29.5.24

Enter the Mothership: artist Yto Barrada's Tangier garden | Tate

The Mothership is a garden on the Strait of Gibraltar, and yet much more than that. It's a residence, and a retreat, a dye garden, an experimental lab and a family home. It's a place where artists, gardeners, writers and poets can find the time and space to restore themselves, to work and study. In this film, artist Yto Barrada invites us into the Mothership as well as to the Cinémathèque de Tanger, two important centres of art and 'inventivity' in the city of Tangier, Morocco. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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10.5.24

Step inside the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden | Tate

Explore the work of Barbara Hepworth through her home, studio, and garden. Barbara Hepworth first came to live in Cornwall with her husband and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939, living and working in Trewyn studios – now the Barbara Hepworth Museum – from 1949 until her death. Following her wish to establish her home and studio as a museum of her work, Trewyn Studio and much of the artist’s work remaining there was given to the nation and placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980. 'Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic’, wrote Hepworth. ‘Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space’. You can hear more about Hepworth's life and work on Tate Story Player: https://ift.tt/FXV8ZIp Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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4.5.24

Four ways to cultivate a unique taste in music in the age of streaming algorithms

Alphavector/Shutterstock

One of the positive things about modern media is that artists can now get their music into the world without having to first impress industry executives. The downside, though, is that with pretty much everything available at the click of a button, we are faced with an overwhelming burden of choice.

In your 20s and 30s, when you’re still discovering and defining your music taste, this can leave you feeling paralysed by the indecision of what to listen to, and prevent you from developing a taste that’s uniquely yours.

That’s why so many of us rely on the algorithms built into our favourite streaming services, like Spotify or Apple Music, to decide for us. We allow these platforms to create playlists or make recommendations for us, which may prevent us from being overwhelmed with choice – but also means we’re becoming more and more disengaged with actually choosing what we listen to.


Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

TikTok and Instagram are full of misleading information about birth control — and wellness influencers are helping drive these narratives

Friend breakups: why they can sometimes feel as bad as falling out of love

What millennials and gen Z professionals need to know about developing a meaningful career


Most recommendation systems are built on the historical data of their users. By design, they mostly reinforce or support the preferences we already have. This means that by relying on algorithms, we become less adventurous in our listening.

There’s also what machine-learning researcher Arya Mohan calls “the cold start problem”, where new songs fail to get recommended due to a lack of listening data, which leads to popular songs monopolising algorithm recommendations.

Here are four ways that you can regain your autonomy, try new things and avoid getting stuck in an algorithmic loop.

1. Listen to the radio

Although listening to radio shows involves being fed whatever is deemed worthy of rotation at the time, the playlist is, at least, curated by humans rather than bots.

There’s also the tantalising prospect of joining a song midway through, without any knowledge of who’s performing it. That way you engage with the music itself and are forced to listen to the end if you want to know the artist’s identity. This is possible with algorithm-produced playlists too, of course, but the temptation is always there to steal a glance at your phone or laptop to see whose song it is.

2. Read reviews

Reading music reviews, either in magazines and newspapers or online, can be a great way to discover new material. Although the time-sensitive nature of critiquing music does sometimes produce rushed opinions.

You’ll know you’re reading a reliable source if the reviewer is making reference to specific aspects of an album, such as lyrical or music passages. If they’re writing in broad strokes about general sound, theme or production, it’s likely they haven’t had the time to give it a real chance.

young woman lying down listening to vinyl
Going analogue can be a good way to escape the algorithm. Natalia Bostan/Shutterstock

3. Try word of mouth

Depending on what kind of person you are, if there’s a “must listen” artist, album, or song that’s sweeping through your group chat, it might go two ways.

One: you’ll listen straight away in the hope of sharing the exuberance. Or two: you’ll set your stubborn-ometer to max and reject it without even hearing a single note.

Having done both at various times over the years, I would recommend putting your faith in a couple of friends whose musical judgment you trust and tuning out the rest.

4. Browse your local music store

We’re told from an early age never to judge a book by its cover, but as some album art is important enough to be considered a key piece of the overall musical puzzle, a wander down the aisles of a music shop (if you can still find one) can be great for letting your eyes choose your next listen.

I’ve written previously about how expensive hard copy music can be, but for every over-priced vinyl, there’s a bargain bin to rummage through, so let your wallet have a say in your next listen, too.

