Colin Ward, 1924-2010

Tributes paid to a "gentle anarchist".

Colin Ward, who has died aged 85, was a prolific author, social theorist and campaigner. A lifelong anarchist, he championed the right of ordinary people to have control over their own lives.

Ward was a frequent contributor to the New Statesman (and to New Society, which merged with the magazine in 1988). Here, the Independent's Boyd Tonkin -- formerly literary editor of the NS -- pays tribute to his work:

In Colin Ward's Utopian junkyard, scruffy, unrespectable people and places survived and thrived on the edge of wealth, influence -- even legality. As far as mainstream journalism went, these marginals and mavericks might as well have lived on Pluto. Often taking as his subjects people in or near his own Suffolk village, he championed the twilight world of allotment-diggers, unofficial smallholders, prefab dwellers, caravan habitués, rural squatters, estate children, multi-tasking traders, DIY artisans and housebuilders, most as remote from the trim land of planning applications as they were from tax demands. If you needed to reclaim a bad word, you might even want to say that Colin opened the gates of Pikey Paradise and praised all its delights.

Elsewhere, Slugger O'Toole writes: "in Colin's hands, anarchism was less of an improbable ideal and more of a perspective that could comfortably coexist with and inform lots of shades of political thought".

Indeed, over at the Fabian Society blog Next Left, Stuart White claims Ward as a pioneer of mutualism -- the values of co-dependency and collective control currently in vogue with our political class.

Naturally, Ward's own commitment ran deeper than headline-grabbing announcements in the run-up to an election. Selections from his own writings are available to read here (PDF).

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

BBC/Chris Christodoulou
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Proms 2016: Violinist Ray Chen was the star of a varied show

The orchestra soaked up his energy in Bruch's first violin concerto to end on a triumphal note. 

Music matters, but so does its execution. This was the lesson of a BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus programme which combined both a premiere of a composition and a young violinist’s first performance at the Proms. 

The concert, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, opened with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic fantasy The Tempest, a lesser-known sibling to his Romeo and Juliet overture. The orchestra got off to a fidgety start, with some delayed entries, but fell into line in time for the frenetic chromatic runs that drive the piece. The end, a muted pizzicato, was suitably dramatic. 

Another nature-inspired piece followed – Anthony Payne’s composition for chorus and orchestra, Of Land, Sea and Sky. Payne drew on his memory of watching of white horses appearing to run across water, as well as other visual illusions. At the world premiere, the piece began promisingly. The chorus rolled back and forth slowly over scurrying strings with an eerie singing of “horses”. But the piece seemed to sink in the middle, and not even the curiosity of spoken word verse was enough to get the sinister mood back. 

No doubt much of the audience were drawn to this programme by the promise of Bruch violin concerto no. 1, but it was Ray Chen’s playing that proved to be most magnetic. The young Taiwanese-Australian soloist steered clear of melodrama in favour of a clean and animated sound. More subtle was his attention to the orchestra. The performance moved from furious cadenza to swelling sound, as if all players shared the same chain of thought. Between movements, someone coughed. I hated them. 

Ray Chen in performance. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Chen’s playing had many audience members on their feet, and only an encore appeased them. It was his first time at the Proms, but he'll be back. 

The orchestra seemed to retain some of his energy for Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region. Composed between 1904 and 1906, this is a setting of lines by the US poet Walt Whitman on death, and the idea of rebirth.

The orchestra and chorus blended beautifully in the delicate, dark opening. By the end, this had transformed into a triumphal arc of sound, in keeping with the joyful optimism of Whitman’s final verse: “We float/In Time and Space.” 

This movement from hesitancy to confident march seemed in many ways to capture the spirit of the concert. The programme had something for everyone. But it was Chen’s commanding performance that defined it.