It’s back and better than ever! Our Break Out Culture podcast is back with a bang for a third series. Culture editor, Ed Vaizey, and associate editor, Charlotte Metcalf discuss the week’s cultural offerings with a brilliant edit of what you should be watching, reading, listening to, booking and visiting each week. Their roster of high profile guests from adds illuminating insight to the current cultural landscape.Listen on iTunes Listen on Spotify
Break Out Culture Podcast
EPISODE 112: The Art of Collecting, With Guy Salter, Tomasz Starzewski & Nazy Vassegh
We’re talking about the burgeoning opportunities for new and established collectors of beautiful rare objects, looking forward to London Craft Week (8–14 May 2023), with Guy Salter, the fair’s founder.
Now in its ninth year and dubbed ‘the most luxurious craft fair in the world’, the fair spreads right across the capital, incorporating Acton and Park Royal as Creative Enterprise Zones for the first time. There will be exciting events and exhibitions celebrating the Coronation and London Craft Week will also showcase the work of over 700 artists, designers and makers from across the world and include four international pavilions from Austria, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan.
We also talk to Nazy Vassegh, founder of the boutique art platform Eye of the Collector. The third edition of The Eye of the Collector fair is running from 17–20 May at Two Temple Place, the majestic 1892 Neo-Gothic building, commissioned by William Waldorf Astor, on London’s Strand. Of the 120 works for sale, many will be of museum quality or by huge names including Frank Auerbach, Barbara Hepworth and Bridget Riley, but there will also be 60 new works, aiming to shine a light on emerging artists and designers and overlooked talent.
Our third guest is celebrated couturier and interior designer Tomasz Starzewski, who’s now collaborating with the specialist ceramics and craft auctioneers Maak to curate an installation of exquisite pieces from the collection of the late Victoria Lady de Rothschild. The installation is open until September at Ascott House in Buckinghamshire, the home Lady de Rothschild shared for over a decade with her husband Sir Evelyn. Victoria Lady de Rothschild designed Ascott House, alongside Renzo Mongiardino, and it’s now the beautiful setting for 118 carefully chosen and placed objects that she collected on her travels for over 20 years. They will be displayed throughout the house until September when Maak will auction them.
EPISODE 111: Creating Superstars: Geoffrey Marsh on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Dave Robinson on Bob Marley’s Legend
We talk to Geoff Marsh, one of the curators of a new exhibition about the 1973 album Aladdin Sane, and to Dave Robinson, aka ‘Robbo’, legendary co-founder of Stiff Records.
Geoff tells us how the late photographer Brian Duffy created the lightning flash image of David Bowie. That album cover has gone on to remain one of the world’s three most instantly recognisable images – the other two are John Pasche’s Hot Lips logo for the Rolling Stones and Hipgnosis’s cover for Dark Side of the Moon.
Aladdin Sane: 50 Years, which runs at Southbank until 28 May, celebrates the anniversary of this important cultural icon. Accompanying the exhibition are talks, live music, two nights of joyous club music and poetry.
Meanwhile, Dave Robinson, who created hits for Madness, Tracey Ullman, Elvis Costello, Ian Drury, The Pogues and many more, regales us with tales of being in America as Jimi Hendrix’s tour manager and putting together Bob Marley’s greatest hits to create Legend, the best-selling reggae album of all time.
You can hear Dave telling his highly entertaining and improbable but true stories on his tour, We Came, We Saw, We Left – The Horse Speaks, which he’s taking around the country until 15 May.
An extraordinary opportunity to listen to this conversation about the music that has survived half a century and continues to influence and inspire millions worldwide.
EPISODE 110: Souls Grown Deep and Berlusconi the Musical: with Curator Raina Lampkins-Fielder and Producer Francesca Moody
We’re talking to curator Raina Lampkins-Fielder about ‘Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers’, the ground-breaking exhibition at the Royal Academy, showcasing the collective creativity of Black artists from the American South. Most of these powerful works, many made from reclaimed materials, have never been seen outside America’s so-called ‘Black Belt’ that encompasses Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, a region associated with slavery and racial oppression. This is any eye-opening exhibition representing the triumph of artistic expression and hope over appalling discrimination and persecution.
