Busting a skank

A twenty tonne lion has provoked heated debate in Scotland and prompted the resignation of the curator Richard Calvocoressi. Created by Ronald Rae, the benign granite sculpture has charmed visitors in Holyrood Park (opposite the Scottish parliament) since it was first exhibited there two years ago. However, when Rae offered the lion to the Scottish parliament’s unique art collection his gift was refused. Calvocoressi, who at the time was a key figure of the Scottish Parliament's Art Advisory body, suggested that the lion (valued at £120,000) would devalue the collection as a whole, as its "rustic folk-art qualities" were at odds with the collection's ideals. Calvocoressi, who had been a member of the advisory body since 2005, suggested that the lion would be more at home in a business park than in front of the parliament buildings. The curator, who is head of the Henry Moore Foundation was disappointed to find his advice countered by public support for the lion - 2000 people signed a petition in favour of the beast and a number of MSPs backed Rae’s renewed offer to loan the lion on a temporary contract. Writing in the Observer last week Calvocoressicommented that the decision to allow the lion to reside in Holyrood park for three more years is sadly representative of the power of the Parliamentary Corporate Body’s desire to satisfy public demand. He expressed his dismay that his expertise was disregarded, ruefully commenting that “when it comes to art, everyone is suddenly an expert.” Ronald Rae, who has a number of other exhibits in Holyrood Park, defended his work, stating: "Richard Calvocoressi is an arrogant prick and his curatorial skills are crap . . . the public had spoken."

"Big Boi" from

OutKast has been busting a skank in the world of dance this week. The rapper’s new venture, Big, is currently being performed with artists from Atlanta Ballet. The performance, a multimedia extravaganza featuring local school children and videos, will incorporate OutKast tracks and an unreleased hip hop number titled "Sir Lucious Left Foot Saves the Day". Working in collaboration with choreographer Lauri Stallings, "Big Boi" (also known as Antwan Patton) agreed to the work in the hope that it would broaden hip hop’s boundaries. Showing admirable open-mindedness and dedication to the cause, the star commented “I’m down to try anything once.” The marriage of hip hop and ballet is not the only unusual pairing to surface this week. The ENO has announced that they have appointed the Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami to direct a production of Mozart’s comic opera Cosi fan Tutte in 2009. Kiarostami, best known for Through the Olive Trees and Taste of Cherry is one of a sequence o f film directorswho have turned their talents to opera. Critics have greeted the trend with mixed reactions.However the late Anthony Minghella directed an ENO production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly with great success in 2005. It is scheduled to be revived as a tribute to him next year.

Other arts news: Brigitte Bardot also courted controversy this week, when she was prosecuted after reportedly inciting racial hatred in a letter. The 73 year-old actress, who is now a passionate animal rights activist, wrote to the French government in 2006, criticizing the Muslim practise of slaughtering sheep without stunning them first. In a letter circulated to the Brigitte Bardot Foundation she wrote “We're fed up with being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts." A campaign of a more palatable kind was also launched this week in conjuction with the Teenage Cancer Trust: an orchestra of instruments constructed out of parts of Ford cars is going on tour support the charity. A track featuring Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford playing the "clutch guitar" is available online.

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The radio station where the loyal listeners are chickens

Emma Hills, the head chicken trainer at Giffords Circus, knows what gets them clucking.

“The music is for the chickens, because of course on the night the music is very loud, and so it needs to be a part of their environment from the very start.” Emma Hills, the head chicken trainer at Giffords Circus, is standing in the sawdusty ring under a big top in a field outside Stroud as several rare-breed chickens wander freely around boxes and down ramps. They are the comic stars of the summer 2017 show, and Emma is coaxing them to walk insouciantly around the ring while she plays the early-morning show on Radio 1.

It’s the chickens’ favourite station. There seems to be something about its longueurs, combined with the playlist, that gets them going – if that’s the word. They really do respond to the voices and songs. “It’s a bit painful, training,” Emma observes, as she moves a little tray of worms into position as a lure. “It’s a bit like watching paint dry sometimes. It’s all about repetition.”

Beyond the big top, a valley folds into limestone hills covered in wild parsley and the beginnings of elderblossom. Over the radio, Adele Roberts (weekdays, from 4am) hails her listeners countrywide. “Hello to Denzel, the happy trucker going north on the M6. And van driver Niki on the way from Norwich to Coventry, delivering all the things.” Pecking and quivering, the chickens are rather elegant, each with its fluffy, caramel-coloured legs and explosive feather bouffant, like a hat Elizabeth Taylor might have worn on her way to Gstaad in the 1970s.

Despite a spell of ennui during the new Harry Styles single, enthusiasm resumes as Adele bids “hello to Simon from Bournemouth on the M3 – he’s on his way to Stevenage delivering meat”. I don’t imagine Radio 1 could hope for a better review: to these pretty creatures, its spiel is as thrilling as opening night at the circus. Greasepaint, swags of velvet, acrobats limbering up with their proud, ironic grace. Gasps from beholders rippling wonder across the stalls.

Emma muses that her pupils learn fast. Like camels, a chicken never forgets.

“I’ve actually given up eating them,” she admits. “Last year I had only two weeks to train and it was like, ‘If they pull this off I won’t eat chicken ever again.’ And they did. So I didn’t.” 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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