Saturday, 18 February 2012

Durham Open Mic - 2011 Annual Report

2011 was a vintage year for Durham City's open mic scene, due mainly to the rescheduled mid-week session at the Market Tavern. After a long period with several competing nights, everyone finally knew the one place to go for a pub music thrill. At the Tav, there was proper beer, a decent bunch of musicians and - best of all - a crowd who came to listen. Sadly, all things must pass and it's all over now (for the moment at least) so here's a shot of Fishburn Mafia from the final bash just before Christmas to remember it by. Rumour is that the session may be restarting in the spring, so here's hoping...

UFO Flap Over DC

I spotted this Unidentified Flying Object hovering over the A167 just west of Durham in January. I didn't get abducted, hypnotized, probed, or anything unpleasant like that (which was a relief) so it seemed to be fairly benign. Keep watching the skies!

Lines Of Flight @ The Laing Gallery

Mervyn Peake (1911-68) is best known today for his 'Gormenghast' fantasy novels, but during his own lifetime he was probably much better known for his remarkable skill as an illustrator. To celebrate his 100th anniversary, the Laing Gallery has assembled a spectacular exhibition of artwork from the many different stages of his career.

Book illustration has always been an underrated art that demands the highest levels of technical skill on work that might be glanced over in a moment by the casual reader. Peake was a master of the form and his title page to 'Household Tales' for example still astonishes with its detailed lines and character sketches. There are also some exquisite illustrations here for 'Treasure Island', 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde' and 'Snow White', including a particularly memorable image of Snow White herself that looks remarkably like Kate Bush in all her 'Wuthering Heights' pomp.

Most of the work in the first gallery is in black & white, so it comes as something of a revelation to encounter his spectacular colour plates for 'Rhymes Without Reason' (1949) in the second room. It is however his own 'Gormenghast' books that provide some of the most inspired work here and for me the stand-out piece in the whole exhibition is the pen, ink & wash illustration of his character 'Steerpike': a hauntingly life-like image that would not look out of place in a portrait gallery. Even if you don't like Peake the writer, Peake the illustrator is well worth investigating.

Healey Windows Win ACE Award

We're pleased to report that the Healey Church windows we were championing all last year won the Art & Christian Enquiry 'Award for Art in a Religious Context' for 2011. They beat stiff competition at the national level from the likes of Antony Gormley and Thomas Denny (whose entry was the new 'Transfiguration Window' at Durham Cathedral). Congratulations to all concerned. More info at: