The Arts



Throughout the current lockdown, the National Gallery has remained open online, continuing to bring the nation’s gallery into the nation’s homes. Through their digital initiatives, they are open 24/7, providing everyone with access to great art at anytime, anywhere in the world. These programmes explore the various ways people can look at and respond to art from their homes including exploring the collection online, creative workshops, art talks and films


An unreleased film of Gian Carlo Menotti’s beautiful one act opera, ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’, was screened online by Sands Films 0n Dec 21.

Recorded on location at the Teatro Nuovo, in Spoleto in 1996, the opera tells the story of Amahl, a disabled boy who lives with his single mum somewhere in Palestine, 2000 years ago. One night, they don’t have enough to eat and try to go to sleep, but Amahl sees a very bright star in the sky and meets three strangers looking for a child.   There are subtitles – the introduction lasts 28 minutes!


The secrets of THE SECRET GARDEN
Since it was published in 1910, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden has bewitched generations of children and adults alike. The latest film adaptation is set to breathe new life into the tale.

The story follows recently orphaned Mary Lennox, who is sent from colonial India to live with her uncle Archibald Craven at his isolated house, Misselthwaite Manor, on the Yorkshire moors. Unloved and prickly, Mary struggles to settle into her new life – until one day she stumbles across a hidden door to a neglected garden. As she sets about restoring the garden, helped by her friend Dickon and frail cousin Colin, both the children and the garden begin to blossom.

As this adaptation is set just after the Second World War, the filmmakers decided to steer away from the Edwardian walled garden of the novel. “We wanted to create something that you’d find in a child’s imagination, like entering another world,” said Supervising Locations Manager Tom Howard.

To achieve this sense of vastness and variety they decided to use five separate gardens – combining gnarled, fantasy-like woods with a sub-tropical dell and formal gardens strewn with Italianate follies. Adding to the magic were two National Trust gardens – Bodnant Garden and Fountains Abbey.


While the garden is the main focus of the story, Mr Craven’s forbidding manor also looms large . . . pan the camera to two more  National Trust  places . . . Osterley Park’s kitchens were used for some scenes, and Calke Abbey’s interiors became key inspiration for the crew after they paid a visit during their search for locations.

The healing power of nature      For the actors, working on location was a key part of the filming experience. This sense of connection to nature is central to The Secret Garden – represented by the garden’s power to heal and regenerate the characters who encounter it.

Filming in the stream at Bodnant

Much like Mary, we all need ‘a bit of earth’ – a space where we can see things growing, breathe the air, and feel rejuvenated. Thanks to location fees from films like The Secret Garden the National Trust can continue to care for these green spaces, and keep them open for everyone to experience the benefits that nature can provide.



Photos taken at the Westminster Cathedral Scripture Tour in January 2020. Used with kind permission from the Diocese of Westminster.

A major new artwork has been commissioned by the Bible Society and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to mark the 1600th anniversary of Jerome’s death. Created by Portsmouth-based artist Pete Codling, ‘Little Bits of God’ tells the story of the Bible using the smalti mosaic technique developed in ancient Byzantium.

Jerome himself is depicted in the mosaic with the traditional symbols associated with him of a lion, a book and a skull. But, says Codling: ‘In this contemporary mosaic the book pages on his desk blend into a computer keyboard and his stylised quill pen, or stylus, remind the viewer that Bible reading, learning and studying also now take place online via the internet. The Bible speaks now through the digital as well as the printed text.’

Another modern reference that picks up the theme of mortality and suffering is the depiction of three-year-old Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi, drowned in 2015 as his family attempted to leave Turkey.

Biblical figures including Jesus, Mary and St Matthew are also represented.

Codling says: “The idea behind this artwork has challenged me technically as well as artistically. My research for this artwork took me to Ravenna and Venice in search of materials, technique and craftsmanship. I wanted to portray the Bible visually, and convey the journey of translation from the oral tradition to the digital age in one coherent artwork.”

An interview with Pete Codling in which he discusses ‘Little Bits of God’

Yet another virtual Festival……this time at EDINBURGH

MY LIGHT SHINES ON  .  You can see a variety of performances on Youtube  


 This started on August 15th but you can catch  up with any  events that have already taken place


The planned July Festival was cancelled due to Corvid-19.  This has been replaced by an online festival  – BIF Digital 2020.  Recorded interviews are being shared each day between 17-25 July. All are free to view and will be available for a year.

