Culture Corner


Acclaimed author and Q&C culture writer Darryl W. Bullock gives us his cultural highlights to kick off 2018. Darryl takes us from countryside to city with photography and painting exhibitions and even reassures us that spring is on its way thanks to a splendid blooming display at the National Trust's Dyrham Park.

Kylie Minogue, Kylie Single Campaign 

Kylie Minogue, Kylie Single Campaign 

I'm not a big fan of this time of year. It’s cold and miserable, and there’s nothing on TV worth watching apart from US sitcoms that have long outlived their welcome. I guess Kylie's return to the pop fray with Dancing, the first single from her forthcoming album Golden (due in Mid April) should bring a little joy. But, believe it or not, not every homosexual is a fan of the miniature Aussie pop poppet. However, as I have discovered, even if Ms Minogue doesn’t float your boat there’s plenty going on during these cold afternoons and dark evenings if you're prepared to look for it.

Proud Galleries, situated handily between Charing Cross and Embankment stations, houses a permanent collection as well as a diverse programme of exhibitions, presenting culturally iconic artworks from leading photographers and artists.

Running from 2 February to 18 March, ‘Sixties Style: Shot by Duffy’ is an exhibition celebrating the bold appearances that defined the Swinging Sixties. Photographer Brian Duffy recorded modern Britain, exploring the youth-driven cultural shift within art, music and fashion. This diverse collection of photographs, many unpublished or unseen since the 1960s encompasses fashion editorials, celebrity portraiture and international advertising campaigns as Duffy captured the lifestyle trends of this momentous decade.

Michael Caine courtesy of Proud Galleries, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive 

Michael Caine courtesy of Proud Galleries, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive 

Beginning his work as a commercial photographer at the tail end of the 1950s, Duffy worked with John Lennon, Jean Shrimpton, Michael Caine, David Bowie (he shot the iconic Aladdin Sane cover) and countless other stars, capturing each personality playfully and challenging the typical notions of a studio portrait. But after an exceptional career taking some of the most iconic pictures of a generation, Duffy became frustrated by the industry and in 1979 abruptly retired, rebelliously burning a large number of his negatives in a backyard fire. During the 80s he moved in to video production, and directed clips for the Human League, Spandau Ballet, ABC and others.

Brian Duffy died in 2010 at the age of 76. The negatives that were saved from the fire form The Duffy Archive, a comprehensive history of twenty-five years of British culture and fashion.

Proud Central. 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP

If art is more your thing, some of William Blake’s greatest works from poetry to paintings are currently being displayed at Petworth in West Sussex. The new exhibition is the first to bring together many of the works that were inspired by Blake’s experience of living in Sussex, including paintings commissioned by the Wyndham family, owners of Petworth, and rare hand-coloured relief etchings of Blake’s illustrated epic poem ‘Milton’.

William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, © National Trust / Events 

William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, © National Trust / Events 

Sussex is the only area outside London that Blake, the author of ‘Jerusalem’ and illustrator of Dante’s Inferno, ever lived; he spent three years there, renting a cottage that he described as ‘the sweetest spot on Earth’. Paintings on display include extraordinary works on loan from the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and the Tate, as well as three paintings by Blake from the Petworth collection.

An important exhibition featuring some extraordinary works, visitors can also enjoy a parallel exhibit showing original drawings by the author and President of the Blake Society Philip Pullman, made for the internationally acclaimed His Dark Materials books.

Staying with the National Trust for a minute, why not grab your hat and scarf and head outside where you still have time to see some magnificent displays of snowdrops? The flowers tend to bloom in January and February and pave the way for springtime’s crocuses and daffodils. The snowdrops at Dyrham Park, just a few miles north of Bath, were first spotted between Christmas and New Year and can now be admired in front of the 17th-century house, terraces and in the garden.

Snowdrops at Dyrham Park © National Trust / Laura Williams

Snowdrops at Dyrham Park © National Trust / Laura Williams

The National Trust deer park and garden is home to more than half a dozen types of snowdrop, but Dyrham Park is only one of several NT places where you can see the annual phenomenon; others include Prior Park in Bath and Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds.

If you do happen to be in London, and you missed it when it played to capacity audiences in Bristol, check out The Grinning Man, which is playing in the West End until 14 April.

This critically acclaimed, award-winning, Bristolian production has been described as ‘stunning’ (4 stars, The Times), ‘the best puppetry since War Horse’ (4 stars, Mail on Sunday) and ‘the greatest freak show in town’ (The Observer). Harry Enfield says that ‘the whole thing is amazing’, and Simon Callow called the show ‘spectacular, theatrical and exciting!’ Who am I to argue? I saw it at the Old Vic, and believe me The Grinning Man is a stunning piece of theatre, a gothic musical love story with a dark heart.

Based on the classic Victor Hugo novel The Man Who Laughs, The Grinning Man reunites the Old Vic’s Tom Morris with two puppeteers who began their careers in the original production of War Horse – Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié – and Kneehigh writer Carl Grose. The ‘outstanding score’ (Sunday Times) is by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY

A little closer to home (well, for me at least) OutStories, Bristol’s LGBT history group, is hosting a free day of talks at the wonderful M-Shed museum to mark LGBT History Month. It’s on 10 February, and I’ll be giving a talk about LGBT recording artists from the 50s through to the 70s. Others appearing include the Arnolfini’s former Artist in Residence Tom Marshman, and Jonathan Cooper OBE, a lawyer and human rights specialist with experience before English and international courts and tribunals.