Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead

Music

London Jazz Festival, 9-18 November, various locations

Opening tonight with a "Century of Song" gala at the Barbican centre, this landmark music festival is returning to London for its annual November stint. Exploding across the capital with a seemingly endless line-up of improvised music, this is guaranteed to keep all jazz aficionados positively paralysed with choice. From established performing legends to promising young newcomers, the twenty-odd festival gigs a night promises to show a unique snapshot of all that’s interesting in the world of jazz. Highlights include veritable living legend Herbie Hancock and last year’s Grammy Best New Artist winner, Esperanza Spalding. Jon Snow even takes a break from presenting Channel 4 news to show off his apparently "beautiful voice" in a duet with Mara Carlyle.

Festival

London Storytelling Festival, 9-18 November, Leicester Square Theatre

For the second year running, London Storytelling Festival returns to Leicester Square Theatre for ten days of tales, talks and teaching. Literary fans can hear from award-winning writers and performs, and a schedule of workshops is also in place. Aspiring writers can gain priceless tips from a weekend masterclass with Martin Dockery – seven time finalist in The Moth’s grandslam storytelling championship. Story-writing skills can also be honed at workshops with Sarah Bennetto, including the chance of reading your work live at a showcase. This unique festival sits somewhere between stand-up comedy, spoken word and a literary salon. Billed as ‘a great excuse to be snuggled up somewhere warm with fellow like-minds’, what more could you want from an autumnal evening?

Comedy

Josie Long, 10 November, Soho Theatre

“Hello there! My name is Josie Long and I am 30 years old and that is frankly a little alarming,” explains the three-time Foster’s Award Nominee in the introduction to her new show. Long may not be the first person to find that crossing the triple-decade milestone has put her in a reflective mood, but it's certainly funnier than most people’s. This, the sixth solo standup show from the amiable Oxford graduate, is written following her "political awakening". Not that her newly-found serious subject matter has affected the amount of laughs; critics agree this is the best offering yet from the TV panel show regular. Consisting of a spot of soul-searching, a tinge of Tory-bashing and an earnest contemplation of the frantic need to tick a bucket list in the last months of your 29th year, this show proves that the unstoppable comedian is exponentially increasing in talent.

Art

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour, Somerset House, 8 November - 27 January, 2013

Perhaps the most iconic street photographer of all times, Henri Cartier-Bresson was a pioneer of monochrome but endlessly disparaging of the potential of colour photography. This exhibition takes an unusual slant through his oeuvre, re-assessing his influence on future colour photography. Centred around the rare exhibiton of ten extremely little-known works by the master, curator William A. Ewing seeks to find a new lens with which to re-examine the icon. He juxtaposes Carteir-Bresson's work alongside 75 works by 15 international contemporary photographers. The message? A categorical example fo the directionla influence he exerted on the pioneers of the medium he detested.

Theatre

People, National Theatre, until 9 February, 2013

When a playwright has a reputation approaching that of national-treasure status like Alan Bennett, success is almost guaranteed. Indeed, seat for People have been snapped up so swiftly that, unless you’re very lucky, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the new batch of ticket slots. Following the success of The History Boys, Bennet brings us a new satire on – of all things – the National Trust. Described by Bennet in the preface as “a play for England, sort of” -  this is a story of upper-middle class snobbery descending into family drama. Nicholas Hytner directs.

Herbie Hancock is one of the artists performing at London Jazz Festival (Photo credit: RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism