Welcome to our Autumn edition, which seems to have certain themes: history, both ancient and modern, and Victorian artists, among others.
It is widely believed that we live in an age of diminished attentions spans, but Dominic Sandbrook's massive histories of modern Britain have nevertheless become wildly popular. We were delighted when James Turner obtained a long and candid interview with him, both about the books and his recent television series concerned with that much-maligned decade, The 70s, a period increasingly seen as the calm before the storm of a cultural and social revolution. The interview is accompanied by James' reviews of the books and TV series.
Mark Jones brings his sharp wit and human insight to bear on, first, the more creative reaches of the English occult, and secondly the Pooter-esque Victorian painter Frederic Shields. The Victorian age, like the 1980s, was a traumatic time of upheaval, artistically as well as religiously, socially, and economically. Paul Flux, however, remains unconvinced by the claims to artistic radicalism made on behalf of the Pre-Raphaelites by the Tate's recent blockbuster exhibition. Also in Art, Paul reviews a book on the neglected painter Adrian Heath, and considers the works of the wildly successful Damien Hirst, displayed at a recent Tate Modern exhibition. He also provides a meticulous plate-by-plate analysis of Hogarth's sequence Industry and Idleness, to highlight the irony and ambiguity of what appears, at first glance, to be a simple morality tale.
If any one institution could be considered symbolic of Englishness--particularly its working class expressions--it would be the neighbourhood pub. In Cinema, Neil Jackson's review of the BFI's new DVD Roll Out the Barrel, a collection of films on the subject, is a haunting meditation on time, loss and liminality.
In addition to James' reviews of Sandbrook's oeuvre to date, the Books section contains Fred Donnelly's evaluation of a recent contribution to the scholarly controversy surrounding the Spencer Perceval assassination. Steve Cox finds that the first volume in Peter Ackroyd's massive new venture, a history of England, has thought-provoking implications for England today, while I enjoy our own Em Marshall-Luck's engaging volume on the relationship between classical music and landscape. (Incidentally, Em is not the only one with a book to her credit--erstwhile Albionite Peter Higgins is to be warmly congratulated on the forthcoming novel Wolfhound Century.)
The Music pages contain an abundance of folk and rock reviews, as well as James' interviews with Mark Chadwick of the Levellers and the newly re-formed Albion Band, while Em finds much to be enthusiastic about in the current crop of classical releases, including an obscure recorder composition by Donald Swann of Flanders and Swann fame. In Diversions, as usual, you will also find her pick of the latest beauty products.
Finally, to our Continental European readers, we would like to say how happy we are that the magazine is proving useful to researchers from Spain to Estonia. This is an unexpected but altogether delightful development. (Part of an Albion article on English eccentricity has even been integrated into a reader for French secondary school students!)
Warmest wishes to everyone for the upcoming holiday season, and the New Year.