On a much lighter note, we also talk to Francesca Moody, the award-winning producer of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, about her new venture Berlusconi the Musical, on for a short run at Southwark Playhouse. It’s guaranteed to be a highly entertaining tragi-comic rollercoaster about Silvio Berlusconi’s life as a media tycoon, politician and Italian Prime Minister, a life extraordinary enough to defy belief.
EPISODE 109: Why Invest In A Print? With Helen Rosslyn, Director of the London Original Print Fair
The London Original Print Fair is London’s longest running art fair, now in its 38th year. This year, it runs at Somerset House from 30 March till 2 April, and brings together over 40 top international print dealers, publishers and studios, spanning six centuries of printmaking.
We talk to Helen Rosslyn, who’s been director of the Fair since 1987. She explains why prints are so much more than mere copies, and therefore such popular and safe investments. With knowledge and enthusiasm, she walks us through this year’s show, with all its exciting highlights, from works by David Shrigley and Tracey Emin to those by Royal Academicians and Old Masters like Dürer and Hogarth.
One of this year’s highlights is a Special Tribute Exhibition in honour of Andrew Edmunds, print dealer and famed restaurateur and a founding committee member of the fair. Andrew sadly died last autumn but to honour him his son Milo and art historian Tom Clayton, have curated a personal collection of his 18th century prints by the artist and satirist James Gilray, including some works that have never been seen in public before as well as some impressions of his best-known prints.
Tune in to know exactly how to find your way around the fair and what to look for.
EPISODE 108: Grenfell: The Play Shining A Light On The Truth
On this week’s episode we’re celebrating the power of ‘activist culture’ and the critically acclaimed play, ‘Grenfell: System Failure’. The play follows on from ‘Grenfell: Value Engineering’ and is based entirely on the words of those involved in last year’s final phase of the inquiry into the tragic and avoidable fire that killed 72 people.
The play has been performed at The Playground Theatre and The Tabernacle, both almost within a stone’s throw of Grenfell Tower, and is now at the new Marylebone Theatre for a final week. To discuss it with us are Anthony Biggs, Artistic Director at The Playground Theatre, and Nicolas Kent, who directed the play and co-edited the transcripts with Richard Norton-Taylor.
This is a brilliantly illuminating play on a tragic, complex subject and a superb example of how culture at its best can make sense of a mass of data, allowing audiences to access the most significant evidence and make their own minds up as to how this terrible fire happened. Every single word is taken from the inquiry and the reality is undoubtedly as shocking than anything anyone could make up. It’s a dramatic often hard-to-believe account of heinous buck-passing and systematic failure, which meant numerous urgent safety warnings were simply brushed aside or ignored. Tune in to hear how this play has moved the dial in terms of public and private responses to this lamentable tragedy.
EPISODE 107: David Hockney: Full Immersion, with Richard Slaney of Lightroom
On this week’s episode we’re talking about the exciting new exhibition of David Hockney’s work, ‘Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away)’. It’s the first show to be staged at Lightroom, a brand new, vast space in London’s Kings Cross that uses revolutionary technology to create something entirely different. The show has been four years in the making, and Lightroom’s CEO Richard Slaney is on the podcast to tell us all about what to expect.
The immersive show is made up of ‘chapters’ and throughout you hear Hockney’s voice, giving unprecedented access into his imagination and artistic process. This is the first time that a living artist’s work has been exhibited in this way and so it’s not to be missed. It runs until 4 June. Tune in to find out more.
EPISODE 106: Celebrating P.G. Wodehouse and Women: with writer William Humble, actor Robert Daws and director Jude Kelly
On this week’s podcast we’re celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March and also talking about the great P.G. Wodehouse with William Humble, who has written a new one-man play, called Wodehouse in Wonderland, a one-man show, touring Britain until the end of April. It stars Robert Daws, also on the podcast, as Wodehouse.
In Britain Wodehouse is feted and loved for his quintessentially English comic characters Jeeves and Wooster, but he was enormously famous in America too, where the play is set, for being a talented Broadway lyricist, contributing to 25 hit musicals, including ‘Anything Goes’.
William and Robert reveal less known fascinating sides to Wodehouse’s character, shedding light on his notorious Berlin broadcasts, which were manipulated by the Nazis for their propaganda and caused him great shame.
