Caught by the River


31st October 2016

A long-overdue roundup of welcome distractions…

5f0bd5dadfb8508d6ba5cdd3749ec38e F. Percy Smith. Queer Pets (1912). BFI via The Creators Project

Minute bodies: The intimate world of F. Percy Smith, directed by Stuart A. Staples (of Tindersticks fame), premiered at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. The edited-together clips of Smith’s pioneering microscopic films are accompanied by a contemporary score composed and performed by Tindersticks and Christine Ott. ‘It’s been a long journey that ended up in the basement of the BFI, opening old film canisters that haven’t been opened for many, many, many, years’, Staples tells The Creators Project.

Robert Macfarlane takes to Epping Forest and discovers the secrets of the Wood Wide Web – an ancient, complex and collaborative underground network of roots and mycorrhizal fungi.

In this episode of culture and literature series ‘Off The Page’, poet Norman MacCaig speaks of the influence of his mother on his life, the difficulty of writing in free verse, and his habit of writing a poem in the time it takes to smoke two fags. It was brought to our attention by the ever-excellent Neu! Reekie!


Simon Fisher Turner continues his ongoing ‘Guerrilla Audio’ project, in which he uploads new field recordings, or otherwise interesting bits of audio, every two weeks. The most recent entry includes the song of a second hand clothes seller, recorded outside Tesco on our very own Portobello Road.

Martians, music and mud: Rachel Lichtenstein explores how the Thames Estuary has broadened cultural horizons.

Bill Drummond discusses his love/hate relationship with New Towns and their impact on his life in this spoken word piece specially commissioned by The Magnetic North and Kirsteen McNish, in collaboration with RIBA.

6a00d8341c464853ef01b7c8929cd2970b-500wi Anna Pavlova in The Dying Swan, Library of Congress via British Library

Over on the British Library’s Sound and vision blog, Cheryl Tipp reveals how Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova’s ‘desire to draw inspiration directly from nature’ led her to the small Dorsetshire village of Abbotsbury, home to the only managed colony of Mute Swans in the world.

Dolly Alderton writes in appreciation of Hampstead Ladies’ Pond, the only female-only wild swimming spot in the UK. ‘I am still as new as the pond’s tentative fuzzy ducklings. Not everyone is as cautious as me. Come winter, you can still hear splashing in the early morning.’

Julian Hoffman reflects on ‘the long-twined histories of nature and war’ at Lodge Hill, a former military base on the Hoo Peninsula, as part of a project entitled ‘Reimagining Lost Landscapes’. Lodge Hill is listed as a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest on behalf of the 1% of Britain’s dwindling nightingale population it supports.

‘Many grouse moors are black holes for birds of prey. They disappear and their satellite tags stop working in the same places, again and again. Alien abduction? Russian black ops? No: shooting, trapping and poisoning by the gamekeepers employed to maximise grouse numbers, most of whom, on these remote moors, get away with it.’ George Monbiot calls out the British grouse industry-funded ‘You Forgot the Birds’ campaign – and other such ‘astroturf groups’.

8688 Yoshinori Mizutani/IMA Gallery via The Guardian

Photographer Yoshinori Mizutani captures huge numbers of cormorants as they congregate on the overhead wires of Tokyo. ‘With this work, I tried to highlight the issue of invasive birds in cities and to show images of urban landscape made surreal by their presence’ he says.

With the tagline ‘poetry via voicemail / missed calls you actually want to hear’, Voicemail Poems is exactly that. Ring up and recite, or scroll your way through pages of other people’s submissions.

Bill Callahan performs ‘Riding For The Feeling’, ‘Dress Sexy At My Funeral’ and ‘America!’ for TEDxKC.

And last but not least, Olivia Laing presents an imaginative portrait of cellist, composer, songwriter and disco auteur Arthur Russell in this programme for BBC Radio 4. Catch it while you can.