Curtain call

I once appeared on stage with Sir Ian McKellen. It was not one of my greater moments in the spotlight. It came about late in 1994 (I forget the exact date), when I was in the middle of programming a long season of Shakespeare-related films at the National Film Theatre. One of them was aRead More

A brighter world

To Margate on a grey summer’s day, to the Turner Contemporary, which always has something interesting to show, occasionally exhilaratingly so. And so it was this time. The exhibition was of works by American Abstract Expressionist Ed Clark (1926-2019), of whom I knew nothing until now. Over four rooms, with a fifth devoted to aRead More

Ho for Hay

Let’s go to the Hay Festival. Three days of books and people, just over the border into Wales. Well, I’d not been to the Festival before now, for all its fame, and it’s been too long since I visited the book town that gave the world book towns. Staying just outside Hereford. A so-so townRead More

Our stories

There is no time for complacency, the next attack on knowledge is about to happen. Richard Ovenden, Burning the Books (2020) The British Library has been a news story of late, and not a happy one. On 28 October 2023 the Library fell victim to a cyber-attack. A criminal group named Rhysida infiltrated the Library’sRead More

Sawdust and spin

‘I saw them play.’ Those are precious words to be said of any notable sporting figure, that you played your part in making them great because you were there in the crowd, witness to their exceptionalism. So I saw Derek Underwood play, the Kent and England left-arm spinner, who died aged seventy-eight on 15 AprilRead More

Living London

One of the great fascinations of early cinema is the archaeology involved. While for later periods of film issues of identification are relatively clear (title, authorship, duration, variations, ownership etc), for early films when the business was young and its nature indeterminate, things are not always straightforward. If you combine this with all the changesRead More

Motion and time

In 1830 two men were born who were to have an immense influence on the creation of cinematography, both technically and aesthetically. Both died in the same year, 1904. Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey are recognised as the twin pillars on which the art and science of motion pictures were formed. It is a measureRead More