We also talk to Jude Kelly about the WOW Festival (Women of the World Festival) now in its 13th year and taking place at London’s Southbank between 10 and 12 March. Jude set up the Festival in 2010 to celebrate the achievements of women and girls and confront global gender injustice, and it now it takes place in 30 countries. Jude gives us the highlights of the London festival including a special screening of the play Prima Facie starring Jodie Comer, followed by a discussion, and appearances by the American writer Roxanne Gay and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
EPISODE 105: Standing at the Sky’s Edge, with Artistic Director Rob Hastie
This week we’re talking about the award-winning musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge, which finally transferred from Sheffield to The Olivier at London’s National Theatre. It’s based on the music and lyrics of songwriter, guitarist and producer Richard Hawley who’s known both as a solo artist and for his work with the bands Pulp and The Longpigs. He collaborated with the award-winning playwright, lyricist and theatre-maker Chris Bush who deftly wove Richard Hawley’s music into this compelling story.
The musical tells the story of one flat in Park Hill, Sheffield’s notorious brutalist housing project and moves from the early sixties, when Park Hill first opened, to today. Chris Bush intertwines three tales of the characters who lived there: an idealistic young couple seeing Park Hill as a step up, three asylum seekers escaping the Liberian war and finally a young middle-class woman from London fleeing a broken heart.
It’s directed by Rob Hastie the Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres and he tells us about how this extraordinary project came about and why what happened to Park Hill is so symbolic of recent British history, from post-war socialist optimism, via the decline of our major industries, to today’s attempts to regenerate our cities. It’s had rave reviews, and if you like Richard Hawley’s poetic music, you’re in for an absolute treat. It’s fast-becoming the most talked-about play, so listen in to find out more.
EPISODE 104: This Year’s Best Movies, with Krish Majumdar, Chair of BAFTA
As the BAFTA winners are revealed on Sunday 19 February at a ceremony hosted by Richard E. Grant and Alison Hammond, we talk to the Chair of BAFTA, and a producer himself, Krish Majumdar. He runs us through the process of picking winners – quite a task when 214 were nominated for the Best Film Award alone. Krish gives us the lowdown on the top nominations from All Quiet on the Western Front, with an astonishing 14 nominations, to The Banshees of Ineshirin, Living, Tár, Aftersun and many more.
He also tells us about the prestigious EE Rising Star Award, celebrating its 18th year, and the only award at BAFTAs voted for by the British public. The nominees this year are Naomi Ackie, Sheila Atim, Aimee Lou Wood Daryl McCormack and Emma Mackey, who won the award.
Krish’s enthusiasm for cinema as a treasured part of our culture is infectious. Anyone who likes movies or wants to feel inspired about what to see next should listen in and then head straight out to the cinema.
EPISODE 103: Confessions of a posh broadcaster, with Ed Stourton
On this week’s episode, we’re delighted to be chatting with the eminent broadcaster and much-loved presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for ten years, Ed Stourton. Having worked in radio and television for 40 years, Ed’s now written a memoir called ‘Confessions: A Life Re-Examined’. He tells us about looking back on his life, a process which he has referred to as a ‘reawokening’, re-assessing it in the light of today’s prevailing culture.
When he was sacked suddenly from Today, it was assumed it was because he was too posh, and now he puts the record straight. He is a delightful story and regales us with tales from his time as a student at Cambridge, becoming a newscaster and the perils of broadcasting live. He also describes having to reappraise his time at Ampleforth after the sex scandals emerged. Finally, he talks movingly and candidly about living with cancer and how his life has been made richer and happier by his faith.
EPISODE 102: Tragic Consequences: Director Dominic Cooke on his production of Medea starring Sophie Okonedo – and a tribute to Kit Hesketh-Harvey
The acclaimed theatre, television and film director, Dominic Cooke, chats to us about his new production of Euripides’s classic tragedy, Medea, starring Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo as Medea, spurned wife of Jason, hellbent on brutal and bloody revenge. Dominic explains why all the male parts are being played by Ben Daniels and tells us why he decided to stage it at Soho Place, the first new purpose built theatre in the West End for 50 years. The play runs at Soho Place from 10 February to 22 April 2023.
