Mocha chocca libraries
Many were terrified by the picture of new “21st century libraries” painted by the Secretary of State for Culture, Andy Burnham, this week: libraries modelled on Waterstones and Virgin Megastores, filled with mobile-phone-talkers, McDonalds-eaters, Wii-players and Youtube-watchers, with books featuring low down on the list of priorities.
More terrifying still, however, is the fact that this sort of thing seems to work: in Hillingdon, West London, book borrowing increased by 32 per cent when a Starbucks was built in one of the libraries, and there is now a formidable seventeen more Starbucks on the way to the seventeen other libraries in the area.
Burnham’s announcement that libraries should “offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home” and be places “for families and joy and chatter” has been met less than joyfully. Tim Coates, ex-Managing Director of Waterstones and now a libraries campaigner, argues: “This ought to be about getting more books, particularly for children, not turning libraries into fish and chip shops.”
In Camden, the ban on mobile phones and food in libraries will be lifted this month. There has already been a stream of complaints from residents: “I only foresee bedlam,” one darkly proclaimed.
Unruly Slavic eyebrows
Poets are not usually inspired by both experimental dance music and Elizabethan verse, but this year’s winner of the Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem suggests that perhaps more should be. Scottish artist and musician Don Paterson’s tremendous “Love Poem for Natalie ‘Tusja’ Beridze” is an address to an obscure Georgian electronica artist with ‘unruly Slavic eyebrows’, spoken by an obsessive, love-struck Googler who promises that he is “not like those other IDM [Intelligent Dance Music] enthusiasts in early middle age”. In Paterson’s poem, the traditional turret window of courtly lovers becomes the stage at the Manöver Elektronische Festival in Wien, and it is not his mistress’s body that is uncorrupted, but the music software on her laptop – “which makes me love you all the more, demonstrating as it does an / excess of virtue given your country’s well-known talent for / software piracy.” And who said romance was dead?
Free musicals for bankers
If you’re freshly plunged into financial chaos and busy reassessing everything you thought you could rely on, being confronted with an all-singing all-dancing reality TV star in a colourful coat may not be quite what you want. Andrew Lloyd Webber disagrees, however, and is attempting to cheer up newly unemployed bankers with free tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The composer said he hoped his “feel-good shows” would cheer up those affected by the credit crunch, “albeit for a couple of hours”.
Dog chews and sinister pensioners
Fake excrement, European monuments made from dog chews and pensioners eerily circling in wheelchairs await visitors to the Saatchi Gallery, which has reopened in a new Chelsea location with an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. Meanwhile, in a one-metre-square space in the window of a Baker Street [bathroom shop], an Argentinian dancer will be [performing a ten-minute tango] four times a day.