Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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11 November 2007
Filed under:Arts Reviews,London,Personal at10:56 am

as my ‘Facebook friends’ will know already, I am going to be singing in a revival of John Foulds’ A War Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall, 81 years after its last performance there. Lots more about the composer and his music is available from the links below. Personally I wouldn’t say it is a masterpiece and there are some odd touches in its 90 minute length but I think it would be worth a listen, particularly live so you would get the full impact of the five (!) choruses plus orchestra.

It is probably not too late to get tickets if you are so inclined but if you can’t or won’t make it, it will be on BBC Radio 3 from 18:30 to 20:00 (local time) and streamed live on the Internet. Chandos is also releasing a two CD concert recording (in SACD format in fact if you have a very fancy CD player).

More links than you probably need or want about Foulds follow:

BBC Radio 3 (to hear the concert live)

Telegraph Foulds profile inc. interview with Patrick Foulds (the composer’s son):

Profile of Foulds and his work in the Independent – it’s more colourful and plays up Foulds’ eccentricities.

The head of Radio 3 on Foulds

Simon Heffer (a Telegraph columnist) on Foulds

BBC news short video item about Foulds inc interview with conductor and a very brief clip of the assembled choruses singing.

9 July 2007

Thanks to the rather handy Edwin C Bolles collection of historical and topographical London documents I just read this rather cheering quotation about my neighborhood (Highgate) from a 129 year old guide:

[John] Norden, whom we have quoted above, bears testimony to the healthiness of this locality. He writes: “Upon this hill is most pleasant dwelling, yet not so pleasant as healthful; for the expert inhabitants there report that divers who have long been visited by sickness not curable by ` physicke ‘ have in a short time repaired their health by that sweet salutary air.” Indeed, the place is still proverbially healthy, and therefore has been chosen from time immemorial as the site of hospitals and other charitable institutions. It is worthy of note that Defoe, in his “History of the Plague,” records not a single death from that fearful visitation having happened here, though it extended its ravages into and beyond the northern suburbs, and even as far as Watford and St. Albans; and his silence is corroborated by the fact that during the continuance of the plague only sixteen deaths are recorded in the register.

15 August 2006

This is the last Google Ad I ever expected to see – and it doesn’t seem to have been sent to me because of any particular email as I didn’t have any emails open at the time I read (or does Google Mail present ads based as well on some kind of aggregate of all of your mail?)

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Alas the only languages other than English of which I have a useful knowledge are French and a smattering of Latin so I may not be much use to them. Then again, perhaps if you believe Yes Minister the French are our real enemies all along?

It’sa pity – I was a big James Bond fan when I was a kid…

London Walks for your MP3 Player is what it says – there 15 areas of central London covered (so far). So much more handy than carrying around a guidebook. For an alternative – a single downloadable package of 15 sites plus a map – see iaudioguide (which covers a number of other European cities as well). I heard about it via a roundup of such guides at Londonist – a (rather patchy) commercial blog about all things London.

7 May 2006
Filed under:London,Personal at2:04 pm

This art ‘event’ –The Sultan’s Elephant looks like it was a great event. It is exactly the kind of thing (along with fireworks and the Thames Festival which I like to see my tax money going towards.

2 February 2006

The LSE Library is having a sale today of several thousand books it doesn’t want. Unfortunately, they keep almost anything of any value. All I could see was books like this inspirational study by George Kazakov. Even a hardened bibliophile would have a hard time loving these but there was a steady stream of would-be purchasers anyway.

I was stunned to discover that not only was this book mentioned in Google – 3 times – someone had actually referenced it in an academic journal! Truly no scholarship is entirely wasted.

So if you are in London, you read this, and you want to know more about Soviet peat in the 50s, dash on over to the LSE library – the sale is on until 16:00 and I have a feeling it may not have been snapped up yet…

P.S. In a strange quirk of fate the first academic publication I have been involved with was published today – details are available here. I hope it doesn’t meet a similar fate to Kazakov’s work – at least not during my lifetime…

26 January 2006

“Due to a whale in the Thames services may be subject to delays”. And yes it’s true!

