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Showing posts from September, 2021

Timespan – Reimagining the Museum

Now is the Time When it was announced in July that the Helmsdale based Timespan organisation had been shortlisted for the 2021 Art Fund Museum of the Year prize, it was vindication for a venture that in recent times has sought to redefine what a museum can be. With a prize of £100,000 at stake, and £15,000 apiece going to the five nominees, the award gives a significant material boost for the winner, enabling them to develop concrete plans as well as raising their public profile.   As the smallest and arguably most low-key of the nominees, Timespan’s already progressive reputation has developed over the last thirty-five years in a village with a population of less than 800. If Timespan was named as winner of the Art Fund prize, both it and the village would potentially be transformed even more. Not that Timespan has been shy of pushing the envelope, both before and during the tenure of the museum’s current director, Sadie Young.   With Young in post since 2017, the Sutherland based ins

Ken Hutchison - An Obituary

Ken Hutchison - Actor   Born November 24, 1948; died August 9, 2021     Ken Hutchison, who has died aged 72, was an actor probably best remembered for his lead roles in two 1970s television plays by Peter McDougall. Screened as part of BBC TV’s Play for Today strand, Just Another Saturday (1975), and Just a Boys’ Game (1979), were both directed by John Mackenzie, who would go on to oversee The Long Good Friday.    In Just Another Saturday, Hutchison appeared alongside Billy Connolly as the head of an Orange Lodge walk. In Just a Boy’s Game, Hutchison formed a double act with Frankie Miller as a feckless boozer unable to face up to his domestic responsibilities.   Hutchison appeared in five Play for Todays overall, including Mackenzie’s production of Alan Garner’s cult classic, Red Shift (1978). He also appeared in the very first edition of the series, appearing alongside Kinks singer Ray Davies in The Long Distance Piano Player (1970), written by Alan Sharp. His last Play for Today saw

Mikis Theodorakis - An Obituary

Mikis Theodorakis – c omposer, politician, activist   Born July 29, 1925; died September 2, 2021    Mikis Theodorakis, who has died aged 96, was a composer whose idealistic vision of  fusing classical and popular music came to embody an oppositionist Greek spirit, even as it confounded artistic expectations. The composer channelled his philosophy into his infectiously catchy bouzouki based score for Michael Cacoyannis’ film, Zorba the Greek (1964). By far Theodorakis’ most famous composition, Zorba’s tune was based on Greek folk dance, the sirtaki, and in the film saw Anthony Quinn dance with Alan Bates on the beach. The tune caught the popular imagination, and became a symbol of Greek bonhomie across the globe.   Zorba was the most high profile example of Theodorakis’ maverick vision, which he applied to his politics as much as his art. He was a passionate advocate of leftwing causes that saw him hold public office, where he attempted to bridge leftism with less radical forces. Theodo

Jean-Paul Belmondo - An Obituary

Jean-Paul Belmondo – Actor, producer Born April 9, 1933; died September 6, 2021   Jean-Paul Belmondo, who has died aged 88, was an actor who epitomised 1960s Gallic cool. Coming to prominence during the French nouvelle vague, Belmondo became a star after appearing opposite Jean Seberg in A bout de souffle (Breathless) (1960). With a restless gait, a broken nose, and a way of hanging a cigarette from his lips with a loucheness few could match, Belmondo became the golden boy of the new wave.    For intellectually inclined directors such as Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Pierre Melville and Louis Malle, he became their very own rebel without a cause, as they projected their desire for anti-establishment action upon him. While they theorised their European dissections of American genre flicks, for a while, at least, he embodied their counter-cultural ideal.    This was the case too for non-French directors, including Vittorio De Sica, who directed Belmondo alongside Sophia Loren in Two Women

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze - An Obituary

Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze – Poet, performer Born March 11, 1956; died August 4, 2021     Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, who has died aged 65 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was a poet and performer who became known as Jamaica’s first woman dub poet. Fusing reggae rhythms with powerful evocations of the black female experience, she published nine collections of her work and released five albums, while her live performances were spellbinding and intense affairs.    This was evident when a volume of selected works, Third World Girl (2011), was accompanied by a DVD of live performances. It was apparent too in 2016, when she appeared in Edinburgh at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as part of an event organised by the city’s premiere spoken word night, Neu! Reekie! The night was programmed to reflect the connections between Scotland and Jamaica, as well as launch what turned out to be Breeze’s final collection, the Verandah Poems.   This wasn’t Breeze’s first visit to Scotland. In 1996, fol

Piers Plowright - An Obituary

Piers Plowright – Radio producer   Born December 30, 1937; died July 23, 2021      Piers Plowright, who has died aged 83, was a radio producer whose documentaries explored the quietly extraordinary lives of what might be regarded as ordinary people. Plowright made  programmes such as Nobody Stays in This House Long (1983), about an elderly Kensington couple who recalled their estate agent’s words fifty years earlier as they finally leave their house. Through this and others like it, Plowright tapped into people’s lives in a way that revealed something much bigger about society.    This was the case too in Setting Sail (1985), in which Plowright talked to various people about death;  and in One Big Kitchen Table (1988), which showed off the life of the Famous Delicatessen, a Jewish food emporium in Philadelphia. These seemingly small, everyday stories were put together with love and care, with Plowright’s sensitivity towards his subjects opening them up in a way that made for engaging l

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry - An Obituary

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Producer, dub pioneer   Born March 20/28, 1936; died August 29 2021      Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who has died aged 85, was a musical pioneer, whose free-spirited use of the recording studio as an instrument created some of the most innovative music of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Using his first hand experience of Jamaican sound systems, Perry’s innovations saw some of the earliest uses of sampling, when the sound of a crying baby was used on his song, People Funny Boy (1968).    Perry moved Jamaican music forward, beyond ska towards reggae, and then to dub. The latter subverted existing recordings through use of echo, reverb and other electronic effects to create radically reinvented new versions of the material. Perry’s sonic collages were chopped out on primitive four-track equipment in his back yard studio, creating a dense stew of sound that changed music forever.   While much has been made of Perry’s eccentric appearance and dervish-like