Friday 17 July     Gill Hornby on Miss Austen interviewed by Vicky Dawson. Gill Hornby’s acclaimed new novel takes a literary mystery that has long puzzled academics and delivers an utterly convincing and enchanting story that questions the idea of legacy, remembrance and what constitutes a happy life.

Saturday 18 July   Paul Kerryson and Wyn Davies explore the work of Stephen Sondheim and A Little Night Music, in conversation with Michael Williams

Sunday 19th July  The BBC Philharmonic made a big impression with their concert at last year’s 40th Anniversary Festival. Omer Meir Wellber began his tenure as the orchestra’s Chief Conductor at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season. In this performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, K414, Wellber leads the orchestra from the keyboard, in a performance that includes a number of surprises.

Monday 20 July  Where to now for the Arts in the UK? Annie Lydford, Julian Glover, Emily Gottlieb in in a discussion hosted by Michael Williams on the state of affairs regarding theatre and opera in the United Kingdom post-Covid 19.

Tuesday 21 July  Dame Sarah Connolly is an artist of extraordinary breadth and sincerity. In this selection of some of her finest performances, we see her embody two very contrasting Handelian heroes, Julius Caesar and Ariodante, and we savour some of her exquisite song singing from London’s Wigmore Hall.

Wednesday 22 July  Laura Thompson on The Last Landlady: An English Memoir interviewed by Vicky Dawson

Thursday 23 July  Mark Cocker- A Claxton Diary: Further Field Notes From A Small Planet  in conversation with Patrick Barkham about his new book Wild Child

Friday 24 July The Golden Age Crime Panel with Sarah Ward, Martin Edwards and Nicola Upson Bestselling Derbyshire based crime writer Sarah Ward invites writer, editor and critic Martin Edwards and CWA Historical dagger shortlisted author Nicola Upson to discuss The Golden Age of Crime in Britain in the 1920s and 30s.

Saturday 25 July Adrian Kelly talks to Christian Curnyn about Handel’s Acis and Galatea

Indulging in a spot of local sport is something people have been doing for centuries. Although the big summer sporting tournaments such as Wimbledon and the Olympic Games have been cancelled this year, many sports and games can still be enjoyed on a smaller scale at home and in local parks.

Our collections are a rich resource for delving into sporting cultures. From sportswear and equipment to photographs of sporting activity, along with sports-themed sculptures and paintings, the items we care for give a glimpse into our sporting past.

THE PROTEST:   BLACK LIVES MATTER   The Bush Theatre ( Shepherd’s Bush) have produced 6 short monologues.

 From the theatre: If we could, we would have opened our building to support and comfort each other during this time. We would have held space together, cried together, and maybe made some art together in order to heal, as that’s what we do in times of crisis.

 So, we decided to do this as much as possible online. We reached out to some of the wonderful artists in our family to see if there was anything they wanted to express in protest.

 Taking a second to talk directly to our Black audiences: we know that this is a difficult time. Feel free to consume this content at your own pace and engage with it in a way you feel comfortable. to help our understanding of the Black Lives Matter issues.   You can see all 6 videos if you click the 1-6 button on the top right corner of this first video.

THE ARTS CONNECTED  – a community of people who love the arts
We want to enrich lives through the arts, even if we cannot leave our homes. During the the current situation many people will feel isolated and lonely. On this site we want to connect people through a shared love for the arts.  Enjoy the arts at home with a series of films by Arts Society Accredited Lecturers, published every fortnight. Antiques expert, TV presenter, author and publisher Mark Hill explores two aspects of the seismic changes in British glass during the ‘60s through two objects from his own collection. You can find all 8 of the lectures given during the summer on
Below are some of my favourites….
Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony

Rebecca Hossack on Aboriginal Art – recording the Dreamtime. It tells the histories – and stories – of three aboriginal paintings, hanging in Rebecca’s home – works by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and John Mawurndjul. They are three of the great painters of the Aboriginal tradition – though each, coming from a different language group and culture, has a remarkably different approach and iconography.  

Nicola Moorby looks at the new £20 note.  Check your wallet for this small piece of art history, as J.M.W. Turner is the first British artist to appear on a banknote. This film will discuss the background to the new note and examine how the Bank of England’s design represents the various aspects of Turner’s life, work and legacy.



Ben Okri reads the poem he wrote on visiting the site shortly after the fire


What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and out of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus … it has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could.

Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality’, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves.
Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal,a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.            by Arundati Roy

This anthology of poetry  is aimed at children but has a fantastic selection of funny, engaging, challenging and moving poems for all to enjoy. This gives a preview of the first 24 pages of the book
Thanks to Chris from the English Group that meets in the winter at Connect  on Tuesday afternoons.

