Theatres, universities and exhibitions: a busy week

Are you sure a week is only seven days long? This past week must have included at least ten or eleven days… I am completely exhausted, even though there have been quite a few pleasurable activities.

It all started off with a trip to the theatre. The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham is located in the converted local library (which I hope still exists somewhere, but has merely moved to another building). I saw a hugely energetic and entertaining production of Othello set in contemporary London. Not all ‘modernising of Shakespeare’ works well, but this one certainly did for me. You can find my review here.

The following day my older son and I set off for a mother/son road trip to visit universities in the north of England. He is planning to study Law and it certainly helps that Law Schools seem to be housed in spanking new, purpose-built shiny buildings, rather than the poky cellars or attics to which Anthropology or Modern Languages departments seem to be relegated. (She said not at all enviously). Leeds was vibrant and lively, but perhaps a little too much of a big city for my boy. At first, York was not a big hit with him: the original West Campus with the brutalist architecture of the 1960s disappointed him. However, then we went to the newer East Campus, where the Law School is located.

University of York’s sustainable, edible and wildlife friendly campus utterly charmed me
In the foreground you can see the floating meeting room pods, where I could quite happily sit and write for hours…

Of course we spent some time in York itself, and I foolishly agreed to race my son up to the top of the tower of the York Minster. I’m still living with the breathless consequences of that!

Even half-dead, I could still admire the glorious view from the top!
And the view towards the Minster from the City Walls is just unforgettable – and so green!
This bird-like structure is Durham Law School. This was my son’s favourite from this trip.
Another beautiful city, another magnificent cathedral, but this time I was wise enough not to go up to the top of the tower.

Durham was the only proper Open Day that we attended – us and a few tens of thousands of other prospective students and pupils. It was busy and sunny and hot, but then quietened down considerably in the evening. I was somewhat annoyed that my son ‘chose’ his college by name alone (ironically, a prime example of 60s/70s architecture that he had pooh-pooed in York).

Last but not least, we stopped in Nottingham on the way back. Another beautifully green and calm campus, it went straight up into third place on my son’s wishlist of universities.

The famous Tower which is part of the University of Nottingham’s logo.

What about the mother/son bonding on the road trip? In terms of intellectual pursuits and rational questions, I really enjoyed discussing things with him. However, even though I’ve tried hard to emphasise heart as well as head, create a safe space to discuss and display emotions, there is not much going on in that department. Is it a boy thing? Is it a teenage thing? Is it a ‘boring old out of touch mother’ thing?

Back in the office, I not only encountered the deluge of emails and tasks to complete, but also one enjoyable appointment: the launch of the latest exhibition at Senate House Library. Writing in times of conflict will be open from the 15th of July to the 14th of December at the library (entrance is free). Small but perfectly formed for piquing your interest to explore further, it is divided into four main themes: Writing for Peace, Writing in Wartime, Writing from Exile and Writing in Protest. There is something for everyone here: starting from the League of Nations through to pacifists, a letter from Virginia Woolf describing the bombing of Sussex, pictures of bomb damage to Senate House itself (which was notoriously the Ministry of Information during the Second World War and inspire Orwell’s 1984), a short film about Anne Frank, the Greenham Common protesters, right up to the present day, including Extinction Rebellion flyers.

The Nazi Black Book for England includes over 3000 names of people deemed ‘dangerous’ by the Nazis, whom they would have imprisoned or exterminated at once if they’d invaded.
More recent protests such as the Occupy Movement or anti-Brexit and anti-Trump campaigns by the Left Unity group.

Weekly Cultural Summary and February Events

I have been very busy at work this week, so no time for cultural events, other than to note that I posted copies of Asymptote January book club title to all of the UK and Canadian subscribers. Some of you have received them already, and we will be revealing the title next week. It took a little longer than usual to arrive, as it was shipped over from somewhere far, far away. I am very excited about this book, as I have to admit (to my shame) that I have not read anything translated from this language before.

The only other contribution I made this week was to ogle at Silent Witness on TV, which featured my workplace as a stand-in for the American Embassy. I believe they were filming those episodes when I went in for my job interview, so I was surprised that it was swarming with police and uniformed guards.

Senate House, London

There are, however, plenty of interesting events coming up in February that you might be interested in:

French Film Festival

Thank you to Emma from Book Around who made me aware of this. From 19th Jan to 19 Feb you can stream a selection of recent French films. 10 short films are free, 10 feature films are accessible via a small fee. With subtitles, naturellement!

Swiss Cabaret

A literary cabaret on Feb. 9th, featuring obvious Swiss writers such as Peter Stamm, Monique Schwitter, Nicolas Verdan and Pedro Lenz and others whose links to Switzerland might surprise you (as they did me): Alain de Botton, Deborah Levy and Xiaolu Guo. At the Tabernacle in Notting Hill.

Reconsidering the Raj

Programme of monthly lectures organised by the Institute of Historical Research at Senate House, London – through until April. While you’re there, you might also want to have a look at the Queer between the Covers exhibition at the Senate House library .

Imagine Children’s Festival at the South Bank

Focus on Storytelling with guests Jacqueline Wilson, Francesca Simon, Harry Hill and many more, Kids Takeover (programming, organising ticket sales, intercom announcements etc.), Super Hero parties and many free events. WED 7 FEB – SUN 18 FEB

Julian Barnes in conversation with Hermione Lee

On the eve of the publication of his latest book The Only Story, Wednesday 21st February 19:00 at The Royal Institution. Very tempted to go, as I love both of them.

So, after a very long January, February beckons at last (perhaps even with some bulbs in the garden coming to life). What are you looking forward to this coming month?