Giving China’s 21st century performers a place in London’s calendar

Giving China’s 21st century performers a place in London’s calendar

Was Debussy Chinese? No, of course not, but he might have been, thinks An-Ting Chang.

UK’s heritage in danger from cuts, union warns

UK’s heritage in danger from cuts, union warns

Funding cuts are hitting the caret of the UK’s heritage and museums, according to a survey of its members by the public service union Prospect.

Turner’s birthday garden party

Turner’s birthday garden party

As J M W Turner’s 243rdbirthday is celebrated today, the restoration of the garden at the house he designed and built at Twickenham for his father and himself is completed.

TaitMail    Lessons from St John’s Smith Square: that six legs are better than three

TaitMail Lessons from St John’s Smith Square: that six legs are better than three

The shell burst last weekend was the loudest culture bang to go off since ENO lost a large hunk of its subsidy three years ago and threatened to go dark if its new business plan didn’t work. St John’s Smith Square isn’t the Coliseum, but it not being there would leave a large hole in a lot of people’s musical lives.  

Where are our monuments? History and the Windrush fiasco

Where are our monuments? History and the Windrush fiasco

The Black Cultural Archives, the nation’s only repository dedicated to the heritage of African and Caribbean heritage people, opened its centre in Windrush Square, Brixton, in 2014, but why the Windrush documents if no longer thought useful, were they not passed over to the archive?Here its director, Paul Reid, looks at the history behind the unfolding fiasco regarding for the Windrush generation - and sees a shameful lack of appreciation of the Black citizens who have helped create today’s Britain, creating a hostile environment for legal migrants

Lancashire to reopen three museums

Lancashire to reopen three museums

Weekend opening plans revealed after closures

Proms showcase for disabled ensemble

Proms showcase for disabled ensemble

BSO Resound, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s disabled-led ensemble, is to make its Proms debut this summer, and its first major UK performance.

Roundhouse recruits kids’ champion

Roundhouse recruits kids’ champion

Sir Ken Robinson, the pioneer of creativity in education, is to join the Roundhouse arts centre as associate creative curator to boost its work with young people, it was announced today.

Arts education: ‘It’s not enough minister’ say arts chiefs

Arts education: ‘It’s not enough minister’ say arts chiefs

Arts leaders, including the artistic director of English National Ballet and the CEO of the British Fashion Council, have today demanded full creative education for all schoolchildren.

Crossing the Narrow Water

Crossing the Narrow Water

A literary festival aims to bridge the gap between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Youth moving in on Tate

Youth moving in on Tate

Tate has launched with a two-pronged initiative to bring more young visitors, offering £5 exhibition admission and a new youth-dedicated trustee.

St John’s Smith Square may close in funding crisis

St John’s Smith Square may close in funding crisis

One of Europe’s great concert venues will close next year if a funding appeal launched today https://www.sjss.org.uk/savesjss does not succeed.

THE WORD         Art should lead the attack on the gender wall

THE WORD Art should lead the attack on the gender wall

The British Punjabi artist Chila Kumari Burman (main image), who explores Asian femininity in paintings and installations, photography and printmaking, and film, sees art as central to breaking the gender gap and widening the cultural gaze

Arts letting down minorities in workforce

Those working in the creative industries are still predominantly from the middle classes, excluding those from BAME and working class backgrounds.

THE WORD    Own Art - who owns it?

THE WORD Own Art - who owns it?

Gallerist Ann Petherick calls time on her participation in the Own Art scheme, aimed at encouraging artlovers to buy art in easy payments

Gillian Ayres dies at 88

Gillian Ayres dies at 88

One of the leading British abstract colourist artists of the last 50 years, Gillian Ayes, has died aged 88.

ACNI announces round of cuts in funding

ACNI announces round of cuts in funding

But boost for Ulster Orchestra and Belfast MAC

 ‘New’ Grimms tale created by cloning

‘New’ Grimms tale created by cloning

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a new Grimms fairy tale was published - 150 years after the brothers died, thanks to artificial intelligence.

MY STORY Novel reality

The Barrow Fields is Phillip Lewis’s debut novel, yet even before it is published he is being talked of as “a powerful new voice in fiction” (Google Books).

He is a lawyer as well as a bibliophile whose coming of age novel has been described in the New York Times as “Beautifully written and deeply moving” in the tradition of Tom Wolfe and William Styron

 

The Barrow Fields is a painfully honest family saga centred on the relationship between a father and his son. Your own father was a lawyer and frustrated novelist. How much does the narrative draw on real life? While I drew on my own experiences in writing the book, I did my best
to translate and transform those experiences, and the emotional weight of those experiences, into an entirely or largely fictional account. There are undeniably some overt parallels, including the father’s afflictions
of alcoholism and depression— both of which plagued my own father—but the father in the book is otherwise a product of imagination.