Most people will know the devastating, bloody climax to the story, and Dominic tells us why he wanted to direct such a harrowing play and elaborates on what Sophie Okonedo brings to the role.
We finish this episode with a tribute to Kit Hesketh-Harvey, the brilliant, wickedly funny entertainer, writer who has died suddenly. Kit and McConnel, his regular cabaret act with musician James McConnel, has been delighting and outraging audiences here and abroad for many years. As our guest twice, we celebrate Kit’s extraordinary career and treat you to a clip of him talking to Ed and me about the joys – and importance – of pantomime and playing King Rat in Dick Whittington.
EPISODE 101: What are museums for? Esme Ward, director of the transformed Manchester Museum, has the answers
If anyone can persuade you how crucial a museum can be to the wellbeing of a city, it’s this week’s guest Esme Ward. In 2018 she was the first woman to be appointed as director of Manchester Museum, which re-opens on the 18 February after a £15 million overhaul. Esme is on a mission to make the 130-year-old museum more ‘inclusive, caring and imaginative’. The highlight is a new South Asia Gallery, in partnership with the British Museum, which is the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the communities, experiences and histories of the South Asian diaspora.
The South Asia Gallery has been co-curated by 30 different community leaders, artists, historians, journalists and musicians of South Asian heritage and Esme passionately believes that its new immersive exhibits at the museum will give the community a strong sense of belonging – indeed there is a new Belonging Gallery.
As debate rumbles on about the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, Esme talks convincingly about the multiple benefits of sending back some of their ceremonial items to Aboriginal groups, and the museum now boasts its first ever Curator of Indigenous Perspectives.
Esme’s conviction of a museum’s power to spread a sense of well-being, alleviate loneliness and to act as a vibrant, unifying, cultural hub for the entire city is inspiring. With infectious enthusiasm, Esme will eradicate any lingering doubt anyone might have about culture’s role in making society a better place.
EPISODE 100: The Dalai Lama and hope for 2023, with Josef O’Connor
We’re celebrating our 100th episode of Break Out Culture by talking about hope to Josef O’Connor, the young Irish-born artist and curator who’s on a mission to use art to spread a sense of optimism globally.
In October 2020 Josef launched CIRCA (the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts) as a platform to showcase digital art with a purpose in the public sphere, starting with Piccadilly Circus’s famous lights screen.
Every night at 20:23 throughout 2023, Piccadilly Circus, and other screens around the world, will show newly commissioned work by artists on the subject of hope. The film will change every month. January’s film is slightly longer, at three and a half minutes, because it contains a recorded message from the His Holiness the Dalai Lama– which you too can hear by tuning into the podcast. He talks about the oneness of humanity in turbulent times and a three-minute animated film has been made with CIRCA to accompany his message.
£150 buys you a screen print of ‘The Art of Hope’ by the Dalai Lama till the end of 2023 and proceeds go to Tibet Hope Centre and to the #CIRCAeconomy. What we also discover on the podcast is that subscribers to CIRCA will receive an original framed print monthly for just £1,000 a year.
Listen in to find out how Josef O’Connor is radically changing the way art can be distributed and hear about the success he’s had so far, working with artists ranging from Ai Weiwei and David Hockney to Patti Smith and Yoko Ono.
EPISODE 99: We Are Family: psychotherapist Julia Samuel and her daughters Emily and Sophie
Happy New Year and welcome back to Break Out Culture. Given it’s January and we’re all trying to give ourselves a fresh start, we’re kicking the year off with a free therapy session, talking to Julia Samuel MBE, acclaimed psychotherapist, grief counsellor and author. In the wake of her popular podcast Grief Works, Julia launched Therapy Works last September, with her two psychotherapist daughters, Emily and Sophie. It’s already essential listening for anyone interested in finding ways of facing and dealing with life’s daily struggles, whatever they are.
The podcast’s guests have included Helena Bonham Carter, Alastair Campbell, Minnie Driver, Kate Ferdinand and Richard E. Grant, along with a range of lesser-known people and all display remarkable honesty as they discuss the issues they’re tackling, ranging from divorce, domestic violence, step-parenting, sexual abuse and miscarriage to addiction, sexuality, identity, grief, a life-changing accident, toxic masculinity and war. It’s fascinating hearing Julia, Sophie and Emily discuss their different approaches to tackling their guest’s difficulties. It’s a reminder that however insurmountable the obstacles in our lives seem, there are ways of dealing with them.
