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Posts tagged ‘culture vulture’


Get your Culture Fix – London UK Summer 2012

Welcome break, Trafalgar Square

Welcome break, Trafalgar Square

As I type, two major forces are in the frame for affecting traditional summer cultural activities: the Olympics and the Para Olympics, and the good old British weather! Though, of course, the effect up to a million predicted tourists per day in the capital will have on the transport systems is yet to be witnessed and may well show the cries of chaos to be exaggerated. And as for the weather, well, it may be wetter and greyer so far this spring and summer than in living memory, but the resilience of the British character keeps shining through – the rain-sodden Thames Pageant to mark the Queen’s Jubilee showed that!

Nevertheless, for those who like to indulge in cultural activities, it would be wise to plan any trips carefully and to consider perhaps more events closer to home than in any other summer, thus avoiding any potential travel problems and the risk of spending hours in rain-soaked clothing. But help is at hand for those prepared to venture further, and the following link is a useful starting point:
So, armed with travel information, check out this second link to some remarkable offerings to celebrate the Olympiad:
London has become top-notch at festivals; the City of London Festival (which still has a week or so to run) offers many varied cultural events, many of them free, and many in stunning venues including some of the city’s most beautiful churches.
The London Festival of Architecture (which has just finished) likewise offered the opportunity to learn and see fascinating aspects of the city.
Theatres will continue to ply their trade, though it may well be wise to check availability beforehand. Most, including the smallest of the Fringe venues, now have websites that enable you to book in advance (some for a more modest fee than others). If you want to take a chance at the Leicester Square ticket booth, that too has a website that displays the day’s offers from around 11am and also tells you what’s on offer for the next couple of days. You can’t book from this site, but at least you’ll know whether what you want to see is available through Tkts.

Oxford Street, London

Oxford Street, London

If the weather does buck up, then there are many opportunities to get your culture fix outdoors. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is showing just two productions in rep: the American musical ‘Ragtime’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ The Globe is running a wider range, though with the return of Mark Rylance, even the groundling tickets may be hard to come by. And until 4 August, the Iris Theatre Company are presenting a promenade version of ‘As You Like It’ in the gardens of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. It’s a lively experience!
Lest we forget, sport is also culture, and having been regaled already with Euro 2012 and Wimbledon (with a Brit in the final!) there’s so much more to look forward to. Big screens will be up everywhere for communal watching, though I suspect many will be glued to their tv screens.
For those of you not over-enamoured by sport and reluctant to venture forth, a good film is always an option. Lovefilm has an enormous range on offer, and the subscription is not unreasonable.
And amazon sell some dvds of very watch-worthy films at less than the price of a cinema ticket.
Whatever you do this summer, enjoy yourselves, and, just in case it doesn’t happen before, let’s look forward to a sunny, warm autumn!
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Features writer

Culture and Kids

Listening to a speaker

There was a time, not so long ago, when ‘culture’ was almost a dirty word. A ‘culture vulture’ read a broadsheet newspaper, spoke in a drawling upper-class accent and ate smoked salmon sandwiches during the intervals at the opera. But recently the definition of culture has broadened; it now recognises and encompasses a far wider range of activities in many fields. This has brought with it a greater egalitarianism and many activities are now considered cultural where previously they were given other labels. Does this matter, you may ask? Well, yes, I believe it does. Not the labelling per se (a rose by any other name …) but the importance placed by society on the full development of the individual. Exercise for the brain as important as exercise for the body. As we become more and more a nation of shoppers (as opposed to shopkeepers) the need for balance in our lives becomes even greater.

Punch and Judy audience

The government added its cachet to the importance of culture when about three years ago it announced its ‘aspiration’ for every child at secondary school to have five hours of culture per week. Like most aspirations this is very laudable, though how it can be achieved does beg many a question. And there is probably nothing like the label cultural activities to put off a teenager and achieve the opposite effect from what was originally intended. Many schools and colleges already offer much in this field and it could be argued that including it in the current curriculum rather than presenting it as an add-on is a far more subtle way of influencing young minds.

As a Londoner and a theatre-goer I have for many years observed the shepherding of hordes of teenagers to West End plays. Indeed, as a former teacher, I have been guilty myself of the shepherding! I think I can say that I now feel less trepidation when sighting said hordes than I have in the past. Students from all areas of the education system are present, and generally speaking they are less disruptive than they have been previously. But almost invariably there are aspects of behaviour that seem peculiar to this type of member of the audience. First, there is the ritual of sitting next to your friends. This enables many of the young girls (and occasionally boys) to rest their heads on their neighbours’ shoulders, perhaps to have a comfortable shut-eye. Then there’s the question of mobile phones. Not just the young but people in general have thankfully learned to disable the ringing tone before the start of a performance, but teenagers seem unable to be out of communication for an hour or so and the lit-up screens of those intent on texting or playing games during the performance can be most distracting. But whatever the involvement with the play, there’s no doubting the enthusiasm of young audience members when it’s (finally) over. Even those who have slept or texted their way through the entire performance will whoop and cheer the cast as they take their bow as if they were a Jerry Springer audience. Maybe they’re just thankful it’s all over!

Jeannette Nelson  Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.


New Richard Bean play

The Heretic logo

The Heretic logo

A new Richard Bean play will shortly be opening at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square.  The Heretic is an interesting take on the climate change debate.

The last Richard Bean production I watched certainly courted controversy. England People Very Nice was a rumbustious romp with a cast of hundreds of all colours, shapes and sizes Bean traces the lives of waves of immigrants to London’s Bethnal Green, from the Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews to the Bangladeshis.

Newspaper critics were utterly divided on the play’s merit.  The Guardian and the Indie were less than impressed, calling it stereotypical and racist, amongst other comments.  Charles Spencer in the Telegraph loved it, and the Jewish Chronicle thought the idea of eating bacon sandwiches outside a synagogue on the day of Atonement hilarious!
It is a satire (a comment on TV called it the satire of Alf Garnett, and indeed one of the characters sports a West Ham scarf) and is cleverly helped along by using the play within a play device – the actors playing the actors are in a detention centre, waiting to hear if they have been granted permission to become British immigrants themselves.
What did I think?  I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic
Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

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