Here to be Heard

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Never saw The Slits but the almost breathless start to their cover of “Heard it through the Grapevine” is a classic, applauded by a member of the audience who asked how it had come about to find that the reggae producer brought in from Island Records couldn’t get it right and a new producer on their first record brought it together.
The Guardian review of the documentary expresses disappointment with the film so I had gone for the experience of the event, including a Q&A like that.
My question was on the claim by a journalist (check) that ‘without The Slits, there would have been no Madonna’. “Were they disappointed with today’s music scene“?  Turns out the quote came from Madonna at the outset appearing to copy Viv Albertine‘s fashion sense.
The documentary is a bit of a mess, and the second half not good, but the first half is compelling, especially for the nostalgia.  And the Slits were part of that magic time when youth music was so good.

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This House

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Political events of 1974 to 1979 from the perspectives of the House of Commons Whips’s offices of Labour and Conservatives, made poignant from the Labour Party trying to pass legislation and hold office whilst 17 of their members died.
Turned into a play, performed nationally, including at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, drawn in part from one written by former Bassetlaw MP Joe Ashton, which I saw at the Nottingham Playhouse some years back.
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I sense people found the play too long and perhaps thinking the political motivations a tad shallow.
Without taking sides, the play needs to do a bit more to convey what Wilson, Callaghan, Foot and others were trying to get done. Which was in essence to keep the values of mainstream Labour going – full employment and social justice, and nationalisation as a way of modernising the country (think of the GPO inventing fibre optics) and directing profits into common wealth – in the wake of Ted Heath allowing unemployment to grow and globalisation undercutting decades of investment in Britain’s manufacturing base and developing the notion that wealth was to be drawn from what at the time was called invisible earnings.
If they could have won in Autumn 1978 (Callaghan not going to the church is not covered) or gone the full distance in Autumn 1979, then Labour could have used the receipts of North Sea Oil – modernise our manufacturing, invest in schools, hospitals and achieve full employment.
Instead, the money was used to allow market forces and the whims of the rich to take the reins, a strong pound destroying our manufacturing base.
Joe Ashton’s “Majority of One” was very pro the Labour Government and I would read his articles in Labour Weekly and hear those pitches to Labour Conferences proclaiming what Labour achieved and protesting at how Labour MPs suffered.
But it ran against a mobilised trade union movement that was seeking to do more in terms of shifting the balance of power in the workplace, and a frustration at Britain not being able to keep up with the growth of personal disposable wealth in Germany, the USA and elsewhere, which led to the return of third parties, and conflicting appeals to the importance of being in the Common Market (then only 9 countries) and the return of demanding home rule or independence for Scotland and Wales.

Watching the play with more knowledge than most could be dangerous. I was laughing out loud at Walsall North (John Stonehouse) drowning in the ocean, knowing full well he faked it, when other members of the audience were feeling sorry for a man who appeared to be committing suicide.
The snippets could be great. Remembering the characters that were West Lothian, Chelmsford etc.  A young Rushcliffe (Ken Clarke) panicking as the elderly Labour MP he pushed over appeared to be conking out.
On the other hand, I thought Audrey Wise a far more credible character than presented – and remember how well known the Rooker-Wise amendment was known.
The surprises – that Bob Mellish and Michael Cocks could be seen as such heroes; that the deputy whips reached agreement to pair Batley & Morley in that very final vote, and then the Labour deputy Walter Harrison declining the offer – even now, I remember the TV broadcast 5 days after the loss of confidence vote expressing the heart-break of that Labour MP who had died.  Deeply moving.

Curating modern art

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Called on to discuss “The Square“, a film directed by a curator of modern art, in which the lead character is a curator, the Director of Nottingham Contemporary, Sam Thorne, was left slightly bewildered as he came to realise that so little of what he does actually features in the film.  indeed, the film doesn’t even feature showing art at any stage as a success – hardly anyone seems to see the exhibitions.
Instead the art featured goes back 25 years to when the focus was on shocking people. People involved, especially sponsors, are viewed upon with some disdain.
Still some of the stories do draw upon real events.  Cleaners mistaking art for material left to be cleared away; an actor playing a wild dog during a dinner.
Other insights – tha film features a Sweden which no longer has a royal family with some really entertaining consequences, but kinda lost if the point never crosses your mind.

The Square

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Many stories use slightly not credible events and twists to make an interesting story.  Some of the events in The Square are drawn from real events at a modern art gallery.
This movie was doing fine, if becoming unpleasant, until the main character pushes a kid down some stairs; the actions that result are completely not credible and attempts to draw big life lessons are a nonsense.
(r:24; e:2, s:3, p:4)