Tonight it’s the Last Night of the Proms for me. I know most people celebrated this oddly English and – especially in the current climate – deeply contradictory occasion a month ago. But for me Saturday 8 October is the ‘Last Night’. That’s because, for the second year in a row, I have been listening in order to every minute of every Prom using the wonderful BBC iPlayer Radio app. Which has allowed me to access and download every Prom since the unscheduled ‘La Marseillaise’ on 15 July and then listen at my leisure. I have found this to be a quintessentially informative, educational and entertaining experience. Thank you, BBC! read more »
Perhaps I’ve mentioned that I am writing a book about screen adaptations of Royal Shakespeare Company productions? I’m currently in the middle of researching and drafting the first of six chapters, which is intended both to introduce the key ideas of the volume and to explore media versions of productions from the Stratford Memorial Theatre before 1960. That was the year that Peter Hall created the RSC out of a company that had a history going back to 1879.
Before 1960 there were both film and television versions of Stratford productions, although the dominant adaptation medium was radio. Radio, I recognise, doesn’t entirely align with ‘screen’, but even so wireless versions of interwar and post-war Stratford stagings feel like they should be part of my story. We have no recordings of most of these, but there is at least one very remarkable – and I think all-but-unknown – archival survivor. Today I heard, some 67 years after it was broadcast, a recording of Peter Brook’s ground-breaking 1950 Stratford production of Measure for Measure with John Gielgud and Barbara Jefford. read more »
The usual weekly offering of links to articles and videos that I have found interesting or stimulating over the past seven days. Thanks as usual to those who have pointed me towards some of them, via Twitter and in other ways, and apologies for the absence of appropriate name-checks. First, watch this:
Today the great archivist and social historian Rick Prelinger has released on Vimeo (and I’ve embedded below) his 2013 feature-length film No More Road Trips? under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike license. This means that we can watch for free and share this astonishing collection of home movies about travel in 20th-century America. But we can also remix, transform and build upon the film as long as we provide appropriate credit, that this is done for non-commercial purposes and that the results are shared under the same license.
A journey from the Atlantic Coast to California made from a collection of 9,000 home movies, No More Road Trips? reveals hidden histories embedded in the landscape and seeks to blend the pleasures of travel with premonitions of its end. The soundtrack for this fully participatory film will be made fresh daily by the audience, who will be encouraged to recall our shared past and predict the future. This is a silent movie meant to be shown to audiences that ask questions, make comments, disagree with one another, and generally act like vocal sports spectators or the rowdies in the pit in front of the Elizabethan stage.
With my colleague Dr Irene Morra from Cardiff University, I am working on a major international, interdisciplinary academic conference to be held at Senate House next June. ‘Britain, Canada, and the Arts: Cultural Exchange as Post-war Renewal’ will coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, and we have begun to send out the Call for Papers, which I am happy to reproduce here. Do please consider submitting an abstract if you feel you have a contribution to make to the event – or do be in touch with other thoughts about what we think is a completely fascinating, and largely unexplored, topic. read more »
Last weekend our friend Dr Billy Smart circulated by e-mail to a handful of colleagues a touching tale of a second-hand book. Billy was Research Officer for the excellent and just-completed research project The History of Forgotten Television Drama in the UK at Royal Holloway University of London. I liked the story so much that I asked if I could feature it on the blog, and Billy kindly agreed.
Dr Billy Smart writes: An unremarkable envelope comes through my door this morning, but one that sets off a chain of reflections about publishing, posterity and the value of a play as a commodity. read more »
As I fly back to the UK through multiple Sunday timezones, here are links to articles and videos that I have found interesting or stimulating over the past seven days. Thanks as usual to those who have pointed me towards some of them, via Twitter and in other ways, and apologies for the absence of appropriate name-checks.
Or, a post in three chapters. I have been in Brisbane for just about a week now, and I think it’s fair to say that, despite the weather having been so-so, I’m a little bit in love with the city. Built on either side of the Brisbane river, it feels human and humane. I’m a big fan of the sweeping riverside paths that divide bikeways from pedestrians. And I’m enormously enthusiastic about the vaporetto-like council-operated CityCat water buses that speed from landing stage to landing stage. Plus, there’s free wi-fi right across downtown. I was invited here by the University of Queensland, and that’s the focus of chapter 2 below, followed by a strange – and I hope entertaining – tale of my day off yesterday in chapter 3. But first, a mention of the city’s two exceptional art galleries. read more »
Among many other excellent activities, my friend and colleague Luke McKernan, who is Lead Curator, News and Moving Image at the British Library, curates the invaluable Picturegoing website. As the site succinctly explains, ‘Picturegoing is an ongoing survey reproducing eyewitness testimony of viewing pictures, from the seventeenth century to the present day.’
Many of the entries, which are drawn from diaries, letters, memoirs and more, feature people bearing witness to watching films. But from time to time Luke unearths a fragment written by someone who has just watched television. As he has with his most recent post, ‘”Gerald Cock Presents” – Review of Television Programmes’, written by Kenneth Baily and published in The Era on 14 October 1936. Reading it, I felt much as I imagine a historian of the early modern world might feel when generously offered an unknown incunabulum. Suddenly and excitingly, a fragment of the past was illuminated for the first time. read more »