MY STORY   Living with the immigrants in our garden

MY STORY Living with the immigrants in our garden

Diversity isn’t just for people, it extends to the plant kingdom too and a soon to be published study shows that three-quarters of the plants in our city gardens are non-native. Next year Birmingham’s Victoria Square will be given over to PoliNations, a celebration of horticultural as well as human diversity which is commissioned as part of UNBOXED, next year’s festival of the UK’s creativity marking the Queen’s platinum jubilee. Its creative director is Angie Bual, artistic director of the Bristol based arts organisation Trigger which makes outdoor and site specific live theatre.

Antony Sher dies

Antony Sher dies

Sir Antony Sher, perhaps the finest actor of his generation, has died aged 72, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced today.

TAITMAIL   Behind the battlements

TAITMAIL Behind the battlements

Nottingham Castle Museum was doing well, for a museum without much real history left to talk about, and it was getting a healthy 150,000 visitors a year - about half what Stonehenge gets - before it closed for its £30m refurb which it was hoped would double the numbers. 

Shebeen culture wins Turner Prize

Shebeen culture wins Turner Prize

Array Collective, the Belfast co-operative of 11 artists whose nominated work, The Druithaib’s Ball, is an installation centred on an illicit Irish drinking den described as “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”, has won the 2021 Turner Prize.

ACE’s £38.3m for local culture

ACE’s £38.3m for local culture

Arts Council England has today announced grants worth £38.3m for the programme that makes partners of cultural organisations and communities.

Bird to quit SOLT and UK Theatre

Bird to quit SOLT and UK Theatre

Julian Bird is to stand down as CEO of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre after more than 11 years. 

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

London’s East End, June, 1957, by Frank Pocklington

Alan Sparrow talks to Frank Pocklington about his favourite Picture Post photograph

Sacha Craddock stands down at New Contemporaries

Sacha Craddock stands down at New Contemporaries

Sacha Craddock is stepping down as chair of New Contemporaries, the organisation set up more than 70 years ago to support emerging visual artists with touring exhibitions of their work.

Eilish McGuinness takes over at NHLF

Eilish McGuinness takes over at NHLF

Eilish McGuinness is to take over from Ros Kerslake as CEO of the National Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of the year.

Lewisham’s year of diverse culture

Lewisham’s year of diverse culture

Lewisham is to be London’s next Borough of Culture for 2022, focusing on diversity, activism and the climate emergency in a programme that was announced at the Rivoli Ballroom today.

Emmie Kell is ACE's new museums chief

Emmie Kell is ACE's new museums chief

Emmie Kell, CEO of the Cornwall Museums Partnership, is to be Arts Council England’s new director of museums and cultural property.

Merger creates Creative UK

Merger creates Creative UK

The Creative Industries Federation and Creative England have merged today to become Creative UK, bringing together the advocacy work of one body and the investment expertise and practical support of the other.

Kathryn Jacob to chair HOME

Kathryn Jacob to chair HOME

Kathryn Jacob, CEO of the cinema advertising agency Pearl & Dean, is to be the new chair of the Manchester arts centre HOME.

33% of musicians still earning nothing from music

33% of musicians still earning nothing from music

A third of our professional musicians are earning nothing from music and 87% are earning less than £1,000 a month, according to new figures today from the charity Help Musicians.

£1m hunt for young museumgoers as ‘perfect storm’ looms

£1m hunt for young museumgoers as ‘perfect storm’ looms

The Art Fund has launched a £1m fundraising campaign to help museums attract under 24-year-olds.

Another £107m for arts recovery

Another £107m for arts recovery

Almost 1,000 arts organisations are to benefit from a new round of £107m worth of grants from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

£5m for community jubilee parties

£5m for community jubilee parties

A new Arts Council fund is offering £5m to help voluntary and community organisations celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee next year.

Curators share £300k development funding

Curators share £300k development funding

The Art Fund has named the 11 museum professionals that will share the Headley Fellowship’s grants this year worth £302,500 to extend their collections knowledge.

THE WORD   Under-estimating the power of the tweet

THE WORD Under-estimating the power of the tweet

Social media have become essential to arts organisations, says a new report, and often rely on underpaid and under-resourced operators. Alice Kent of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre asks what can professional networks, industry, funders and policy-makers do to ensure that digital workers are better supported

Birthday royal sculptures for Albert Hall

Birthday royal sculptures for Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall has commissioned sculptures of the Queen, Prince Philip, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from four young artists to mark its 150th anniversary.

Ten Manchester music creatives offered £1k development packages

Ten Manchester music creatives offered £1k development packages

Manchester International Festival is offering £1,000 each to ten local musicians to help them create new work as part of its MIF Sounds initiative, launched last year at the height of the pandemic.

