The Arts during lockdown

Last November Matthew Bourne’s THE RED SHOES was at the Lowry as part of  a national tour that should have continued this year but obviously was suddenly halted by  Corvid-19.  The  cast have made a 12 minute film from their homes .
It is described as the dancers’ love letter to the show which should have just finished its tour.    Thanks to Val Hinchcliffe for this.


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 fantasticselection 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

THE CHESTER MYSTERY PLAYS   was last seen in 2018.  Many of the actors were due to take part in the Chester City Passion on Good Friday but this was cancelled.  So this year due to the exceptional circumstances the 2018 production will be available world-wide on their youtube channel.    This will remain available for a few weeks.  Thanks Kath for sending this link.


A new art installation reveals the sounds of colour in paintings as the National Gallery X commissions virtual responses to coronavirus. Viewers will feel, hear and sense paintings online through an immersive multi-sensory video artwork inspired by masterpieces in the National Gallery by Van Gogh, Monet and van Eyck.  Originally conceived as installations in the NGX studio, they have been reconceived to play online at home on mobile, tablet and computer, allowing audiences to reflect on the artistic practices of painters from the Renaissance to the Impressionists through layers of light and sound.

Three video works transform colour data from van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait, Monet’s Water-Lilies, Setting Sun and Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses into 360-degree light and sound experiences. Two of these are available to view on YouTube and the National Gallery website from today, at   with the Van Eyck-inspired work following later.

Or take a tour of the gallery


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


Seven different theatres are offering  their plays,  operas and  musicals.  Jesus Christ Super Star is one on over Easter 

You can find ballets on 


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.