The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Dance

Tate Modern, London SE1 – Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, 18– 20 July

The prominent Belgian choreographer reworks her 1982 minimalist dance piece, Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, for The Tanks – the Tate Modern’s new gallery space devoted to live art. De Keersmaeker explores the relationship between music and dance in this hour-long performance, a classic piece from Flanders’s 1980s contemporary dance movement, exploiting the Tanks’ industrial space – originally the chambers containing oil that fuelled the former Bankside Power Station.

Music

Peckham Rye Car Park, London SE15 – John Adams’ “Harmonielehre”, 14 July

The American composer John Adams’s romantic-minimalist epic, Harmonielehre, is radically reimagined in the stripped-down expanse of Peckham Rye Multi-Storey Car Park. The 100-piece TROSP Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Stark, performs Adams’s 1985 symphonic poem as part of a series of summer events run by Bold Tendencies – a non-profit sculpture project that uses the car park for exhibitions.

Comedy

Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 – Stewart Lee, 18 July

The cerebral stand-up brings a slimmed down version of his show, Carpet Remnant World, to the Southbank. “It’s form interrogated by content through a haze of passive-aggressive monotony,” Lee explains, in a performance that slowly unfolds from a lengthy apology for inadequate content into a gleeful rejection of narrative structure and a brutal deconstruction of comedy itself.
 

Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1 - Richard III, 14 July – 13 October

Mark Rylance returns to the Globe for the first time since his 1995-2005 tenure as artistic director, in an all-male Original Practices production of Richard III. Rylance takes on the monstrous title role, in a journey of homicidal ambition that explores performance-practice from 1593. Richard III follows on the heels of the Globe’s Cultural Olympiad spring season when it staged each of Shakespeare’s plays in a different language.
 

Exhibition

Wellcome Collection, London NW1 – Superhuman, 19 July – 16 October

Superhuman, an exhibition exploring human enhancement from 600BCE to 2050, traces the history of an obsession with improving the body’s performance. From an ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe through to the superhero fantasies of comics, Superhuman provides an eclectic look at the ethics and science of human adaptability.
 
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the Tanks (Photo:Getty)
Photo: Hunter Skipworth / Moment
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Cones and cocaine: the ice cream van's links with organised crime

A cold war is brewing to the tinkling of "Greensleeves".

Anyone who has spent a summer in this country will be familiar with the Pavlovian thrill the first tinny notes of “Greensleeves” stir within the stolid British breast.

The arrival of the ice cream van – usually at least two decades older than any other vehicle on the road, often painted with crude approximations of long-forgotten cartoon characters and always, without fail, exhorting fellow motorists to “Mind that child!” – still feels like a simple pleasure of the most innocent kind.

The mobile ice cream trade, though, has historical links with organised crime.

Not only have the best routes been the subject of many, often violent turf wars, but more than once lollies have served as cover for goods of a more illicit nature, most notoriously during the Glasgow “Ice Cream Wars” of the early 1980s, in which vans were used as a front for fencing stolen goods and dealing drugs, culminating in an arson attack that left six people dead.

Although the task force set up to tackle the problem was jokingly nicknamed the “Serious Chimes Squad” by the press, the reality was somewhat less amusing. According to Thomas “T C” Campbell, who served almost 20 years for the 1984 murders before having his conviction overturned in 2004, “A lot of my friends were killed . . . I’ve been caught with axes, I’ve been caught with swords, open razors, every conceivable weapon . . . meat cleavers . . . and it was all for nothing, no gain, nothing to it, just absolute madness.”

Tales of vans being robbed at gunpoint and smashed up with rocks abounded in the local media of the time and continue to pop up – a search for “ice cream van” on Google News throws up the story of a Limerick man convicted last month of supplying “wholesale quantities” of cocaine along with ice cream. There are also reports of the Mob shifting more than 40,000 oxycodone pills through a Lickety Split ice cream van on Staten Island between 2009 and 2010.

Even for those pushing nothing more sinister than a Strawberry Split, the ice cream business isn’t always light-hearted. BBC Radio 4 devoted an entire programme last year to the battle for supremacy between a local man who had been selling ice creams in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea since 1969 and an immigrant couple – variously described in the tabloids as Polish and Iraqi but who turned out to be Greek – who outbid him when the council put the contract out to tender. The word “outsiders” cropped up more than once.

This being Britain, the hostilities in Northumberland centred around some rather passive-aggressive parking – unlike in Salem, Oregon, where the rivalry from 2009 between an established local business and a new arrival from Mexico ended in a highish-speed chase (for an ice cream van) and a showdown in a car park next to a children’s playground. (“There’s no room for hate in ice cream,” one of the protagonists claimed after the event.) A Hollywood production company has since picked up the rights to the story – which, aptly, will be co-produced by the man behind American Sniper.

Thanks to competition from supermarkets (which effortlessly undercut Mister Softee and friends), stricter emission laws in big cities that have hit the UK’s ageing fleet particularly hard, and tighter regulations aimed at combating childhood obesity, the trade isn’t what it used to be. With margins under pressure and a customer base in decline, could this summer mark the start of a new cold war?

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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