I should have blogged this sooner. It’s not as funny now that the whale is dead. I stuck it up on my Flickr account right away but forgot to cross-reference it here. You might find it interesting to check out or ‘subscribe to’ my photo feed there – particularly if you know me. I tend largely to take pictures of odd things I see around London that intrigue me. There’s a little ‘jigsaw’ of pics from it on the navigation bar at right…

18 December 2005
Filed under:Interesting facts,London,Personal at5:04 pm

Strange twilight at Canonbury Station

Originally uploaded by D & D.

It’s fairly well known when the longest and shortest days of the year (the Solstices) are in a given location (this year the Winter Solstice in London will be 21st Dec). But for complicated reasons (see this post for explanation), the sun started setting later here around the middle of this week. So if like me your primary concern is when the sun sets and not when it rises, the long dark tunnel of winter is already giving way to spring – in my head at least…

29 October 2005
Filed under:Interesting facts,London at1:40 pm

Twice in two days I had an odd reminder of the way international travel and the Internet can shake things loose from their geographical locations. Yesterday I found myself listening to Cory Doctorow’s new podcast which I read about on BoingBoing (San Francisco) but linked me to Cory’s story which was set in Toronto but dictated by Cory somewhere in East London – and I was cycling towards East London at the time I heard it.

And today I realised that Nathaniel Daw (whose funny story I just told you about) had his story, written when he was at Columbia (New York), posted up on a web server at MIT (Boston), where years later it could be found by Boing Boing (San Francisco) and read by me (London)… and I just found out he now lives just over 5 miles from me.

Dunno what it all means (I don’t have time to wrangle these idle musings into an academic paper!) but I thought I’d share it.

10 September 2005

I suppose this is something I am bound to have to weather in years to come once I am published academically and people have the chance to interpret (and misinterpret) my work, but this morning’s surprise came as an unwelcome little shock. I discovered that I have been held up as a figure for abuse in a newsletter distributed in my neighborhood by Islington International Working Class Action.

When the latest edition of the “Mildmay and Highbury Independent” landed on my doorstep (not yet available online) I thought I would give it a read. I wouldn’t say I am completely ideologically aligned with them but I have some sympathy with their regular diet of stories of poorly maintained public housing and council property sell-offs that don’t result in significant benefits for the borough’s substantial population of working class people. I turned the page and found an article entitled “Gentrification: is it good for you?” following on from a recent Guardian article which pointed out the benefits of the restoration of a local park (that I had some part in) but also quoted some residents who felt they had not benefited from the changes. And there, to my distress, I read the following:

“Mr Brake has made it very clear which kind of ‘regeneration’ he wants to see. His website announces triumphantly that the: ‘Gentrification of Newington Green proceeds apace’… For Mr Brake the arrival of ‘a genuine French patisserie, several restaurants and a vegetarian deli’ is proof that ‘the benefits will be felt by all who live here for generations to come.”

Well I was a little baffled. None of this sounded like anything I had written on the official NGAG website (which is rather out of date now that I am no longer press officer). And indeed I hadn’t written anything like that in my official capacity. Then I went back through the archives of this blog and discovered that the quotes had been pulled from here – from this post and this one. Of course the quotes were selective and the author of this particular hatchet job hadn’t bothered to call me up and try to find out my actual views.

I don’t know whether having read my words through their own ideological lenses they felt they knew what I would say or whether they simply wanted to use me as a sort of punching bag and were deliberately misquoting me but whichever the reason the result was quite irritating. All the more so because actually I do agree with the author to some extent about the issues s/he was trying to raise.

So to be clear about what I think I have observed that Newington Green is gentrifying but with decidedly mixed emotions. I personally enjoy the arrival of the local patisserie and deli, which (it must be said) have not come at the expense of any authentically working class amenities that I am aware of. What I campaigned for and helped to achieve, however was the cleaning up of the Green itself, which has been turned into a proper park at last and my intention was that that green space used by everyone (not the restaurants) would provide the “benefits for all who live here” alluded to earlier.

I am uncomfortably aware that improvements to an area like this one can lead to gentrification which may alienate working class people but I would regret it if this did happen and indeed as long as the numerous council estates in this area remain it seems unlikely that working class people would be “driven out” as the author warns may happen. It is difficult, however, to see what the alternative is. Should we have left the green as an overgrown traffic roundabout to protect the neighborhood from gentrification? Shades of “we had to destroy the village in order to save it”!

At any rate had I been approached I would have had some sympathy with the author and could have helped them with their piece – as it is (like all too many groups on the left) their rigid ideological stance has lost them a potential supporter.

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