Similarly, the other characters in the book (with the exception of the magnificent and darling canine) are fictional constructs or amalgamations in one form or another, and the lives of the characters and their victories and tragedies are likewise imagined and not based strictly on events in my life. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that the emotions expressed in The Barrow Fields arose out of experiences I had as a younger man and my observations of life as seen through my own eyes. It took you ve years to complete the book. To what extent was writing it an exorcism of your own hard life experiences?

I’ve heard authors say that you write a book not to remember it, but to forget it, and this goal was probably in the back of my mind as I began writing The Barrow Fields. I think people have a tendency to repress, or try to ignore, or rationalise difficult or painful memories, but writing about them is pretty much the opposite
of that. When you write about hard life experiences, you have to bring them out and hold them up to the light and actually try to understand them—certainly if you are going to explain them to anyone else in
a meaningful way. What I did in writing The Barrow elds was not to focus on the memories themselves, but rather on the emotional content or weight of those memories—in other words, how I felt about them; the emotional response I had to them. For example, to this day when I return to the mountain town where I grew up, it has an oppressive quality to me that I don’t feel anywhere else in the world. In The Barrow Fields, I wanted
to create a fictional town that would make readers feel the same way that
I feel when I go back home, which was not easy to do. If I had described my hometown in purely objective terms, you’d say, “Well, that’s just delightful”. So in order to bring about that same sense of apprehension or dread that I’ve experienced for so many years, it was necessary to create an entirely new place with a character of its own. All of this was cathartic in its own way, but I’ve found that it was less of an exorcism than I would have liked.

How difficult was it to getThe Barrow Fields published?I was extremely fortunate, and
I feel like I owe the universe an enormous debt of gratitude. The daughter of a former law colleague of mine happened to know an agent in New York, and she sent him my manuscript. He read it, contacted me, and in just a few weeks he and I were working on revisions. After several months of hard labour,
we had the manuscript in pretty good fighting shape, and she was purchased at auction by Hogarth
in the US. Soon after I learned that publication rights had also been sold to Sceptre in the UK, and also the publishing companies in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands.

The book is firmly set in the traditions of the Appalachians, your home, yet it is being published on both sides of the Atlantic. Do you think it will be as easily appreciated by British readers as American?The major themes of the book are,
I believe, universal. If you had
to boil it down, the book, at its
most fundamental level, explores relationships more than anything else—relationships between a father and his son; between a son and his younger sister; between an adopted daughter and her parents, both adoptive and biological; between a bright young man and the girl he falls so madly in love with; between a young man and his dog. The
book explores in a very sincere way how genuine people deal with loss, separation, grief, love, and at the
end of the day, summon the strength and courage to begin to and hope again despite having no real reason to do so.

You’re a student of language and a collector of books, but literature has taken a swerve because of digital publishing with authors now able to by-pass the publishing and editing stages. Has writing itself changed as a result, and if so for the better or worse, do you think?Human beings are capable of extraordinary and boundless creativity, and I think there should be no barriers to this creativity finding an outlet for its expression. I also believe that very few literary works are created in a vacuum, and that the editorial process is invaluable and likely essential if you want to wind up with the best possible book or short story or essay. Still, I constantly thirst for new and interesting and
raw expressions of creativity and imagination, and there’s never been
a better time to find such expressions than in this digital age. If you love the written word, it’s an incredible time to be alive.

By the same token, with readers consorting to electronic tablets more and more, has the reading experience changed?The reading experience has changed for some people, and looking at
how rapidly our society is veering toward digital appliances and applications, there does seem to be
a certain inevitability regarding the change from books made from trees
to electronic books—although I, for one, will never prefer electronic books to paper ones, nor will I read a book on an electronic device unless I have no other options (magazines, yes; books, no). I’ll go down with the damn ship. In my home, I maintain a fairly extensive library of books that I’ve collected over the years. Many of the books contain my notes, annotations and various marginalia regarding
my observations, or the definitions of words I looked up. I have a daughter and two sons, all of whom I hope to one day bene t from this library. It’s something I think about constantly. What could be more meaningful
than for one of them to open a book
20 years hence and see their father’s handwriting in the margin and
know his thoughts about a particular passage, or see through their own eyes the same words that his eyes read so many years before? Could there be a more valuable inheritance? I honestly cannot think of one. And this is not something that’s likely to happen
with an electronic book.

 

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