Monthly Archives: May 2011

The crying game of aspirations

Sitting on one of the benches outside near the RWA, while eating my £3.95 chorizo, goat’s cheese and rosary goat’s cheese baguette, from Papadeli cafe, I have the song Crying Game running through my head.

It’s not playing because of the vandalised art work which is one third still standing, wrapped in bubble wrap, and two thirds down on the ground, wrapped in canvas, like a body about to be taken to a morgue. I just misread someone’s tweet about the waiting game.

I had a brief vision of the shocking end to the movie where the person you thought you loved was not in the right body after all. Now, as I watch, the body is covered by blue tarpaulin and then undressed again so Sabet Choudhury can report on it for Points West this evening.

The bronze sculpture ‘Aspiration’ by David Backhouse was worth £40,000 and showed three girls in bronze, one higher than the other. It will now probably be melted down but it was meant to inspire and bring beauty or at least a different filter on reality.

The reality of having aspirations in this day and age, however, is a lot different from any of the other decades in the 70 year old artist’s history.

Tracy Emin may seem like a fool for claiming that the Conservative party, which has cut funding on so many things is the only saviour of arts funding, but she does have a point. Who do you think buys art, she asks? It certainly isn’t the Labour philanthropists.

I question the use of the word philanthropists, which means lover of people, but agree with her contention that it is the ones with a lot of money who can afford to purchase art.

The horror of the cost of some of these works is one more example of the distorted value we place on things. A young pair of siblings have £600,000 to spend between them on a house, footballer’s wages can pay for a school but instead fund private planes, and as Del Amitri sing, Van Gogh paintings sells for the price of a hospital wing.

I am not questioning the value of the arts, indeed I think that without culture, in all its different manifestations, we become isolated and lacking in an understanding of how we all view the world differently.

We need some beauty and art to expand and inspire our lives, don’t we? Outside the RWA was a piece of art that was worth a lot but was available for 22 days for free. It was then torn down.

Next up will be work by artist Damien Hirst whose previous creations have included the diamond encrusted skull For the Love of God which was priced at £50 million. The cuts to the art world this year were worth £19.1 million and taken away from 206 organizations. The price of art like Hirst’s is sublimely ridiculous.

And why was I sitting outside to eat my sandwich instead of inside the cafe? Because I saved 20% by taking my food away with me. At a cost of over £8, my delicious meal was not cheap. I’ll happily treat myself once a month but it does make me wonder which art is for me and which is for the ones who can afford it?

Art became untouchable a long time ago and it was up to art galleries, museums and libraries to keep it safe for a while. Their upkeep has changed to a model which cries out for donations and volunteers and it is the Conservative government’s dream that this is what the Big Society will be.

The mistake here is in the definition of art and of society. Emin is not talking about the kind of art which inspires and builds aspirations, she is talking about the kind that brings in a lot of money for a select few. In the same vein, the coalition government are cutting funds from activities which they as individuals can already afford.

We are moving away from a society where we used to be able to share art and public goods to a place where you need to purchase in order to enjoy anything. Public art becomes private viewings, private care, private schooling and all the things most of us can’t afford.

Maybe it’s more fitting than ironic that it was Aspiration that was knocked down this weekend. Just have to wonder whose aspirations.

Western Exposure by James Koch

A short film on Bristol and photography by James Koch and Vianet Djenguet. These eight minutes bring together the familiar streets and windows but filtered through a lens, a window, a camera and sometimes all three.

“you’re still awake but you fall asleep”

You can see more of James’ photography on his website

Ephemeral Baby: catch-up

There were big moments for nearly everyone last week.

We began our week with baby’s big moment.

Then we had dad’s big moment and some pictures of little M.

Signs that the baby is on her way to being the littlest Wurzel.

And a warning from the NHS – hot drinks harm.

Fortnight, a love story by Mayfest

Honey, I told you. These things never last. (link – YouTube)

I meant to write an explanation of Fortnight right at the start but registration had already closed and I never got around to digging out the Mayfest booklet from under a pile of other things and I couldn’t put into my own words the very pretty description. The chance to entice others had already gone anyway.

A friend signed us up – Thank you, Martin.

Fortnight promised to be a two week adventure that took creativity and transformed it into an experience of falling in love. Kind of something like that. Maybe it was more like having someone wonderful fall in love with you.

For two weeks this mysterious lover went all about the city and chose special places to leave small mementos and tasks.

A handwritten letter was hand delivered all over Bristol at midnight and contained an individual badge to open up treats. Posters on the Watershed, Royce Rolls, the Train Station invited responses by means of an sms to a specific address.