Florence Nightingale joins Lord Mayor’s parade

Florence Nightingale joins Lord Mayor’s parade

Marking the completion of her 200th birthday celebrations., Florence Nightingale joined the Lord Mayor of London’s Show at the weekend.

Giant print plant plays host to classical experiment

Giant print plant plays host to classical experiment

A printing plant that once one of the largest in Europe has been the venue for a pioneering immersive concert.

Mariam Zulfiqar to lead Artangel

Mariam Zulfiqar to lead Artangel

Mariam Zulfiqar, Forestry England’s contemporary art programme manager since March this year, is to be the new director or of the public art producer Artangel.

The artist, afloat on a Sea of Plastic

Tony Common, the graphic genius behind countless screen presentations, has brought his skills to create a disturbing body of work, Sea of Plastic, in the hope of helping to save wildlife from our waste. He talked to Simon Tait

A Japanese fisherman on the Nagara River is contentedly dozing in his small boat as his tame cormorants bring him his catch, but his basket is full of plastic.

A female albatross, back from a long hunting expedition, settles into the grassy niche that holds her nest, and feeds her young the results of her quest. But unwittingly she is killing her own offspring. Instead of the small fish she believes she has brought them, she is feeding them the various pieces of plastic that have replaced the fish in the ocean off the southern coast of Australia.

In a tropical ocean, turtles are beset by synthetic string and shredded polythene, and choke on discarded food wrapping, near a beach covered in multi-coloured plastic detritus.

These images are just three of 18 paintings by the artist Tony Common for a book he is making, Sea of Plastic. The images are lovely, bright colours and meticulously drawn details, but their beauty has an ugly message. They are the artist’s graphic lesson, aimed at school children, in the strangulation of nature by our plastic waste, a book and an exhibition that he hopes will tour the country.

“It is a terrible story to tell, and it seemed to me the only way of telling it was graphically, in a way that grabs kids’ imagination” Tony says. “I was inspired to do it by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II television series at Christmas, in which he highlighted the terrible cost to wildlife of our carelessness.”

The stricken creatures he has been painting have brought Tony Common back to the wildlife that began his long career, one that included creating the sets for Dr Who, making videos for the likes of David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Queen, and, in his retirement, creating the famous street wall paintings for the Chelsea Arts Club.

As a schoolboy in Plymouth his skill at drawing birds came to the attention of the BBC's natural history unit, and he provided the title graphics for a children’s nature programme. His work was seen by the naturalist and artist Sir Peter Scott who became a mentor, and at 16 he went to Plymouth School of Art. Still a teenager, he went to London to study at the Royal College of Art, but was too busy with book design commissions to attend classes.

He was also freelancing as an illustrator for the BBC, making the graphics for programme titles, and after six months was asked to join the corporation’s graphic arts department.

 

He worked on the first ever Dr Who, starring William Hartnell, in 1963. “You cannot believe how pathetic it was” Tony recalls. “We had to create the Gobi Desert in an area no bigger than a large table, with three cut-outs of dunes, a black drape to make sky (it was black-and-white television), the Tardis, four actors, two little piles of sand, and that was the desert. I said it was never going to take off.

But it was the start of a career at the BBC in which he rose to be head of the graphic design studio, working on most Top of the Pops episodes, devising backdrops in every style you can think of. At the other end of the spectrum, he made the detailed sets for I Claudius, including the mosaic floors that were hand-painted on canvas. “The shows were built in big workshops, the size of a football pitch, transported around Television Centre to the studio for the live broadcast, then brought back to store, so they got pretty knocked about during the series”.

Tony also worked with David Attenborough on his 70s BBC series Life on Earth.

He left the BBC to work in commercials with directors like Ridley and Tony Scott, Alan Parker and Hugh Hudson who went on to make careers in the feature films. He invented a technique of using large glass panels to paint scenery through which a camera could shoot, and struck a rich seam with the pop videos that thrilled fans through the 80s and 90s.

A keen member of the Chelsea Arts Club, he had been urged to decorate its white street walls for its famous summer ball, but he resisted – until he retired. He now creates a new coat twice a year, and once made a forest that stayed a whole year, changing seasonally. “I seem to be able to paint in the styles of different painters – all the art in the television series on the Pre-Raphaelites was by me. David Hockney once said I'd painted more pictures by him than he had”.

Tony never lost his early love for wildlife, and while working at the BBC he created a refuge for endangered species of birds of prey, winning an award from London Zoo for his work. As well as creating his Sea of Plastics series, he is working on exquisite pen and ink drawings of birds – “it’s detailed work, you have count the feathers”.

So this latest project is his own distinct work and comes from the artist’s heart. He has as yet no publisher, nor a gallery to start the exhibition in, but he's confident his message is one the public will approve of. “Attenborough’s film really got to me, how we're destroying the best things of this world, so I felt I had to do something. And what else can an artist do?”

 

 

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