It is my pleasure to present the new edition of Albion on this beautiful Bank Holiday Monday.
Some months ago we said to each other that, given the depressing state of the world, it would probably do us and our readers good if we went out of our way to have fun. We threw ourselves into this project with enthusiasm, and the end result ranges from Thomas Rowlandson’s picaresque tales of a hapless vicar to an early eighties dance craze, via Jeeves and Wooster, 1930s light women’s fiction, and the weird inventions of Heath Robinson. The latter, as Mary shows, combined humour with optimism in a gentler postwar human future to extremely touching effect.
Out of the general ‘fun’ remit, an eighteenth-century sub-theme has emerged —perhaps unsurprisingly, considering how splendid the Georgians found their own epoch, as revealed in Mark’s review of an important new history of the era by Penelope Corfield. One sometimes rather savage facet of their levity was political cartooning, and Paul examines a new, comprehensive volume on the pioneering James Gillray, alongside his appreciation of the gentler Doctor Syntax stories.
Regional but globally-significant pop cultures come to the fore not only in Neil’s review of the BFI’s new DVD Dance Craze, but also in his examination of the monumental new biography of Mancunian magus Tony Wilson by Paul Morley; Wilson was to a large extent responsible for modern Manchester’s revival through New Order, Joy Division, and the Hacienda. (The book also appears to suggest that the best way to incur general opprobrium in Manchester is to get yourself on regional television.) The Northern sub-theme continues with a new book about the unique Yorkshire chansonnier Jake Thackray (a long-time Albion favourite, as regular readers will know) reviewed by Mark.
Also in books, Paul revisits the charming Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (which was badly let down by the film version some years ago), and Mark examines the sometimes bizarre human ecosystems which developed over the centuries in St Paul’s Churchyard (including an ambitious and highly professional children’s theatre which appears to have annoyed Shakespeare himself), described in Margaret Willes’s new book.
Last but not least, music contains James’s reviews of new offerings from names including Nektar and Kaprekar’s Constant, while Em focusses in particular on the monumental Naxos British Light Music series and its featured composers, including Robert Farnon, Albert Ketelbey, and Archibald Joyce, among others.
We are now only a year away from our twentieth anniversary, which seems incredible. Please join us again in the autumn, and till then, enjoy the warmer weather.--The Editor