The memory of the poet William Blake can be found, maybe slightly oddly underneath the railway arches in Waterloo
A collection of large mosaics were installed in the railway arches at Centaur Street, which are more usually filled with rubbish and pigeon poo, over a period of 7 years by Southbank Mosaics with Future’s Theatre and Southbank Sinfonia supported by Heritage Lottery.
The location is surprisingly apt though, as William Blake lived nearby from 1890-1800 in the a decade that is often thought to be his most productive years. It’s when he started work on Jerusalem, which is today far better known for the Hymn than the original book — even though in fact, the hymn Jerusalem uses text from one of Blake’s other books. The title of the book and the Hymn are coincidental.
But, 200 years after he moved here, a project was set up to decorate the railway arches in his memory, and now a decade or so later, most of them are still there, rather dusty now, seemingly slightly forgotten, but that’s part of their appeal.
They are not art that shouts or demands attention in a public space. Hidden down inside passages that few choose to walk through, it’s happy to simply be spied out of the corner of eyes of people hurrying through the arches to cleaner places.
You are required to seek out the art down here in its dark lair.
Helena Bonham Carter talks to Jolyon Connell, founder of Connell Guides, about poetry. Helena also reads her favourite poems, including ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph (also known by its famous line “When I’m an old woman I shall wear purple”).
THE HOBBLEDEHOY loves Kate Tempest and now we love Kae. Here’s Kae’s latest message from her Facebook:
Hello old fans, new fans and passers by – I’m changing my name! And I’m changing my pronouns. From Kate to Kae. From she/her to they/them. I’ve been struggling to accept myself as I am for a long time. I have tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be so as not to risk rejection. This hiding from myself has led to all kinds of difficulties in my life. And this is a first step towards knowing and respecting myself better. I’ve loved Kate. But I am beginning a process and I hope you’ll come with me. From today – I will be publishing my books and releasing my music as Kae Tempest! It’s pronounced like the letter K. It’s an old English word that means jay bird. Jays are associated with communication, curiosity, adaptation to new situations and COURAGE which is the name of the game at the moment. It can also mean jackdaw which is the bird that symbolises death and rebirth. Ovid said the jackdaw brought the rain. Which I love. It has its roots in the Latin word for rejoice, be glad and take pleasure. And I hope to live more that way each day. Funny because I know this is much more of a big deal to me than it is to anyone else, but because of my role as artist, it is in some ways a public decision as well as being a private one. So, here is my announcement. Sending my love to you all and wishing you courage as you face whatever you must face today. This is a time of great reckoning. Privately, locally, globally. For me, the question is no longer ‘when will this change’ but ‘how far am I willing to go to meet the changes and bring them about in myself.’ I want to live with integrity. And this is a step towards that. Sending LOVE always
Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts world shutting down for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, he award-winning poet Kathleen Jamie reads two poems about the natural world, “An Avowal” and “Fianuis”
A resonant evening of eloquent and grimy spoken word. New Music review by Katie Colombus
For those wondering if performance poet Kate Tempest would be upstaged or introduced by either pandemic panic or International Women’s Day – know that a) she’s fearless and b) she practices equality always. As such, there’s no pre-amble, other than a hope that her gig will “resonate into the night and the days to come”.
Kate gets straight into her post-Brexit narrative track “Europe Is Lost”, she heaves “’Cause it’s big business, baby, and its smile is hideous; top down violence, and structural viciousness” slowing down to deliver the line “Jail him, he’s the criminal”, to whoops from the audience. But this gig doesn’t dwell on political condemnation – there is philosophy, too – and a softer message of hope. “We Die” sees a confident focus on the existential, as she pulls out the lines: “Everything’s connected; And even if I can’t read it right, everything’s a message; We die so the others can be born; We age so the others can be young; The point of life is live, love; If you can, then pass it on, right?”
It’s such an odd eloquence. Her soft voice layers strong lyrics on top of a grimy beat – a fascinating duality that lands like a sucker punch. A million words come lightning quick at times, or slow and song-like at others in a clever set that builds and falls like the pace and lyricism of a well-constructed poem. Energy picks up, leading to “The Beigeness” – an intense and intimate telling of “a young girl with the truth and the alley cat”, here focused again on the cyclical idea that, “All life is forward you will see, all life is forwards… forwards…” – a line that she slows down and repeats throughout the gig.
We hear voyeuristic detail in the flowers on the windowsill of “Ketamine for Breakfast”; agonising vulnerability in “Circles” and “I Trap You” – told like an internal/external monologue in which she turns inwards to whisper lines into her shoulder with a hand over her face, before swinging outwards with a manic grin, delivering lines to fairground music. “Tunnel Vison” delivers more wisdom, before “Firesmoke” shakes us up with its Massive Attack beat and “Circles” sees Kate hanging in the shadows like a bystander coming up at the club. “People’s Faces” finishes the set, to a gentle, rippling piano, reminding us to notice: “Was that a pivotal historical moment; We just went stumbling past?”
But we have listened to every word – heard her message in the powerful silence of “All Humans Too Late”, delivered acapella; in the parts slowed down, like “Hold. Your. Own. And. Let. It. Be. Catching.” Punctuated with hope and enunciated with empathy so that we get it, so that we understand, so that we retain, so that it can, resonate.