Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.



Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, N1: In Astratto: Abstraction in Italy 1930–1980, 27 June – 9 September

Organised in conjunction with the Regional Centre for Contemporary Art in Liguria, In Astratto explores 50 years of abstraction in Italy, from the Futurist developments of the interwar period to the geometry of arte concreta, 1960s conceptualism and the subsequently return to a more "painterly" style of pure form and colour. The exhibition reveals the astonishing richness and variety that emerged after the Second World War, featuring artists from Giulio Turcato to Lucio Fontana to Franco Grignani in the tranquil surrounds of the Estorick Collection.


The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire: Luke Fowler, 23 June – 14 October

This major new commission by Turner-nominated artist Luke Fowler explores the work of radical socialists Edward Palmer-Thompson, Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart and the northern working class communities that shaped their writing. The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcote is based on research from northern archives and portrays the radicalists’ involvement with the Workers’ Education Association.



St Paul’s Cathedral, London, EC4M: Sir Colin Davis/London Symphony Orchestra in Berlioz’s Requiem, 26 June

Sir Colin Davis conducted the first ever concert of the City of London Festival 50 years ago, and he is back to mark the occasion with the London Symphony Orchestra in this performance of Berlioz’s Requiem. The concert begins four weeks of events in the spectacular confines of the City, from concerts at St Paul’s to a tour of the 400-year-old Charterhouse on 30 June, a free talk by Sir Andrew Motion on 4 July and the placing of 50 golden “street pianos” for members of the public around the City.


Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, SE1: World Poetry Summit, 26 June

This week sees the start of Poetry Parnassus, the UK’s largest ever poetry festival to mark the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. Entitled “Finding Poetry’s Place in the World”, the World Poetry Summit will gather poets from across the globe, with artist-in-residence Simon Armitage and a variety of talks about poetry in the 21st century. Alternatively, attend one of the many talks and performances taking place between 26 June and 1 July, including readings by Armitage, Seamus Heaney on 29 June. To mark the launch on Tuesday, 100,000 bookmark-shaped verses will "rain over" the South bank’s Jubilee Gardens from a helicopter.


The Barbican Centre, London, EC2: Bauhaus by Day, Bauhaus by Night, 23 June

A day of festivities inspired by the joyful community of the Bauhaus to complement the Barbican’s exhibition of the world’s most famous art school. Activities include puppet, kite and accessory-making sessions, a lecture and the launch of Ian Whittlesea’s new book, Mazdaznan Heakth and Breath Culture. All of this is followed by a Bauhaus-themed Costume Party in the Barbican’s Garden Room, with live jazz from the Joshua Jawson Quartet.

St Paul's Cathedral: Sir Colin Davis will conduct Berlioz's Requiem in the 50th City of London Festival. Photo: John D McHugh/Getty Images
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It’s been 25 years since the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive were released – what’s changed?

Gaming may be a lonelier pusuit now, but there have been positive changes you can console yourselves with too.

Let's not act as if neither of us knows anything about gaming, regardless of how old we are. Surely you'll remember the Super Nintendo console (SNES) and Sega's Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you're an American)? Well, it's now been 25 years since they were released. OK, fine, it's been 25 years since the SNES' debut in Japan, whereas the Mega Drive was released 25 years ago only in Europe, having arrived in Asia and North America a bit earlier, but you get the idea.

Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega

It's amazing to think a quarter of a century has passed since these digital delights were unveiled for purchase, and both corporate heavyweights were ready for battle. Sega jumped into the new era by bundling Sonic, their prized blue mascot and Nintendo retaliated by including a Mario title with their console.

Today's equivalent console battle involves (primarily) Sony and Microsoft, trying to entice customers with similar titles and features unique to either the PlayStation 4 (PS4) or Xbox One. However, Nintendo was trying to focus on younger gamers, or rather family-friendly audiences (and still does) thanks to the endless worlds provided by Super Mario World, while Sega marketed its device to older audiences with popular action titles such as Shinobi and Altered Beast.

Donkey Kong Country by Rare

But there was one thing the Mega Drive had going for it that made it my favourite console ever: speed. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was blazingly fast compared to anything I had ever seen before, and the sunny background music helped calm any nerves and the urge to speed through the game without care. The alternative offered by the SNES included better visuals. Just look at the 3D characters and scenery in Donkey Kong Country. No wonder it ended up becoming the second best-selling game for the console.

Street Fighter II by Capcom

The contest between Sega and Nintendo was rough, but Nintendo ultimately came out ahead thanks to significant titles released later, demonstrated no better than Capcom's classic fighting game Street Fighter II. Here was a game flooding arcade floors across the world, allowing friends to play together against each other.

The frantic sights and sounds of the 16-bit era of gaming completely changed many people's lives, including my own, and the industry as a whole. My siblings and I still fondly remember our parents buying different consoles (thankfully we were saved from owning a Dreamcast or Saturn). Whether it was the built-in version of Sonic on the Master System or the pain-in-the-ass difficult Black Belt, My Hero or Asterix titles, our eyes were glued to the screen more than the way Live & Kicking was able to manage every Saturday morning.

The Sims 4 by Maxis

Today's console games are hyper-realistic, either in serious ways such as the over-the-top fatalities in modern Mortal Kombat games or through comedy in having to monitor character urine levels in The Sims 4. This forgotten generation of 90s gaming provided enough visual cues to help players comprehend what was happening to allow a new world to be created in our minds, like a good graphic novel.

I'm not at all saying gaming has become better or worse, but it is different. While advantages have been gained over the years, such as the time I was asked if I was gay by a child during a Halo 3 battle online, there are very few chances to bond with someone over what's glaring from the same TV screen other than during "Netflix and chill".

Wipeout Pure by Sony

This is where the classics of previous eras win for emotional value over today's blockbuster games. Working with my brother to complete Streets of Rage, Two Crude Dudes or even the first Halo was a draining, adventurous journey, with all the ups and downs of a Hollywood epic. I was just as enthralled watching him navigate away from the baddies, pushing Mario to higher and higher platforms in Super Mario Land on the SNES just before breaking the fast.

It's no surprise YouTube's Let's Play culture is so popular. Solo experiences such as Ico and Wipeout Pure can be mind-bending journeys too, into environments that films could not even remotely compete with.

But here’s the thing: it was a big social occasion playing with friends in the same room. Now, even the latest Halo game assumes you no longer want physical contact with your chums, restricting you to playing the game with them without being in their company.

Halo: Combat Evolved by Bungie

This is odd, given I only ever played the original title, like many other, as part of an effective duo. Somehow these sorts of games have become simultaneously lonely and social. Unless one of you decides to carry out the logistical nightmare of hooking up a second TV and console next to the one already in your living room.

This is why handhelds such as the Gameboy and PSP were so popular, forcing you to move your backside to strengthen your friendship. That was the whole point of the end-of-year "games days" in primary school, after all.

Mario Kart 8 by Nintendo

The industry can learn one or two things by seeing what made certain titles successful. It's why the Wii U – despite its poor sales performance compared with the PS4 – is an excellent party console, allowing you to blame a friend for your pitfalls in the latest Donkey Kong game. Or you can taunt them no end in Mario Kart 8, the console's best-selling game, which is ironic given its crucial local multiplayer feature, making you suspect there would be fewer physical copies in the wild.

In the same way social media makes it seem like you have loads of friends until you try to recall the last time you saw them, gaming has undergone tremendous change through the advent of the internet. But the best games are always the ones you remember playing with someone by your side.