The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Art

National Gallery, London WC2 - Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, until 23 September

The Royal Ballet joins forces with Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger to show a series of works surrounding Titian’s paintings as a part of the Cultural Olympiad's London 2012 Festival. The exhibition includes pieces drawing inspiration from Titian’s works as well as sets and costumes from the Royal Ballets past performances.

Comedy

The Bedford, London SW12 – Ed Byrne, 8 July

Ed Byrne will perform in the Round Room at 8pm this Sunday. Having made his name with appearances on Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You, Byrne has gained a large following.

Film

Hackney Empire, London E8 – Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Ring”, 13 July

The British Film Institute brings a remastered version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1927 film The Ring to the UK with a live playing of a new score by Soweto Kinch. The Ring tells the story of two boxers and a girl with whom they are both in love. If you can't make it to the Hackney Empire, you can stream the screening and musical performance live at http://thespace.org/.

Talk

Parasol Unit, London N1- David Claerbout in conversation with David Green, 12 July

Artist David Claerbout, whose work is currently on display at Parasol Unit, is interviewed by David Green, senior lecturer at Brighton University. Claerbout will talk about his influences, the general themes of his work and his intentions for the exhibition.

Theatre

Noel Coward Theatre, London, WC2 – Gatz, until 15 July

An epic 8-hour reading (excluding toilet and meal breaks) reading of The Great Gatsby set in an office as workers slowly morph into characters from the novel by F Scott Fitzgerald. Directed by John Collins.

A new print of Alfred Hitchcock's 1927 silent film The Ring comes to London (Photo: 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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