2016 -The Year of (in) authenticity

  2016 has been the year of (in) authenticity. Politicians have been described as authentic because they are plain-speaking and inauthentic because they are conducting ‘post-truth’ campaigns, the TV programmes Westworld and Humans blur ideas of real and fake, the words authentic, artisan and heritage are the adjectives of choice describing everything from cities, to…

On a loop: variations on a theme of authenticity in Westworld

Notions of reproduction and originality are at the heart of authenticity debates and nowhere is the difference between copies and fakes more clearly shown than in theme parks. The Western theme park Westworld has all the tropes and romance of the classic nineteenth-century Frontier town; the steam train puffing into town, sidewalks, the saloon, the…

Harry Potter in theatreland: Ladder to the past

Other people’s places:  The seashore at Hythe where the ice-creams are, ghost tanks on a surrendered bridge over the Borsphorous. Having worked in the theatre for a decade, more or less living there, I’ve recently returned as an audience member. When I visit a theatre I am always appraising the space, comparing it to The…

Heritage Theme Park Britain? I blame the bunting.

Other people’s places on my mind: An empty meadow near Morecambe, a cornfield in Dorset, Taksim Square in Turkey, a villa in Tuscany where my baby Great-Niece tries to stand for the first time. I’ve worked in heritage for many years and from stately homes to Bake-Off it is my passion, but over the past…

Savage Beauty: What do dresses dream of?

Other People’s Places: The Palazzo in Urbino, a tea shop in Rye in a traditional chemist which closes at 5pm, World’s End on the King’s Road. Today I visited the Alexander McQueen retrospective ‘Savage Beauty’ at The Victoria and Albert Museum. The settings were clever, unsettling the eye,  the effect moving through a life-sized music…

The rockery: A doll’s house garden

Other People’s Places: Gatsby’s Long Island, a framed pencil drawing of Roseberry Topping in North Yorkshire on the spare room wall, the cafe at the Bexhill-on-Sea De La Warr Pavilion. On a drizzly, grey summer Sunday two weeks ago I surveyed the mound of heather in the garden, an impressive tide of pink hues each…

A steam train to Bodiam Castle: I seem to have something in my eye

Other People’s Places: Hitchhiking to the South of France in 1975 and feeling disappointed with Nice, all roads leading to Anglesea. Riding on a steam train somehow evokes vintage and filmic memories, such as the ‘Brief Encounter’ line “Oh dear, I seem to have a smut in my eye” or the whistled message and writing…

Gilding the goldfish: The painted past

Other People’s Places: New York in the 70’s, The Galapagos Islands, a flat above a butcher’s on Garrett Lane in the early 1990’s, where we used to live. I went to the Defining Beauty Exhibition at the British Museum. It reminded me that classical statues were once decorated with paint, material and, in some cases,…

The Striders: The cloud is a place where nothing ever happens

Other People’s Places: America 1770. Maps as Spectacle. early 1980’s Hull. An unexpected trip to the 70’s.  The Cloud. My colleague Lydia Plath organised an International Research Symposium last week. I was presenting with Ken Fox on The Desert in Breaking Bad and and with Sam Hitchmough on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tours, which will…

An outpouring of anniversaries – Places in the sky

Other People’s Places: The Battle of Waterloo. Runnymede. An airfield in WW2. Flying Fortresses. This lunchtime, my father, who is 91, put down his soup spoon, muted the news and lifted a finger, indicating we should listen to the sound of distant thunder. His ear was once attuned to this particular sound. He got to…

Salve Sassenach – An Outlander in Rome

Other People’s Places mentioned in conversation today: A Pimm’s Party starting at 6pm. A Fashion Bermuda Triangle in a bedroom which mysteriously hides things then spits them back out. Willesborough in Ashford. I have recently become addicted to Outlander. Dr Ken Fox and I have been researching Seriality in Breaking Bad and I check all…