EPISODE 98: Mandela the Musical, with Kwame Kwei-Armah
This is our last podcast of the year so we’re going out on a high by talking to Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director at The Young Vic, about staging the world premiere of ‘Mandela the Musical, set to become the most talked about show of the next few weeks. Mandela is played by Michael Luwoye, who played both the title role and Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Winnie Mandela is played by Scottish actor Danielle Fiamanya who played Elsa in Frozen.
The musical has been staged with the full cooperation of Mandela’s family so listen to Kwame tell the story of how it came about and why he took the plunge to shape this well-known resistance story as a musical. It covers the 30 years from the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 to Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.
We’ll be back on air again on Sunday 15 January but meanwhile, thank you to all our listeners for staying with us over the last three years and we wish you all a very happy Christmas.
EPISODE 97: Christina Makris on restaurants with great art collections
This week we’re celebrating the festive season by talking to Christina Makris about fabulous places to eat out. Christina, an art and wine writer, a doctor of philosophy, an art collector and a philanthropist, has scoured the world to find the best combination of art and food. She’s travelled to 100 cities over six continents and come up with a list of 24 – all collated in a beautiful new illustrated book called Aesthetic Dining, The Art Restaurant Around the World. She’s dedicated a section of the book to talking to artists, alongside Tim Marlow of The Design Museum, where you can read what artists like Ai Weiwei Anthony Gormley, Conrad Shawcross, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, David Hockney, Maggi Hambling, Julian Schnabel, Michael Craig-Martin, Peter Blake and Tracey Emin think about food.
We talk to Christina as she’s about to have lunch at The Gunton Arms in Norfolk, owned by the art collector turned restaurateur Ivor Braka. She describes the art there and the glorious, enticing atmosphere, which guaranteed The Gunton Arms made it into the book.
The London restaurants are Langans, The Ivy, Mr. Chow, Scott’s, Hix, Sketch and the members’ club Groucho, now owned by Hauser & Wirth. This is a riveting listen about the best combinations of art and food across the globe from Sydney and Cairo to Zurich and Tuscany and we discuss everything from Peter Langan’s legacy in London to her favourite spots to eat from La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul de Vence in Provence to Kronenhalle in Zurich.
EPISODE 96: Britain’s Most Beautiful Building: with Norman Foster and Stephen Bayley
This week we’re talking to Britain’s most revered architect, Lord Foster, and to the design guru and co-founder of the Design Museum, Stephen Bayley, about their quest to put beauty back at the heart of contemporary building. The registered charity, the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust, which Stephen chairs, staged its first ever Building Beauty Awards on Monday 21 November at the Stirling Prize winning Bloomberg building in the City – which Norman Foster designed. We discuss the winners across four categories: building, engineering, public spaces and little gems, the last designed to cheer residents and bring pride to a built neighbourhood.
This is a rare chance to hear two such prominent figures from the world of architecture and design discuss what constitutes beauty in new building today. Building beauty reaps rich award – the winners received £10,000, the joint biggest prize in architecture and a Portland stone rhodium-plated trophy created by the jeweller Theo Fennell – who was also one of the judges.
Tune in to find out who the winners of the prize were and to hear about the first Royal Fine Art Commission Trust International Building Beauty Prize at World Architecture Festival in Lisbon next week.
EPISODE 95: Picture Perfect Christmas Theatre at The National Gallery & The Globe with Hannah Khalil, Clare Arouche and Francesca Reid
This week we’re talking to Clare Arouche, Head of Hospitality and Events at The National Gallery, about an exciting festive initiative to stage a play inside the gallery called ‘Picture Perfect Christmas’. The play is inspired by one of the Gallery’s paintings, a 17th Century Dutch Old Master ‘A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle’ by Hendrick Avercamp. It’s directed by Francesca Reid of Boo Productions, who tells us how she’s re-imagined the skating scene as a delightful, immersive, upbeat show for the family.
We also talk to Writer in Residence at The Globe, Hannah Khalil, about adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Fir Tree’ in the open air, complete with puppets, carol singing and tree decorating, directed by the Globe’s Artistic Director Michelle Terry. Hannah goes on to tell us about her other play there, ‘Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights’, her take on the story of Scheherazade.
