A celebrity endorsement

Where do cultural icons get their political fix?

Production on the NS culture desk this week has slowed to a crawl as we explore the riches on offer over at the Archived Music Press blog. Some dedicated soul has scanned in pages from old issues of Melody Maker and the New Musical Express, dating from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

A niche area, you might think, but this was a time when the UK music press was a more adventurous beast than it is today. Amid the bad puns and profiles of long-forgotten bands such as Menswear or Lush (whose single an interviewer breathlessly describes as "the 'Wake Up Boo!' of 1996 . . .") there is loads of passionate, clever and wilfully subjective writing.

Among the highlights are Caitlin Moran's interview with Courtney Love in 1994; David Stubbs's prescient review of Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, which deconstructed the band's schtick just as everybody else was going crazy for them; and Everett True's review of a Tricky and P J Harvey gig in 1995. You can also see the work of acclaimed photographers such as Kevin Cummins, whose work we've recently featured.

Oh! But what's this? A 1988 interview with the Fall's Mark E Smith where, in between diatribes on Britain's north-south divide and the state of Labour (good reading for anyone in the current, opposition-bound party), he delivers this choice soundbite:

"When I want to read politics, I buy New Statesman, it's as simple as that."

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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New Harry Potter and the Cursed Child pictures: an analysis

What do the new cast photos tell us about what we can expect from the Harry Potter play?

With the first public performance only a week away, the team behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child have released the first in costume cast photos of three of its stars: Harry, Ginny and their son, Albus.

But what do the new pictures tell us about what we can expect from the play? Here’s your annotated guide.

Harry

Harry is suited up like the civil servant we know he has become. When we left him at the end of book seven, he was working for the Ministry of Magic: JK Rowling has since revealed he became the youngest head of the Auror Office at 26, and the play description calls Harry “an overworked employee of the Ministry”. Jamie Parker’s costume suggests a blend of the traditional establishment with Harry’s rebelliousness and familiarity with danger.

Parker told Pottermore of the costume, “He’s wearing a suit because he’s a Ministry man, but he’s not just a bloke in a suit, that’s way too anonymous.”

Ginny

Ginny looks like a mix of the cool girl we know and love, blended with her mother, and a little something else. She has a perfect journalist’s bob (Ginny became a Quidditch reporter after a career as a professional player), paired with a “gorgeous, hand-knitted jumper” reminiscent of the Weasley’s Christmas sweaters. In silhouette, she might look like her mum with an edgier haircut, but with (literally) cooler colours and fabrics.

Actress Poppy Miller said the costume matches Ginny’s personality: “Kind and cool, exactly as I imagined her.”

Albus

Albus’s costume is perhaps more interesting for what it hides than what it reveals – we are given no suggestion of what house he might be sorted into at Hogwarts. This is particularly interesting knowing Albus’s nerves about being sorted: the final book ended with him asking his father, “What if I’m in Slytherin?”. Rowling writes, “The whisper was for his father alone, and Harry knew that only the moment of departure could have forced Albus to reveal how great and sincere that fear was.”

Actor Sam Clemmett said, “This is what Albus wears at the start of the show. I had the idea he was wearing James’s – his older brother’s – hand-me-downs. So I wanted him to feel quite uncomfortable, and be able to play with his clothes.”

His oversized second-hand clothes also emphasise how important the role of family inheritance will be in the play. The only reminder of Albus’s older siblings, they call to mind both his Weasley heritage (Ginny and her siblings were teased for their hand-me-down robes) and the enormous legacy of his father. The play description notes, “While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.”

Family portrait

Again, this group picture is interesting for absences – there are no Potter siblings here, further suggesting that Albus will be the main focus of this new story. It also continues to place an emphasis on family through the generations – if Albus donned a pair of specs, this could easily be a picture of James, Lily and Harry. Even the posture is reminiscent of the Mirror of Erised shot from the first movie.

An intriguing hint at what next week’s play might hold for audiences.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.