Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Crucible 2

Jubilee IV - Lynn Chadwick
Despite it having been recommended by several friends, whose opinions I value, I was nevertheless blown away by the sheer magnificence of the Crucible 2 exhibition in and around Gloucester Cathedral.

To begin with I wasn't prepared for the number of works on display - 100 in all.  It took us four and a half hours to view them all, with a only a short break for lunch in the Cathedral Cafe.

Nor for the fact that I would really like so many of them.  There were less than a dozen that didn't appeal, physically or conceptually, but these were more than outnumbered by ones that I would have have happily carried home, had my rucksack been big enough or my purse deep enough to do so.

My favourites included:

Display No More in Vain the Lofty Banner by Ralph Brown inscribed with words from Anne Finch's poem All is Vanity
'Display no more, in vain, the lofty banner, 
For see! where on the bier before ye lies
The pale, the fall'n, th'untimely sacrifice
To your mistaken shrine, to your false idol honour!'

There was a graceful movement to the piece that I found very aappealing.

The two figures are roughly sculpted with little detail and only one point of contact, yet they speak so eloquently of the nature and depth of the relationship they portray.

Collateral by Deborah Van Der Beek
The horse's head, cast in bronze is embedded with war debris from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The teeth are spent bullets, and there is  a carving of a hand cradling a baby's head.  Despite its beauty it is not any easy piece to look at. 

These three sculptures were displayed in the cathedral where taking photos would have been difficult because of the light and the crowds.  But I did manage to capture a few in the grounds, including my very favourite, Jubilee IV by Lynn Chadwick (above and below), which I love for the couple's confidence and sense of purpose as they stride forth from the main entrance.

Jubilee IV from the side

Sitting Couple on Bench - Lynn Chadwick
Pilgrim - David Backhouse
(Backhouse's Cloaked Rider can be seen outside the Hotel du Vin in Bristol)
I came away feeling privileged to have seen so much beauty and marvelling at the talent that enables the sculptor to conceive of and then execute works that demonstrate what it means to be human and touch us at our very core.

If you can get to Gloucester before the exhibition ends on Friday then I would urge you to do so.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

This Weekend ...

... was one of political engagement.

On Friday evening I signed up for a double bill of two of my heroes at Bristol's excellent Festival of Ideas.

First up was Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the British civil liberties advocacy organisation, who spoke about her new book On Liberty. Liberty celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and Shami reflected on the differences, and similarities, of the issues it has faced then and now.  The audience was particularly interested in her views on anti-terrorist legislation and the government's proposal to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Next up was Owen Jones, left wing author and commentator, who spoke about his book The Establishment.  In his opinion the biggest threat to our democracy lies in the power exerted by those at the top (politicians, the media, directors, bankers etc) and he issues a powerful rallying call for them to be challenged.  He ended by quoting the late great Tony Benn who said 'You see there are two flames burning in the human heart all the time.  The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world.'

Well on Saturday I did my bit.  I travelled up to London to take part in the TUC Britain Needs a Pay Rise march.  I'm a member of Unison and I joined tens of thousands fellow unionists, representing an impressive range of unions, to protest against the deeply damaging effects of our coalition government's austerity programme. According to Frances O'Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, the avergage worker is £50 a week worse off then in 2007 and 5 million earn less than the living wage, while top directors now earn 175 times more than the average worker.  It's just not fair and we were there to tell them so.

Maybe it was just the beginnings of a cold I glibly thought would pass, or maybe it was the 14 hour round trip with all that marching/dancing to the samba band and standing listening to the speeches, but today's been a washout.  I've spent half the day in bed and the other half on the sofa.  I hope I'm not too old for this demonstrating lark because I fear there'll be need for more of before we're done with building a better world to live in.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

This Weekend ...

Breakfast at Katie & Kim's Kitchen

... I tried out a new cafe.
It's called Katie & Kim's Kitchen and can be found in Picton Street.  I don't know where I first heard of it.  Maybe Twitter, where I discover most interesting things.  Anyway, it's run by two young former art students (Katie & Kim!) who won the British Street Food Awards in 2013, and have served food from a converted horsebox and a local pub before opening a cafe cum restaurant with a constantly changing menu of soup, bread, scones, sausage rolls and cakes.  It's a long walk from Bedminster to Montpelier so I ordered a plate of sourdough with ewe's curd, thyme and Greek honey to go with my coffee.  The curd was delicious and, as ever, I wondered why my sourdough isn't as holey as anyone else's.

... I bought a new pair of trainers and a pair of trousers.
I've somehow damaged my plantar fascia and have been advised to wear trainers to support the ball of my right foot.  The cheap and nasty trainers I bought for my short-lived experiment with jogging have come to the end of their life and needed replacing.  I search in vain for something attractive but ended up with a pair of fairly boring black trainers that will have to do.
The trousers are from the M&S Sculpt and Lift range.  Heads will be turned!

... I took the opportunity to walk down a few new streets and was rewarded for my efforts

Parish boundary in Bristol's Old City

Colourful facades in Montpelier

Bristol from the top of Spring Hill

... I took part in Bristol's Festival of Song.
The Gasworks Singers sang in St George's on Saturday and around the harbourside on Sunday.  I was also treated to some inspiring singing and was particularly impressed by Kettle of Fish and Original Sing both of whom have gigs coming up in The Folk House.

That's all!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

This Weekend ...

... I bought two sea bream from our friendly new market fishmonger and cooked them according to his instructions.  They were delicious.

... I made a blanket for the homeless from three lengths of the 7 mile scarf I'd helped knit to link Aldermaston to Burghfield earlier this summer.

... I enjoyed lunch at No 1 Harbourside (pork & sage arancini with spiced apricot jam, baked English Camembert with courgette pickle and a salad of green beans, spring onions, raisins and cumin seeds).

... I was greatly encouraged by Will & Testament, a film documenting the life and work of Tony Benn, one of my heroes and a continuing inspiration to all who strives for justice and fairness.

... I baked batches of cookies (cranberry, white chocolate and walnut) and scones for a Bristol Pound Open House, and hopefully persuaded a few friends to sign up and start spending them.