We also fill you in on this year’s offerings of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at The Old Vic with Owen Teale and the RSC with Ade Edmonson, and there’s also a fun new play at its heart by Piers Torday, Wind in the Wilton’s, at Wilton’s Music Hall.
EPISODE 94: Photographs that change the world with Maryam Eisler, Mahaneela and Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-nti
This episode we’re looking at how photography has the power to change attitudes and is increasingly blurring the lines between fashion and art. We talk to two young photographers, Mahaneela and Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-nti, exhibiting at The New Black Vanguard, which runs at the Saatchi Gallery till late January. The exhibition is curated by writer, critic and editor, Antwaun Sargent, is sponsored by Burberry and focuses on fashion portraiture that celebrates black culture.
We chat to Maryam Eisler, the Iranian-born photographer whose exhibition If Only These Walls Could Talk is at the Alon Zakaim Fine Art Gallery on Cork Street. Her photographs are set in the gorgeous, world-famous hotel Nord-Pinus in Arles in the South of France, which she’s used as a beautiful and glamorous setting to celebrate the beauty and sensuality of the female form.
We discuss both exhibitions and have a fascinating conversation about the responsibility that photographers feel to document political shifts and current affairs and celebrate the power photography has, particularly via social media, to shift perceptions and ultimately change the world.
EPISODE 93: The Art of Sarah Biffin with Alison Lapper, Philip Mould and Ellie Smith
Today we’re talking about Sarah Biffin, the Victorian artist who became a successful miniaturist and portraitist, after overcoming being born without arms. We talk to gallerist Philip Mould and curator/researcher Ellie Smith about the exhibition of her work at Philip Mould’s gallery on Pall Mall. It’s called Without Hands and runs till mid-December.
Also on the podcast is the artist Alison Lapper, who was born 180 years later than Sarah Biffin, with exactly the same condition. She too paints by mouth and was an advisor on Without Hands. Alison famously became the focus of an enormous amount of public attention in 2005 when her friend Marc Quinn sculpted her pregnant for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.
Alison tells of her own challenges of becoming a successful artist and sheds light on just how courageous and determined Sarah Biffin must have been to go from being a fairground attraction, as documented by Charles Dickens, to being a well-respected society portrait artist and miniaturist. Alison also describes just what an extraordinary feat it was for Sarah to paint feathers, for which she was known, of such exquisite delicacy, using only her mouth and shoulder. Listen in to find out more about this fascinating and inspiring breakthrough exhibition.
EPISODE 92: Poetry: A Friend For Life, with poet Pelé Cox and mental health campaigner Rachel Kelly
This week we talk to the poet Pelé Cox and best-selling author Rachel Kelly about the power of poetry to comfort and support us. Rachel’s new book, You’ll Never Walk Alone: Poems for Life’s Ups and Downs is far more than an anthology – it’s a practical guide to how to use poetry as a tool to help us cope with our daily lives.
Rachel Kelly is a tireless mental health campaigner, following the success of her memoir Black Rainbow. Black Rainbow was about depression and how reading poetry helped her to recover. She’s remained a passionate advocate for the therapeutic power of poetry ever since. Pelé Cox is a poet, poet, dramaturgist and literature tutor and was one of the first poets to be accepted onto Andrew Motion’s Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. She’s been Poet in Residence at the Tate and Royal Academy of Arts, among other institutions. She’s also made a widely acclaimed film about Keats starring Damian Lewis and Nicholas Rowe.
Listen in to a fascinating conversation about what poetry can bring to all our lives and to hear how Rachel constructed her book to cover every season so there are poems to help in the depths of winter gloom and others to celebrate the joys of summer.
EPISODE 91: Artist in Residence: Reopening Leighton House with Curator Daniel Robbins and Artist Shahrzad Ghaffari
This week we’re talking about two of London’s most magnificent Victorian houses, Leighton House and Sambourne House in Holland Park. Leighton House, studio-home of the eminent Victorian artist Frederic Lord Leighton, has just reopened after an £8 million redevelopment along with nearby Sambourne House, the family home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne.
