December 8, 2011

BBC Radio 4

Blue Notes, Cold Nights

A generation of African-American musicians escaped racism at home to build new lives, and create new music, in Scandinavia. In Blue Notes, Cold Nights, country blues singer-guitarist Eric Bibb, who learned his craft in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village but has spent much of his career in Sweden and Finland, explores one of Europe's best-kept secrets. He explains how jazz and blues players such as trumpeter Don Cherry - stepfather of R&B star Neneh Cherry - developed their talents in exile. Over the decades, he shows, generous state support has helped the music scene to flourish. Yet now that the nations of Scandinavia are facing their own immigration crises, will musicians continue to find a warm welcome?

13 December, 11.30am-12.00pm



The Steampunk movement, which began in the 1980s, mixes nostalgia with futuristic fantasy and a passion for the science-fiction novels of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, reinterpreting recent inventions such as computers and electric guitars as the Victorians might have conceived them. This exhibition at the Bradford Industrial Museum (10 December to 7 May 2012) juxtaposes late-19th- and early-20th-century steam-powered technology from the permanent collection with work loaned by local Steampunk enthusiasts. Items on display include a Steampunked chessboard created especially by York-based artist Paul McKay; an absinthe fairy costume by Jema Hewitt; and a steam-powered croquet mallet. Visitors will also be able to reflect on what it means for a utilitarian object such as a handloom to be reimagined as a time machine.


Line of Influence: Portraits of Central Saint Martins

Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts London, has relocated to a Grade II-listed former granary at the heart of the 67-acre redevelopment of King's Cross. To celebrate the move, the local Kings Place Gallery is putting on an exhibition (until 10 February 2012) of more than 30 life-size portraits of high-profile college graduates and staff, including Sir Peter Blake, Sir Anthony Caro, Sir Terence Conran, Colin Firth and Geraldine James. All have sat for Janet Lance Hughes, who has worked as a tutor on the BA fashion course as well as running her own fashion business. It was while teaching at Central Saint Martins, she recalls, that she "started to imagine all the extraordinary individuals who had passed through the doors in the last 50 years or so".


Beowulf - the Panto!

Charles Court Opera was formed in 2005 by John Savournin as a platform for young talent. It has now put on more than 20 operas, musicals and pantomimes, and numerous concert performances, in venues ranging from pub theatres to the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Now, risking outrage from all Anglo-Saxon scholars, the company has taken an epic masterpiece and given it a wickedly entertaining Christmas makeover for its fifth annual boutique panto at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. Nine classically trained singers will be giving their all in an evening of "sublime silliness combining great music with bad jokes, excruciating audience participation and downright dangerous dough dodging". The show runs from 9 December to 8 January 2012 (with seven extra-saucy "adults only" performances).


Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids

If one knows where to look, the old "Merrie England" is still alive and well. Brash, multicultural London still has its Apple Day at Borough Market and Twelfth Night Wassailing on the South Bank. Elsewhere, costumed processions, symbolic dramatisations, traditional dances and fire ceremonies mark the changing seasons and celebrate nature's bounty. Many of these customs claim an ancient origin. For this exhibition at the Horniman Museum (until 9 September 2012), award-winning photographer Sara Hannant has put together 50 images of the colourful, startling and sometimes plain weird regional rituals that many people assume have gone.

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