Peterloo, Mike Leigh’s masterful new film, is a dramatic account of the massacre by drunken Yeomanry of unarmed families meeting in Manchester in August 2019, to call for working class men to have the right to vote. It was a formative moment in modern British history and, as the historian E.P. Thompson put it “Within two days of Peterloo, all England knew of the event”, yet it is barely know about today. Leigh’s film ought to do something to redress the balance.
The Leyton Marshes, part of the Lea Valley which flows down from the Chiltern Hills all the way through London to disgorge into the Thames near Poplar, is a rare haven for wildlife and tranquility in the great metropolis in which markontour lives. Indeed, the beauty of the Lea Valley’s parks, canal and marshes is the main reason we moved to Walthamstow fifteen years ago. Yet now it is threatened by a badly conceived development put forward by the very authority that was created to protect it. It has to be stopped.
This year marks the centenary of the first performance of Holsts’ epic symphony, ‘The Planets’, and a few Saturday’s ago I was lucky enough to enjoy a celebratory performance at the London Barbican. It was magical experience, giving this amazing work new life and, courtesy of Professor Brian Cox’s enthusiastic presence, introducing the latest scientific thinking to a piece of music whose creation owed more to astrology than astronomy.
I am spending a whole day on trains today, as I seek to find a lower carbon route from London to Copenhagen. I visit that wonderful city regularly for work and am likely to need to do so more in the future. In a previous job I used to take the night train, but time pressures pushed me into flying – a bad habit that I am now trying to break. Well aware of the hypocrisy of a climate change professional spending so much time inside a kerosene-fuelled metal bird, I am very much hoping that the day-time rail route proves viable.
I haven’t written any ‘Album of the Week’ reviews for a while, primarily because every time I put on my headphones I just want to listen to Israel Nash. His latest offering, ‘Lifted’, is a hippy Americana chill-out album, that inspires relaxed smiles. I saw him perform at Rough Trade in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and it was an equally blissed experience, despite the inspiration for much of the album coming from Nash’s despair at the state of American politics.
I love New York and visit regularly, but there are many things I still don’t understand about the Big Apple/Big Oyster, and size is one of them. Yesterday I was wedged in so tight between two ample sized pairs of buttocks on either side of me on the subway that I almost missed my stop, so difficult was it to extract myself. In the end one of my fellow passengers had to give me a push.
I was in Ottawa for just under 24 hours, but it made a great impression, particularly the Canadian Museum of History. The quality of First Nation artwork on display is extraordinary, utilising vibrant colour and strongly tied to nature infused with human imagination. Thus, adorning totem poles are variously Thunderbirds, Lightning Snakes, and even Supernatural Codfish. And while the totems were statements of power and, thus, perhaps it is not surprising that they were made ornate, echoing the philosophy of British nineteenth century designer, William Morris, practical function appears not to have been an obstacle to imbuing even the most commonplace objects with beauty. The head-baskets used daily to carry crops are designed with grace, and clubs used to stun seals and fish are shaped and decorated in homage to the fellow animals they are designed to kill. A jet-black, jewel encrusted bowl on display is one of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen.