Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Music & Theatre
13 October 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 4:08am

‘Unruly Slavic eyebrows’

By Annie McDermott

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?

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

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”.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up

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.