Welcome to the Autumn edition of Albion, which coincides (not at all intentionally) with the advent of Daylight Savings Time and the uncanny turn of the year.
While planning this edition, we realised that we have never -- apart from Steve Cox's 2011 article on Brief Encounter-- given Noël Coward his due, and that he would almost certainly have arched an eyebrow at this. Mary took it upon herself to read and watch numerous Coward plays, and this edition leads with her examination of his fatalistic romantic comedies.
Now that it is finally possible for the national museums to open up blockbuster exhibitions again, Paul was able to visit Alice: Curioser and Curiouser at the Victoria and Albert. It investigates and celebrates the many reincarnations of Lewis Carroll’s eccentric stories over the past 157 years, and Paul provides his impressions of the show and the catalogue.
As Mark notes, in historical writing terms, the seventeenth century is an inexhaustible trove of drama and bizarre detail, aspects brought out with relish in his long-form review of London and the Seventeenth Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City by Margarette Lincoln. Art contains Paul’s reviews of recent offerings on Gainsborough and Turner, both of which highlight the towering works that they produced towards the ends of their careers. In Design he also provides a thoughtful evaluation of Dandy Style, an examination of men’s fashion over the past 250 years.
In Cinema, Neil examines a collection of Arts Council films recently released by the BFI, Great Noises That Fill the Air, containing archive performances by the likes of John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of Chariots of Fire, a film still as pertinent as when it was made, and I attempt to redress the silence surrounding this particular jubilee. Its themes of identity and acceptance are echoed by this year’s I Belong Here by Anita Sethi, a highly unusual contribution to the genre of English nature writing in which the author goes on a restorative pilgrimage across the Pennines in order to recover from a traumatic racist incident.
In Music, James excavates little-known sixties groups The Syn and Third Ear Band and delves into Barclay James Harvest’s back catalogue, while Em enjoys releases of music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, Sir Malcolm Arnold, and the massive new Naxos collection of English song.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank this extraordinary team for the help and patience that they have given me in keeping the magazine purring along while I was finishing a massive research project. Without their determination and encouragement, doing both things would have been very difficult indeed.
I wish you a happy and not-too-spooky start to the week, and happy reading. See you in the spring of 2022. --The Editor