We talk to Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator of both houses and to the Iranian artist Shahrzad Ghaffari, who’s hand-painted an 11-foot high textured mural around the curved wall of Leighton House’s brand new helical staircase. Shahrzad tells us that her mural is inspired by the 13th Century poet Rumi and, with its bright turquoise motifs which echo the tiles in the Arab Hall, the work represents the present and future of the house, continuing to deepen our knowledge of and understanding of eastern culture.
A new exhibition space in Leighton House is now showcasing the work of the Holland Park Circle of artists, to which Lord Leighton belonged, while the new basement has a display of Leighton’s exquisite drawings – there are 700 belonging to the house. You can see Leighton’s studio exactly as it would have been, as well as the Arab Hall and the other public areas, full of mosaics, tiles, pottery and artefacts which he brought back from his travels in Egypt, Turkey and Syria.
Walking into Sambourne House is to be fully immersed in a Victorian family home while Leighton House is now a lively destination and gathering point with a new café overlooking the garden. Both are well worth a visit so listen in to hear about what’s in store at both of these great historic homes.
EPISODE 90: Celebrating the glories of Cezanne with Natalia Sidlina and Michael Raymond
This week Ed and I are celebrating our hundredth episode together since starting as Lockdown Culture in April 2020. We’re also celebrating Cezanne, one of the world’s most popular but enigmatic artists. A new show The EY Exhibition: Cezanne at Tate Modern has opened with 22 works never seen in the UK before, including some dazzling still lives that he’s loved for the world over. We talk to Natalia Sidlina, who’s worked at Tate Modern as Curator of International Art since 2016, and Assistant Curator Michael Raymond.
Natalia and Michael throw light on Cezanne’s early life in Paris, why he hid Paul, his beloved son and his mother, Marie-Hortense, from his father and why he gained such a reputation for being a taciturn loner. Unpicking the myths that have grown up around him, they explain why his work is of such enduring importance and revered and sought after by major artists from Gauguin and Monet to Matisse and Picasso. It’s a wonderful exhibition and Natalia and Michael persuade us why this is an unmissable chance to see so many of his best-loved paintings together, from his landscapes of Mont-San-Victoire and iconic apples to his bathers, that proved to have such an influence of generations of artists to come.
EPISODE 89: Opera and dance take on Peaky Blinders, Football and It’s a Wonderful Life
This week we’re talking about the exciting opera and dance coming up in time for Christmas. Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director at ENO (English National Opera), tells us about re-imagining Frank Capra’s enduring and much-loved 1946 Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life as an opera, which opens on 25 November at the Coliseum. Adapted by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, George Bailey, the down-on-his-luck banker so memorably played by James Stewart in the film, is played by Frederick Ballentine but Clarence the Guardian Angel now becomes Clara, played by soprano Danielle de Niese. Other than the gender swap, the opera is otherwise remarkably faithful to the beloved film and certain to be a festive treat.
In the world of dance, Rambert is already wowing audiences with its adaptation of Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby, which opened at the Birmingham Hippodrome and is now on tour and in London at Troubador Wembley Park until 6 November. We’re thrilled to be talking to the creator, writer and Executive Producer of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, alongside Helen Shute of Ballet Rambert. We find out that Steven’s always loved ballet and so it was a natural progression to ask him to adapt his multi-award-winning series into a dance theatre show.
Tune in to hear how the opera and dance worlds are bursting with innovation and new ideas, including the first ever football opera Gods of the Game at the Theatre in the Woods at Grange Park Opera, complete with a chorus made up entirely of footy fans who’ve been trained to sing.
EPISODE 88: New Perspectives on Lucian Freud, with his friend and assistant David Dawson and curator Dr. Daniel Herrmann
This December marks the centenary of the artist Lucian Freud’s birth. To celebrate, the National Gallery has gathered around 60 of his works, spanning seven decades, from all over the world to mount New Perspectives, an important exhibition that encompasses the best of his work from the early 1940’s till his death in 2011. The show is a magnificent tour-de-force and on this week’s podcast we’re delighted to be in conversation with curator Dr. Daniel Herrmann about what New Perspectives reveals about Freud’s art and character, so often overshadowed by our preconceptions.
