Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Music Festival

Wilderness Festival, Cornbury Park Oxfordshire, until Sunday

The people that brought you Lovebox and Secret Garden Party have prepared a festival of all things arty this weekend in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. Musical headliners this year include Empire of the Sun, Noah and the Whale and Rodriguez. Wilderness offers much more than just music however. Far from the back-of-the van burgers of other festivals, this weekend is a foodie’s dream, offering several gastronomic delights from chefs such as Mark Hix and Yotem Ottolenghi. They’ll also be dancing, art, debating, theatre and more, in a festival packed full of weird and wonderful surprises.

Film Festival

Shuffle Festival, Now until 18 August, St Clements Social Club, Mile End Road, London

Still buoyed by the critical acclaim that the Olympic opening ceremony received last year, Danny Boyle has his teeth stuck into something new. His Shuffle film festival opened on Thursday and is hosted by St Clements Social Club, a former Victorian psychiatric hospital. Trainspotting, Trance and other Danny Boyle favourites will be screened, while showings of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ruby Wax’s stand-up show Out of Her Mind and a series of other screenings will look to challenge perceptions regarding mental health. Other delights will include a Bollywood dance workshop, the National Theatre’s performance of Frankenstein, and open-mic poetry, in a festival brimming with creativity and flair.


Regent’s Park outdoor ballroom, Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 August, £10

Get on your dancing shoes because Regent’s Park’s outdoor ballroom is drawing to a close this Sunday. You and a partner can take part in Latin and Argentine tango dance parties safe in the knowledge that the money you are paying for them goes straight towards the Royal Parks Foundation and will be used to plant trees in Regent’s Park. Whatever your dancing ability, Kele Baker, the event’s choreographer, caters to all needs, so head down and tango the afternoon away.


Bristol Balloon Fiesta, 8 – 11 August 2013

Up, up and away: Bristol Balloon Fiesta is the largest hot-air-ballooning event outside America. 150 balloons take off from the Ashton Court Estate at dawn and dusk each day. Closer to earth there are range of activities to keep the whole family entertained in the inbetweeen hours, such as a series of giant sculptures designed by Quentin Blake, Cath Kidston, Paul Smith, Philip Treacy, Celia Birtwell and Peter Blake. Other things to keep you occupied include fairground rides, delicious food stalls and bars, face painting, arts and craft fair, dance stage, arena entertainment, the world famous Red Arrows and a local talent music bandstand.

Bristol Hot-Air Balloon Fiesta will run 8-11 August. Photograph: Getty Images.
Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

0800 7318496