radio 4, I was listening to one of the 'culture' features (I forget which, although I think I was stuffing Spanikopita at the time, so perhaps it was Front Row). The presenter happened to mention that a lot of very interesting art is being produced in Scotland at the moment, and being exhibited in Glasgow to be precise. This was in relation to the new Saatchi exhibition in London, Newspeak, which, by the way, was described as quite uninspiring. The reviewer mentioned our friends in the Hebrides in order to point out that very little of this art ever makes its way to London, and for this reason, very rarely becomes popular in the Saatchi sense of the word. He also pointed out that the situation might be remedied if art critics from the London-based media ever actually bothered to leave their concrete-soaked environs and make the trek up North (that is, discounting the annual month-long binge that is the Edinburgh festival, in which the entire population of Hampstead is transplanted person-by-person to the leafy urb-suburbs of Stockbridge, leaving poor North London to deteriorate into a less squelchy landscape from Drowned World.)
Now, this London-centricity struck me as decidedly unsporting - bloody-minded perhaps - and got me thinking that unless we children of the Capital extend an stuffed olive or two up North soonish, our Caledonian compatriots might just as well devolve off entirely (aka claim independence from the English oppressor) and take all their desirable socialist principles with them, leaving Bohemians like me stranded on a mere bit of an island inhabited entirely by Tories. Clearly, this will not do.
Thankfully, these reflections chime with the exciting news that I will soon be heading up North - not to Scotland sadly, but better near than ... never - to the bustling industrial city of Newcastle, which Melody tells me is a cross between a Jules Vernesque cityscape and Reading: FUN!
The occasion is the launch of a poetry collection to mark ten years since the passing of Newky poet Barry MacSweeney, who also wrote a collection called Odes. The title of the new collection, complied by poetry wizard Linus Slug, is no coincidence, although following in MacSweeney's wake has proved tough (I myself am a contributor) due to the complex historical inheritance of the ode form, as well as MacSweeney's own unique interpretations. Some questions raised include what is an antistrophe? What would Sappho have done? Was Elizabeth I altogether fair to Spencer? To find the answer to these questions, you're just going to have to purchase the beautiful book aren't you?
There's a facebook group which contains a beautiful album of photos charting the books' creation, as well as ample information on Slug's ninerrors blog. Oh, and the reading takes place in Morton Tower in Newcastle on Sunday 27th June. Why not come and drink wine with us afterwards? They tell me its grim up North, but with a Megabus heading staight for Pimlico booked for 8am on Monday, who cares?
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