Reprise: Art then, now

Reprise: Art then, now

Another post from our archives, this time from 8 March 2011, when I was about to teach a very similar class to the one that I will give at the Royal College of Art tomorrow.

I am delighted to be contributing a quartet of classes to David Crowley’s Critical Writing in Art & Design course at the Royal College of Art. Our first two sessions considered television films about Henry Moore and then Kenneth Clark and Simon Schama. Tomorrow, the third session focusses on alternatives to the dominant traditions of arts programming on British television, and one key example is the 1987 series State of the Art that Illuminations produced for Channel 4. The series is published by us along with an interview with the series’ writer Sandy Nairne (available here as a double DVD for £39.99). It’s one of the major projects with which we’ve been involved and it remains close to the core of the company. And this despite the fact that when it was first shown it was roundly abused by almost everyone. 
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Thirty years on

Thirty years on

Even though I was giving a paper at the Channel 4 and British film culture conference on Friday, the thirtieth anniversary of the switch-on rather snuck up on me. Then it was 4.20pm and I realised that it was indeed exactly thirty years since I sat down with Michael Jackson, a future channel chief exec, to watch this…

[Wipes away tiny tear.] As I lived the moment once more (a) I felt the most intense pang of nostalgia (of course), and (b) I recognised (again) that television never has and never will mean as much to me as it did in those first years of Channel 4.
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Links for the week

Links for the week

I hardly deserve the honorific ‘fan’, but I enjoy traditional American science fiction, especially from the immediate post-war years. So I am excited to see that the exemplary Library of America series (their beautiful volumes of Henry James grace my shelves) has published American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, edited by the academic Gary K. Wolfe. There are treasures here by, among others, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson and James Blish. What’s more, the LoA blog has a thoughtful interview with editor Wolfe plus there’s a terrific complementary website (a detail from which is above), with essays, audio of related tales, and appreciations by contemporary writers such as Neil Gaiman, William Gibson and Connie Willis. Back here, as is traditional, a selection of disparate links is across the jump (with thanks for Twitter tips from, among others, @annehelen, @Chi-Humanities, @mia_out and @TheBrowser).
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The week’s links 13-19/5

The week’s links 13-19/5

I’m still not sure how best to create/curate a weekly collection of links that is useful to others. The process, however, is important to me as a way of gathering together pieces that I find useful or stimulating and so I am going to persevere. Adding new links during the week also seems to work well for me, so again I am going to continue with that for the next few weeks – sometimes jumping this page back to the top of the blog and alays keeping it as one of the blog’s ‘top three’ throughout the seven days. Across the jump you will find interesting stuff about experimental film, early photography, contemporary television and the history of colour in film. [Updated Friday 6.00am.]
Image: a framegrab detail from The Great Blondin, a triptych film by Phil Solomon (see David Bordwell link below).
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A Dickens of a day

A Dickens of a day

We cried, we cheered and we clapped (a bit), and then we cried some more. At 11.30 in the morning we set out with Nicholas, Kate and friends, plus a few enemies, on the wonderful journey that was (and, in one way, still is) the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. At my side (in the next seat but one) was co-director Sir Trevor Nunn, and he was still there nearly twelve hours and one panel discussion later. NFT3 at BFI Southbank is perhaps slightly less comfortable than I think the Aldwych Theatre was more than thirty one years ago, but did I care? June 1980 was when, on another magical Saturday, I first entered the world that Sir Trevor, co-director John Caird, adapter David Edgar and of course Charles Dickens had conjured up for me (and around a thousand others). That day was one of the great theatre experiences of my life, which I re-lived when Channel 4 showed its screen translation in late 1982 – and which I was engrossed by and felt angry with and thrilled and laughed and wept at once again yesterday.
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Nickleby & co

Nickleby & co

To BFI Southbank later for all eight hours of the Channel 4/Primetime version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. I’ve said before that the stage production, seen over a Saturday in the Aldwych Theatre in the late summer of 1980, remains one of the defining theatrical experiences of my life. And the television adaptation that followed two years later, after the theatre show had enjoyed an extraordinary success, is also pretty good. But it’s a long time since I watched the whole thing, which is what I’m to do today – in addition to chairing a panel with co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird, writer David Edgar and David Threlfall, who was such a moving Smike. As the show was coming together, The South Bank Show secured good access to the rehearsals – and much (although frustratingly not all) of Andrew Snell’s documentary is on YouTube, in what appears to be an off-air recording. For this post I have gathered up the four sections and written a few notes on each.
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Catching up…

Catching up…

Yes, I’ve been super-busy – and, yes, I feel guilty about not posting here for nearly a fortnight. So let me construct a post about a few of the things we’re involved in and also about one or two new developments relating to previous posts. First up…

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

One of the truly great coming togethers of theatre and television is the 1982 Primetime/Channel 4 adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Dickens dramatisation. The day-long immersion in its world at the Aldwych thirty years ago remains one of defining theatrical experiences of my life (see here) – and a week on Saturday, 25 February, BFI Southbank offering a chance to re-live that in a way, with an all-day screening of the television version. There’s also a Q&A with co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird, writer David Edgar and actor David Threlfall (and me as moderator). The event has been sold out for weeks (it’s in the modestly proportioned NFT3) but a few tickets are back on sale – and if you are quick you might snap one up here. If not, watch out for the blog that will follow.
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Turner time again

Turner time again

Channel 4 brings Turner Prize 2011 back to primetime tonight after a number of years when the announcement of the winner has been tucked away in Channel 4 News. Tune in from 8pm onwards to see how they handle the show, and follow the tweet stream with #tp2011. We have a particular interest (a) because of the years when we handled the coverage for the channel, and (b) because we pitched for tonight’s programme but failed to win it. So if you have any thoughts or comments about the programme, so please contribute them in the Comments below. To get into the mood, you can see Channel 4 and Tate’s short films with each of the short-listed artists here, and you can catch up on 4oD here with our More4 programme Vic Reeves’ Turner Prize Moments about the controversy and television coverage over last twenty years (above, Vic with Cornelia Parker); for background on this, see Linda’s blog here – and, again, let us know what you think below.

We need to talk about Tracey

We need to talk about Tracey

Sunday evening sees our new one-hour broadcast documentary with Vic Reeves looking back at the highs and lows of twenty years of the Turner Prize. (Why Vic Reeves? Because he’s quite a serious painter in his spare time.) Frustratingly, despite our presenter being something of a household name, Vic Reeves’ Turner Prize Moments is scheduled at 11.15pm on More4, sandwiched in between two Father Ted repeats. Broadcasters pride themselves on their scheduling skills. Don’t ask me what the logic is. Something to do with art loving Father Ted fans being insomniacs possibly?
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