Thank you to Karin Moore for sharing this poem for lockdown.  Please keep sending any poems or reflections to share about these corona times….either your own or others you enjoy.

During our past times we dashed and we rushed
Yes, that was often the main feature of our past.
But life has changed and we now can reflect
On all the things we used to expect.

Another glorious day was only just beginning
And the bird choir was abundantly singing,
While I walked in the fields for over a mile
The dandelions everywhere gave me their golden smile.
And all the  dewdrops in the damp grass after the cool night
Showed their beauty as my eyes caught their diamond light.

The world is quiet and we now we can find ourselves,
The silence is calming and utter bliss.
The bees fly past with a soft humming sound
And yes, it is our Lord and creator we found.

Hear us, Lord, and help us all through this challenging time;
With your aid, Lord,  we will win through and all will be fine.

Another poem to amuse you -thanks to Deirdre Nolan. This is Pam Ayres latest…

At last, we have a cure for all!
Ailments large and ailments small,
Good health is not beyond my reach,
If I inject myself with bleach.

Radiant, I’ll prance along,
Every trace of limescale gone,
With disinfectant as my friend,
Like him,
I’m clean around the bend.   

As Deirdre comments : Definitely not one to be tried at home

Award-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell, earlier this week launched The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Entertain Children in Lockdown. As with all good children’s literature, adults can enjoy it too. This extraordinary collection of short stories, poems, essays and pictures has contributions from more than 110 children’s writers and illustrators, including Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Greg James and Chris Smith, Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Francesca Simon, Jacqueline Wilson – and Katherine herself.

The collection is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in hospitals. The book is available FREE online only.  Bloomsbury intends to publish a gift book based on the project in the autumn in support of NHS Charities Together.

Thank you to Val Hinchcliffe for drawing my attention to this lovely book.  We both enjoyed this poem on page 18. Although it looks long on this page it is an easy read!

HOPE   by Anthony Horowitz

The town of Hope, near Aberdeen
Is somewhere I have seldom been
But then it’s not a tourist trap –
It isn’t even on the map!

There’s certainly not much to see
They’ve closed the local library
Because they said there is no need
When no-one in the town can read

They’ve got a pub and a hotel
But neither of them’s doing well
The hotel isn’t quite the Ritz
The beds have fleas: the staff have nits
The only pub, “The Rose and Crown”
Is easily the worst in town

The one theatre’s sadly gone
It burned down while a play was on
(The critics thought the play so dire
That all of them preferred the fire.)

The cinema is second rate
The films are always out of date
The last James Bond film that I saw
Had Bond still played by Roger Moore.

The pavements are never clean
Because the council’s far too mean
To pay for cleaners – and the park
Is only open after dark
The grass is lumpy, full of weeds
And dogs can only walk on leads
There is a children’s playground but
When school is finished, it is shut

The Chief of Police is eighty-two
He can’t catch crooks. He can’t catch flu!
The vicar surely won’t be missed
Since he’s become an atheist

The mayor sold his golden chain
And then was never seen again
The local paper isn’t bought
Because there’s nothing to report.
The school is like a concrete bunker
Matron’s drunk. The head is drunker.

Now, living here must really stink
At least, that is what you might think
But that is simply not the case
There is no more delightful place
The fun and laughter never ends
Everyone is best of friends.
And all the residents agree
There’s nowhere else they’d rather be.

So if you’re feeling uninspired,
Sleeping badly, waking tired
If everything is going wrong.
The day feels dark, the night’s too long
Remember all the people who
Have found the following is true:
It’s so much easier to cope
If you decide to live in Hope.

© Anthony Horowitz 2020 • Anthony Horowitz’s latest book in the Alex Rider series, Nightshade, is published by Walker

This poem which reflects some of the suggestions above was written by the Nobel Prizewinner, Pablo Neruda from Chile.
He died in 1973 but the words could be written today. Thank you to Elizabeth Paxton for sending in

  In the Time of Quiet

No-one told the daffodils about the pause to Spring,
And no-one’s told the birds to roost and asked them not to sing.
No-one’s asked the lazy bee to cease his bumbling round,
And no-one’s stopped the bright green shoots emerging through the ground

No-one’s told the sap to rest, deep within the wood,
And stop the sleepy trees from waking, wreathed about in bud.
No-one’s told the sky to douse its brightest shade of blue,
And stop the scudding clouds from puffing headlong into view.

