The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.


Tate Modern, London SE1 - Tino Sehgal, 24 July – 28 October

Tino Sehgal undertakes the annual commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as part of The Unilever Series. Sehgal’s radical, audience-orientated work explores the experience of live encounters between people, eschewing physical production. By creating social situations, Sehgal looks to address the visitor directly. For the 36 year old British-born German artist, the immaterial and intangible is everything.


Barbican Hall, London EC2 - Wynton Marsalis, 25 - 26 July

American trumpeter and arch-conservative jazz purist Wynton Marsalis takes his historically informed music to London with the UK premiere of Swing Symphony – a symphonic exploration of the evolution of swing. Marsalis is joined by his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle.


Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 – Dylan Moran, 20 July

Greenwich Comedy Festival, set in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, closes with Irish comic Dylan Moran’s brand of sharp observational comedy. Moran navigates religion, relationships and life’s absurdities and delivers it with signature shambolic charm. Support comes from comedian and performance poet Tim Key.


Tate Modern, London SE1 - Ei Arakawa, 22-29 July

The Tate Modern’s new space devoted to live art, The Tanks, hosts a week-long residency from the Japanese artist Ei Arakawa. Arakawa uses elements of dance, sculpture and sound in his work. The residency includes a workshop examining this cross-disciplinary work as well as the history of ballet in 1920s Japan, while a “single’s night” invites singles to dance with paintings by Jutta Koether.


National Theatre, London SE1 - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,  24 July – 27 October

Simon Stephens adapts Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for the stage. 15-year-old autistic Christopher tracks down the killer of his neighbour’s dog, setting out on a journey that changes his world. Stephens’s production features Matthew Barker, Niamh Cusack and Luke Treadaway.

Tino Sehgal comes to the Tate Modern (Photo:Getty)
Iain Cameron
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Meet Scotland's 300-year-old snow patch, the Sphinx

Snow patch watchers expect it to melt away by the weekend. 

This weekend, Scotland's most resilient snow patch, dubbed Sphinx, is expected to melt away. The news has been met with a surprising outpouring of emotion and nationwide coverage. Even The Financial Times covered the story with the headline "The end is nigh for Britain's last snow". The story has also gone international, featuring in radio reports as far away as New Zealand.

So what is it about Sphinx that has captured the public’s imagination?  Some have suggested it could be symbolic. The Sphinx represents how we all feel, helpless and doomed to a fate determined by leaders like Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. 

Regular contributors to the Facebook page “Snow Patches in Scotland”  have their own, more prosaic theories. One tells me that the British are “generally a bit obsessed with weather and climate”, while another says snow-patches are "more interesting than anything Trump/May/Boris or Vladimir have to say”.

Those more interested in patches of snow than the existential consequences of international relations could be dismissed as having seriously skewed priorities, but there's more to the story of Sphinx than lies on the surface. 

For a start it's thought to be 300 years old, covering a small square of the Cairngorms for centuries with just six brief interruptions. Last time the Sphinx disappeared was 11 years ago. Though it may melt away this weekend, it is expected to be back by winter. 

Iain Cameron, the man who set up the Facebook page "Snow Patches in Scotland" and someone who has recorded and measured snow patches since he was a young boy, says that Sphinx has shrunk to the size of a large dinner table and he expects it will have melted entirely by this Saturday.

It came close to disappearing in 2011 as well, he adds. In October of that year, Sphinx at around its current size and only a heavy snowstorm revived it.

"They tend to keep the same shape and form every year," Cameron tells me. "It might sound weird to say, but it’s like seeing an elderly relative or an old friend. You’re slightly disappointed if it’s not in as good a condition."

But why has Sphinx survived for so long? The patch of land that Sphinx lies above faces towards the North East, meaning it is sheltered from the elements by large natural formations called Corries and avoids the bulk of what sunlight northern Scotland has to offer. 

It also sits on a bid of soil rather than boulder-fields, unlike the snow patches on Britain's highest mountain Ben Nevis. Boulder-fields allow air through them, but the soil does not, meaning the Sphinx melts only from the top.

Cameron is hesistant to attribute the increased rate of Sphinx's melting to climate change. He says meterologists can decide the causes based on the data which he and his fellow anoraks (as he calls them) collect. 

That data shows that over the past 11 years since Sphinx last melted it has changed size each year, not following any discernable pattern. “There is no rhyme or reason because of the vagaries of the Scottish climate," says Cameron.

One thing that has changed is Sphinx's title is no longer quite so secure. There is another snow patch in near Ben Nevis vying for the position of the last in Scotland. Cameron says that it is 50:50 as to which one will go first.