The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead, from Hitchcock to Heatherwick at the V&A.

Film

The British Film Institute, London, SE1: The Genius of Hitchcock, 1 June – 1 October

He is perhaps Britain’s most iconic filmmaker, and from June until October the BFI will be paying homage to the visionary director who left an indelible stamp on the world of cinema, art and popular culture. Two years ago, efforts began to restore Hitchcock’s nine surviving silent films. Thanks to serious dedication from the BFI and its patrons, the restored films will be screened at world premiere events in June and July, hosted by iconic London venues including the British Museum and Wilton’s Music Hall. From August until October the BFI Southbank will also be screening the entire retrospective of the Hitchcock’s cinematic career.

Dance

Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican Centre, London, EC1 and EC2: Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch — World Cities, 6 June – 9 July

Pina Bausch has stood the test of time as a seminal influence on modern dance, a performer and choreographer with an experimental viewpoint and an “unmatched ability to combine the poetic and the everyday”. Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Barbican Centre team up for a marathon series of performances: ten works inspired by ten global cities – each one lived in by Bausch and her dance company Tanztheater Wuppertal for a period of time – staged over four weeks. Sadler’s Wells artistic director and Pina Bausch devotee Michael Morris calls the season an endurance test dreamt up “over a dinner filled with red wine.” Sure to be an extraordinary dance spectacle of the first order.

Ideas

Hay-on-Wye, Wales: How the Light Gets In Festival, 31 May - 10 June

How the Light Gets In can proudly call itself the largest philosophy and music festival in the world. Hosted in the lovely Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, the festival features ten days of debates on a host of philosophical topics ranging from art to ethics, politics to science. Here is a place where provocative ideas can mingle with a fine array of alternative music and comedy. Our own culture editor, Jonathan Derbyshire, will be chairing a debate on Uncharted Territory: Progress for the New Era, as well as speaking in discussions titled Hawking v. Philosophy and The World in Our Hands (featuring Nigel Lawson and Polly Higgins).

Exhibition

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, SW7: Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary, 31 May - 30 September

This will be the first major exhibition of the work of Thomas Heatherwick and his design team at Heatherwick Studio. Hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum, who have called Heatherwick “one of the most inventive and experimental British design studios practising today,” this is a thrilling opportunity to see some of the more infamous (a redesigned Routemaster) and lesser-known gems (the Longchamp zipper bags) from Heatherwicks’ oeuvre. Thames and Hudson have also published a very beautiful book to coincide with the show’s opening.

Art

Various Venues, London: London Festival of Photography, 1 - 31 June

Formally known as the London Street Photography Festival, this month-long series of exhibitions is back for its second year with a new name but the same agenda – to provide a platform for photography as a means of “visual storytelling”. This year’s exhibitions will be grouped around the common theme of Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and Private. With work from established and emerging artists, contemporary practitioners and historic entrepreneurs, the scope of work is broad and forward thinking. Highlights will include The Gaddafi Archive, an exclusive series excavated from the Human Rights Watch photography collection, and the Great British Public - contemporary images from across Britain shot by range of talented photographers.

Alfred Hitchcock in Cambridge, 1966 (Photo: Peter Dunne/Express/Getty Images)
Photo: Getty
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Radio as shelter: Grenfell Tower was too frightening to look at

No song seemed to fit the mood on Hayes FM.

“Amidst all this horror, I hope to bring you some light relief. Here’s James Taylor.” Two days after the Grenfell Tower fire, a popular community station a little west of the incident was uncertain what note to strike.

The repeated ads for alarms detecting carbon-monoxide leaks (“this silent killer”) and tips on how to prevent house fires (“Don’t overwhelm your sockets and cause a spark”) sounded perhaps a little overassertive, but then the one for a day-long course focusing on resisting gender stereotyping (“Change the narrative”) felt somewhat out of place. And no song seemed to fit. James Taylor’s “Shower the People” turned out OK, but the Cranberries’ “The Icicle Melts” was unceremoniously faded out mid-flow.

This does often happen on Hayes FM, though. There are times when the playlist is patently restless, embodying that hopeless sensation when you can’t settle and are going through tracks like an unplugged bath – Kate Bush too cringey, T-Rex too camp – everything reminding you of some terrible holiday a couple of years ago. Instead, more ads. Watch your salt intake. Giving up smoking might be a good idea. Further fire safety. (“Attach too many appliances and it could cause an overload and that could cause a fire. Fire kills.”)

Then a weather report during which nobody could quite bring themselves to state the obvious: that the sky was glorious. A bell of blue glass. The morning of the fire – the building still ablaze – I had found three 15-year-old boys, pupils at a Latimer Road school that stayed closed that day because of the chaos, sitting in their uniforms on a bench on the mooring where I live, along the towpath from the tower.

They were listening to the perpetual soft jangle of talk radio as it reported on the situation. “Why the radio?” I asked them, the sight of young people not focused on visuals clearly unusual. “It’s too frightening to look at!” they reasoned.

Radio as shelter. As they listened, one of them turned over in his hand a fragment of the tower’s cladding that he must have picked up in the street on the way over – a sticky-charcoaled hack of sponge, which clung like an insect to his fingers whenever he tried to drop it. 

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 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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