No-one’s asked the lambs to still the springs beneath their feet,
To stop their rapid rush and quell each joyful bleat.
No-one’s told the stream to halt its gurgle or its flow,
And warned the playful breezes, not to gust and blow.

No-one’s asked the raindrops not to fall upon the earth
And fail to quench the soil in the season of rebirth.
No-one’s locked the sun down, or dimmed the shimmer of the moon,
And even in the darkest night, the stars are still immune.

Remember what you value, remember who is dear.
Close the doors to danger and keep your family near.
In the quiet all around us, take the time to sit and stare
And wonder at the glory unfurling everywhere.
Look towards the future, after the ordeal,
And keep faith in Mother Nature’s power to heal.


Quentin Blake's Free Rainbow E-Cards Are Cheering Us Right Up Now ...

Quentin Blake  has created a series of brand new, totally free rainbow e-cards for people to send to loved ones they cannot currently visit, to show they are thinking of them at this difficult time.   The ten, individual ‘Send a Rainbow’ e-cards are available to download from Monday 20 April 2020 from the ‘Fun & Free’ section of Quentin’s official website

                                FAITH AND LIGHT

Faith and Light  is a virtual Art exhibition consisting of eight pictures and a brief commentary. This exhibition of paintings and prints by John Bateson is on display at Our Lady of Dolours Servite Church in Fulham Road, west London. Because of the Coronavirus people can no longer visit.

John writes: “As people cannot go to the exhibition in person I have brought it to you. I hope you enjoy it.” Visit the exhibition



‘Gruffalo stayed in the cave’: Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s coronavirus cartoons



Harry Potter at Home“Bringing Hogwarts to you,” the new website offers stir-crazy children a mix of craft videos, puzzles and quizzes. Drawing a niffler, knitting a Weasley-inspired scarf and discovering your Hogwarts house are all on offer.

Julia Donaldson and Friends: Every Thursday from 16 April, the Gruffalo author will broadcast a show for families on her Facebook page

BookTrust: There’s a plethora of activities at the reading charity’s website. Children’s laureate Cowell is reading a chapter a day from How to Train Your Dragon, illustrators including Rob Biddulph are showing us how to draw their characters, and Andy Stanton has tips on how to write a funny story. They have also kindly rounded up the wealth of activities out there for children.

Authorfy: The website is offering daily 10-minute creative challenges for children from writers including Abi Elphinstone, Anna James and Lucy Worsley.

Faber: Over on Twitter, the publisher has launched an online programme, including poet laureate Simon Armitage reading and reflecting on his Marsden poems each Monday, picture-book readings on Friday afternoons and lunchtime shortstories from writers including Sebastian Barry and Edna O’Brien.

National Shelf Service: UK librarians have launched a live daily YouTube broadcast at 11am BST featuring book recommendations for children and families, at a time when some library services are reporting increases in online book lending of up to 700%. Emily Haire, a school librarian from Belfast, was up first and plumped for Lisa Williamson’s Carnegie-longlisted young adult novel Paper Avalanche, about a teenager whose mother is a hoarder.

Axel Scheffler’s free picture book: The Gruffalo illustrator lays out the coronavirus and the measures being taken to control it in a way that is comprehensible to children. “I asked myself what I could do as an children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad,” said Scheffler. “I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and I hope that the popularity of the books I’ve done with Julia Donaldson will ensure that this digital book will reach many children who are now slightly older, but might still remember our picture books.”

Hay literary festival: With this year’s festival in May now postponed, Hay is planning the “first fully digital” version with webinars, workshops and live social media Q&As planned for the entire month of May. It’s also already launched a Hay festival podcast, giving free access to past events including Stephen Fry with East West Street author Philippe Sands. Forthcoming guests include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hilary Mantel, Naomi Klein and Caitlin Moran.

The Aitken Alexander Isolation Series: Authors at the literary agency including Mark Haddon and Diana Evans have been responding creatively to the lockdown with essays and short fiction, which are free to read online.

Puffin Storytime: children’s publisher Puffin is offering regular readings and draw-alongs from its list of authors on Mondays and Fridays at 3.30pm BST. It is also launching Puffin podcast with comedian and children’s author Humza Arshad on 19 April, packed with “laugh-out-loud stories, games and jokes guaranteed to give you the giggles”.

Lynda La Plante Q&A: Gin and tonic in hand, the legendary crime author will be answering reader questions every Thursday at 6pm on her Facebook page, and reading excerpts from her new book, Buried.