We’re also thrilled to be talking to the artist and photographer, David Dawson, Freud’s long-term friend, confidant and assistant. From 6 October, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in Bury Street St. James is exhibiting some of Freud’s rarely seen drawings, etchings and metal etching plates, alongside some of David’s never-before-seen photographs, many of them taken in the days leading up to and immediately after Freud’s death. The photographs present an intimate, gentle and affectionate portrait of the artist and David talks movingly of Freud’s last days and his tender relationship with his mother as well as his friendship with other major artists and the subjects of his paintings. Thanks to Daniel and David, we gain a real insight into Lucian Freud’s personality as well as his paintings and working methods. Between them, Daniel and David provide an invaluable introduction to these two exhibitions that are not to be missed.
EPISODE 87: Books in a Bomb Shelter: KC Philippe Sands and Sofiya Chelyak on the Lviv Book Forum
Autumn is the time for literary festivals, including the mighty 10-day Cheltenham Literature Festival, London’s South Bank, the small but beautifully formed Cliveden and many more including Bridport, Petworth, Stratford, Henley, Harrogate, North Cornwall, Braemar and more. But this week we’re going to war-torn Ukraine to feature the Lviv Book Forum, in collaboration with Hay Festival, which runs in a bomb shelter between 6 and 9 October. We talk to the courageous and undaunted Programme Director, Sofiya Chelyak, and to the human rights KC, Philippe Sands, celebrated author of East West Street, The Ratline and a new book The Last Colony. Philippe will be attending the extraordinary festival alongside Henry Marsh, Misha Glenny, Margaret Atwood, Yuval Noah Harari, Elif Shafak and Margaret MacMillan.
It’s actually the 29th edition of the Lviv Book Forum, Ukraine’s biggest literary festival, but given the war it’s had to be shrunk and with Hay’s support, it’s defiantly going ahead with just 40 writers. As its digital partner for the first time, Hay will broadcast the conversations free in English, Ukrainian and Spanish. Sofiya describes the festival as running ‘in defiance of the evil that seeks to squash their freedom,’ and so we applaud and admire its efforts to keep these vital conversations alive and deepen our understanding of this little known, vast and complex country.
EPISODE 86: Dr. Nick Merriman on how a community museum bagged the biggest museum prize in the world
This week we discover why in July, The Horniman, a small museum in Forest Hill, South London, won the hugely coveted Art Fund Museum of the Year Award. We talk to Dr. Nick Merriman, who’s been Chief Executive and Director of Content there since 2018. Nick’s a widely published expert on museum studies and was director of the Manchester Museum since 2006, increasing visitor numbers to 450,000 a year. He’s also been Chair of the International Council of Museums UK and Chair of the University Museums Group, amongst many other illustrious appointments.
We find out what attracted him to this small but perfectly formed gem of a museum with its beautiful, extensive gardens overlooking London. He tells us about the museum’s history, dating back to 1890 and founded by tea merchant Frederick Horniman, originally in his private home. In 1901 it reopened as a purpose-built museum with its signature tower, that still houses the museum today. The collections are gloriously quirky, comprising an aquarium, a mini farm, a butterfly house and around 350,000 objects including a big range of stuffed animals, musical instruments and numerous anthropological artefacts and curios. For any of our listeners who’ve not yet been, there is something here for everyone – gorgeous garden walks, loads of imaginative, interactive fun for kids and enough fascinating exhibits to keep adults fascinated for hours. We love it.
EPISODE 85: Tristram Hunt, Champion of Creativity at the V&A
Break Out Culture is back, and we kick off the autumn season by talking about one of the most important issues of our time – creativity, or the lack of it, in our education system. Tristram Hunt has been director of the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2017 and is a historian, broadcaster and journalist with several books under his belt, as well as having served as a Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Education. He’s now on a mission to ensure that the V&A champions design and creativity for everyone, believing that creative and design skills amongst children and young people are drastically diminishing. With his roles in education and politics as well as at the V&A, no-one’s better placed to lead this important national debate. So, tune in to learn about how the V&A is redressing the balance. There’s a a specially commissioned film, Creativity: It’s What Makes Us, and three new sites, Young V&A, opening in Bethnal Green next year, V&A East Storehouse and V&A East Museum. Plus he tells us about the forthcoming exhibitions from Hallyu! The Korean Wave to Chanel, set to be next year’s blockbuster.