Lincoln Drill Hall

Monday, 30 October 2017

Calais Children

The film Calais Children - a case to answer is a terrible indictment. I would like to say on the British government and that would be entirely true, most particularly the Home Office from top to bottom.

However, and there always is an however. We allow the problem of refugees to disappear from view. It is both too big and too small. Too small because we are talking about a few thousand children who are entitled to come to the UK. Too big because it is difficult to imagine how mass migrations of people seeking a better life either could be stopped or argued against.

The film focuses on the Dubs amendment which caused the British government to promise a place of safety to child refugees particularly those caught in the Calais Jungle.

The film tells the stories of individual children: how they are in near constant danger from adults, authorities and weather. It tells of the cynical approach adopted by Home Office officials and the Home Secretary's refusal to treat numbers as people.

This is the link to the film's website. Please take a look at this trailer

If you want to do something albeit small and you live in Lincoln, please contribute to the CompassionateLincoln collection for both refugees and those homeless closer to home.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Frequency 2017

I'll admit it; however hard I tried I couldn't 'get' Frequency. Until this year.

A couple of years ago, I was given Arduino by my children and made some circuits to see how analogue signals could be translated into digital. It kind of worked. Talking to friends around the city though, I still found myself agreeing that it was all flashing lights and sound.

Until this year; until I saw Daz Disley's Blooms and Bloom (at Lincoln University). He had produced images of space and time from flowers. He could have done it much like cartoons used to be made. Instead he harnessed the power of Boolean logic to translate one into the other.

It is all 01, 01.

Or rather it is capturing the world as we see it in a parallel binary world of millions of tiny spots. These spots, this data whether it be of image, sound or temperature, can then be worked at will.

For me this was shown in the Empire Soldiers virtual reality piece (at the Drill Hall) which took a story from the world and, with a combination of live and virtual performance, translated it into an immersive experience which communicated in a deeply effective way the story.

There is so much more. Log Book in the cathedral; Worldless in the Drill Hall cellar. Deep Data Prototype at Posterngate reminded me of Victorian scientific instruments many, possibly most, of which were beautiful in their own right. Science and Art meets.

What is most exciting is that they now have funding for the next two festivals and so can now plan to reach even further. The Festival has been recognised by no less than the New Scientist

You can visit this year's Festival website






Friday, 6 October 2017

Who was this man, William Smith Williams, who discovered Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte described him as pale, mild, stooping man of about fifty.

We know, or can infer, that his schooling brought him into contact with boys, including Keats, who would go on to careers as significant thinkers and writers. We know that his social group included or was close to some of the most exciting thinking of his time: people such as Ruskin, Thackeray and Elizabeth Gaskell.

He grew up close to theatre land and both had a great love of theatre and a deep knowledge of it. He had a love of painting, Turner in particular; he wrote on the place of Art in Design. He worked for many years for a ground breaking Lithographer, Charles Hullmandel and he wrote on the techniques and impact of Lithography.

Yet, his emergence into the public view was from a position as a book keeper, and it would seem not a very good book keeper.

But who really was William Smith Williams?

The book I am researching sets out to trace whence he came and whither he went to paint a picture of this incredibly creative time in our history which included the groundbreaking shift in the English novel that was Jane Eyre.
WSW's tomb in Kensal Green Cemetery

Monday, 2 October 2017

Lincoln Book Festival 2017 - a personal reflection

The Mona Lisa and the Pre-Raphaelites; Victorian Body Parts and The mysterious Mr Black and the Rooks; Powerful Queens and Medieval Saints; the Battle of Bosworth and the Tudor Myth; Historical Romance, the Fascinating story of The Huntingfield Paintress, and Gothic Revival at Scott's St Nicholas Newport. All this and the wonderful gothic flash fiction pieces and local history.

We have drunk deep and drunk very well.

High points? They all were.

If you click on the links you will be taken to some great pieces by Young Journalist, Ellen Lavelle.

Some 350 people wrote a gothic story in exactly 50 words; well most of them did. As I said, in some cases literacy was ahead of numeracy. The quality was high in each of the three classes: Primary, Secondary and Adult. As well as hearing the winners of our competition we heard wonderful pieces by the students of First Story. Well done to all concerned, not least the hard working English teachers and First Story's Writer in Residence, Kerry Drewery.

I move quickly to Dianne Setterfield

Dianne spoke very openly about her gothic novels and what gothic means to her. Two short quotes I will keep with me:

"Death is the counterpoint that enables us to take joy in life"

"I've got no time for Scooby Doo and the ghosts that turn out to be the janitor in disguise"

With Dianne, and Romance writers Janice Preston and Jenni Fletcher,  my understanding of gothic and romantic fiction and how they relate to each other has advanced leaps and bounds: subtle intermeshed depths.

“Romance would not be so enduringly popular if us writers failed to display the freedom and equality of women today”

I unashamedly relish David Starkey's irreverence, and how great to see teenage boys queueing to take a selfie with him. He dug back into medieval England to find the thin line of legitimacy for the tudor dynasty but then exploded it all as a carefully crafted myth.

“The myth is there from the very beginning, they didn’t just win at Bosworth, they won the ideas”

Kirsty Stonell-Walker's stories of the Pre-Raphaelite women, set alongside Kathryn Hughes entertaining survey of Victorian body parts, helped me to see much more clearly a hugely creative time in our history.

Alison Weir and Sarah Gristwood , strong women talking of strong Queens has to be a winner with comments like:

"I'm an Elizabeth Girl all the way - Take your side, Mary or Bess!

"It could never be said that these queens were mere cyphers"

Janina Ramirez held her audience in the palm of her hand as she unpacked saints and sainthood. On my bookshelf are the six volumes of Butlers Lives of the Saints. Yet I walk the coast of Northumberland and Cornwall and feel beneath my feet the prints of saints who have gone long before. I now see that sainthood digs much deeper than two millennia; our saints go back to our very beginnings.

The penultimate event was a morning on Local history revealing yet again the riches of Lincolnshire.

Topping and tailing the festival week were Martin Kemp's fascinating insights into who the Mona Lisa actually was, and the Fascinating story of The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes.

Gilbert Scott's St Nicholas Newport was the perfect place to finish with an afternoon on Gothic Revival.