The two of us, and our daughter Mersina, visited the Mercure hotel and answered a red telephone in the lobby. I can’t remember the question now but I remember the setting sun as we pushed the pram back into town and the answers: sailing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge; hiding in the Redcliffe Caves.

We took two trips each to get to Pembroke Rd, respectively and not together. A house of bees, the honey, the map, the badge, the triangular tiled floor and the curved staircase. Mumford and Atlas.

The three of us were at John the Baptist’s church and we wrote the letter from the past. I typed, they read.

A trip up to a room on the top floor with a view of the Bristol Cathedral and the Council House. A very nice photograph and I still haven’t found the address to post my postcard. The front of which says sailing.

Waking up to a text message with a secret location and the promise of excitement. Emails during the day. A poem. A message asking for a reply. Secret words.

The Theatre Collection by the University of Bristol held the Odyssey, a map, a box, a book of circuses and individual little envelopes.

The tallest in our little party of three was telling me that you don’t laugh when you are happy but you are happy when you laugh. I wonder if it’s the same with love and adventures. You don’t send poems, hide clues, find treats, explore, get creative and wander when you fall in love but fall in love when you do all the above? I’d love to find out.

Fortnight was a personalised but shared experience that was like PS I Love You and Amelie and Charlie Brown and Love Is… all wrapped up into one.

Doesn’t it feel good to know that you’ve been loved? Doesn’t it make you laugh when you think of?

Festival of Ideas runner up – The Genius In All of Us by David Shenk

The 2011 book prize winner of the Festival of Ideas in Bristol was Dan Hind for The Return of the Public. The following review is for one of the shortlisted nominations: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genes, Talent and Intelligence is Wrong by David Shenk. This the sixth book for award-winning author Shenk and it is an inspiring piece of work that is sure to change the way we think about learning, achieving and teaching.

Follow the link to read the full review which is published on

Some pictures from the Bristol 10km – 15 May 2011

A record number of people took part in this year’s 10km in Bristol and it was a wonderful turn out on quite a grey day. Thousands of runners headed off from just outside the Runner’s Village at Millennium Square, Park St and Anchor Rd in two waves separated by 15 minutes.

I managed to capture most of the runners and there are a few fun costumes and groups that took part. I’ll post some up here and the rest on my Flickr account. I have exported the photos in a low resolution jpeg format so if you see yourself and want a better quality image then get in touch on

Were you one of the Subway sandwiches or sumo wrestlers running for charity?

See more photos on Flickr.

Ephemeral baby: a catch up on posts

Three months and one day old

In case you missed any of the baby posts on the Ephemeral Baby blog I have listed them below.

My (our) multicultural baby found a chance to watch two of her nations fight it out in Eurovision – May 14

Starting to get a little obsessed with everything becoming some kind of lesson for the baby.

Discovering that one size fits all isn’t always true.

Choosing Marti Pellow over my child didn’t turn out so well.

I don’t watch tv so much but if I did, I would watch Seinfeld.

Small little moments of wonder, about time.

Fortnight: day nine

A view of Bristol Cathedral and the unicorn on College Green

Photo by M. Booth

Photo courtesy of Bristol Culture

Underneath the filtered light of the fading day, people in felt badges have been wandering into attic rooms, archival buildings, parks, libraries and museums, looking for something that they might have yet to notice has been there all along. They sent messages to people they have not spoken to in many years. They sent their voice into the ether wondering if anyone was on the other side of the line. They filtered through cards looking for the perfect book cover to remind them of someone (and they stole a few for later, too).


Jeffrey Archer’s new novel launched at College Green


Jeffrey Archer’s new novel Only Time Will Tell is being launched with a reading and short talk by the author.

The work is set in 1920s Bristol and you can experience the olden days at Palm Court, the Royal Hotel, College Green, BS1 5TA.

Saturday, May 14 at 2.30pm.

Email with the subject ‘Palm Court’ to reserve a place.

Only Time Will Tell is released May 12 and is already ranked 17 in Books on pre-release sales alone. It is number one in Sagas and Family sagas and if you like that kind of thing you might enjoy this first release in the Clifton Chronicles.

The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the chilling words, ‘I was told that my father was killed in the war’. But it will be another twenty years before Harry discovers how his father really died, which will only lead him to question: who was his father?

Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who worked in Bristol docks, or the first born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

If Archer us not your thing then use this as advance notice of somewhere to avoid.

Question: who will not be the Apprentice?

In a very sad turn of events, the potentially hilarious Edward Hunter, has left the show when voted off and may have taken the catchphrase ‘roll with the punches’ with him.

I’m not offering any odds or any bets but I am wondering who will win the Apprentice this year. I can’t remember many of them so I can’t guess who will win. I do know who I don’t like so I predict Melody will be leaving soon.

Who do you think will not win the Apprentice?