Welcome to our Winter 2016 edition, which is, on the whole, rather wintry. There are articles on a number of sobering themes, from a theatrical adaptation of 1984 to both world wars.
In truth, it has been a rather melancholy start to the year. In my case, this was due to the news that a David Jones (the then-“ordinary, quiet bloke” who was two years behind my father at Bromley Tech) had passed away suddenly, leaving behind an extraordinary body of work. The mystique surrounding his later incarnations always baffled me, mainly because of his very unremarkable appearances in my father’s memories (the modest folk music concert—nevertheless packed out— at Bromley Town Hall, the local hit The Laughing Gnome, and the annoyance felt by other pupils at the frequent absences from school). Perhaps it is important to be reminded that even starmen have to start out as human boys, and also that if Harold Macmillan had not put a massive new school building in his constituency, many children in the area might never have reached their potential (whatever form that took). Without Supermac, there may have been no Ziggy Stardust.
By a strange coincidence, another important David Jones features in this edition of Albion, the visionary English/Welsh painter/poet. Mark Jones (no relation) provides an in-depth look at his career via a new book on the artist, and highlights his stunning originality. Art also contains Paul’s considered evaluation of Banksy’s latest exploit, the Dismaland exhibition at Weston-super-Mare —a provocative event which raises important questions about our perceptions of art and celebrity.
In Theatre, Mary analyses a new French Canadian production of the harrowing Orwell novel 1984 (based on the recent show at the Almeida and Playhouse Theatres), showing how a different cultural context can shed fresh light on familiar material. Books contains Steve’s thorough and trenchant review of the massive new work The English and Their History by Robert Tombs.Also in Books, Mark contributes a sensitive look at a harrowing new biography of Sandy Denny, the troubled folk singer who had one of the greatest voices of the twentieth century.
Last year’s BFI release Ration Books and Rabbit Pies is entirely delightful —funny and poignant at the same time—providing a completely new prism through which to view the Second World War, i.e. government propaganda aimed (mainly) at housekeepers. I also enjoyed (if that is the word) revisiting The Great War and Modern Memory, the classic by Paul Fussell, a work of literary criticism which has achieved canonical status amongst histories of the Great War. It is a book of tremendous humanity, but assessed as an historical study, it failed to convince me.
The second half of 2015 and the first bit of 2016 was evidently an excellent time for music, as James and Em both demonstrate in their respective, infectiously enthusiastic reviews, which are rather dangerous to those with limited budgets.
Thank you very much for reading, and here's to the rest of 2016 (not forgetting our Summer edition!) --The Editor