Having music in a tangible format, whether vinyl, CD or cassette, forces you to become more active in the listening process because you actually have to do something beyond clicking or scrolling. This in turn may lead to a deeper and more contemplative connection with the music you listen to.

With the sheer convenience of their endless “for you”, and “have you tried?” playlists, it’s no wonder streaming services are dominating the way we consume music. But if you can be bold enough to seize back control of what you listen to, it’s well worth the inconvenience.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation


Glenn Fosbraey, Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Winchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

30.4.24

Outi Pieski – 'Art comes from the land, it's made for the land' | Tate

Drawing inspiration from her Sámi heritage, artist Outi Pieski creates large-scale textile installations which feature tassels based on traditional clothing. Her work references ‘duodji’, an Indigenous craft practice that was marginalised in the wake of Scandinavian colonialism. In this short video, watch Pieski as she prepares new work for her exhibition at Tate St Ives. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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23.4.24

Sargent's Diva Portrait | Tate

After watching Ellen Terry play the role of Lady Macbeth in 1888, artist John Singer Sargent knew he had to paint her. But his dramatic portrait, with Terry holding the crown above her head, depicts a scene that didn't actually occur in Irving's production. Nevertheless, Sargent's painting established Terry as a true Victorian 'diva'. This is an extract from Exhibition on Screen's film John Singer Sargent: Fashion & Swagger. Filmed at both the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tate Britain, the documentary explores how Sargent used fashion as a powerful tool to express identity and personality. The exhibition Sargent and Fashion is at Tate Britain until 7 July: https://ift.tt/7eyG29W Find out more at https://seventh-art.com. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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21.4.24

Five things our research uncovered when we recreated 16th century beer (and barrels)

Susan Flavin, Trinity College Dublin and Charlie Taverner, Trinity College Dublin

It’s true that our 16th-century ancestors drank much more than Irish people do today. But why they did so and what their beer was like are questions shrouded in myth. The authors were part of a team who set out to find some answers.

As part of a major study of food and drink in early modern Ireland, funded by the European Research Council, we recreated and analysed a beer last brewed at Dublin Castle in 1574. Combining craft, microbiology, brewing science, archaeology, as well as history, this was the most comprehensive interdisciplinary study of historical beer ever undertaken. Here are five things that we discovered.

1. People didn’t drink beer because water was unhealthy

It’s often assumed that lack of access to clean water led people to drink beer instead. We know this isn’t true for many reasons, not least because brewers needed a constant source of fresh water to make the best beer.

Water was certainly viewed as less healthy, but not because of any understanding of microbial contamination. According to a system of medicine and treatment used at the time, Galenic humorism, water was a “cold” drink that affected digestion, causing fluctuations and windiness. Meanwhile, beer was “warm and comforting”, balancing the “humours” and quenching thirst.

2. Beer was a payment for work

Beer was taken as medicine, often mixed with curious ingredients. Treatments for conditions such as flux or bed wetting, for example, required ground kid’s hoof or grated stag’s penis to be taken with a drink of beer.

People drank at work, commonly receiving drink as part of their wages. The quantities were staggering. At Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, masons received up to 15 pints per day when undertaking heavy work.

More typical was a range of five to ten pints, as was the case at Dublin Castle. There, servants imbibed up to 2,700 calories a day in beer alone, the cost of which exceeded what the household spent on bread.

3. Beer had some different ingredients then

In many ways, 16th-century beer would be recognisable today. The key ingredients were malt (made from barley or oats depending on the region), water, yeast and hops.

The addition of hops, a Dutch innovation, spread throughout Europe in this period. This resulted in a longer lasting drink, accelerating the development of the brewing industry as we know it today.

But there are differences between pre-modern and modern beers, relating primarily to the nature of the ingredients. Four centuries ago, cereals were grown as landraces.

A landrace has a wide range of characteristics distinct from those of standardised modern varieties, through adaptation to their regional climate, soils and topography. Shrinking cultivation of these landraces meant that sourcing heritage ingredients was challenging.

The variety of barley we chose was bere. This is the only landrace barley still grown commercially, thanks to the conservation efforts of agronomists and farmers in Orkney, Scotland.

The experiment was a unique opportunity to examine the significance of these varieties to the taste and quality of drinks in the past, and the benefits of saving heritage crops for future generations.

4. Making beer required skills in short supply today

Industrial brewing today produces the same beer every time. Brewing in the past, using simpler equipment and in a more open environment, was much more challenging. Brewers were deeply in tune with their working conditions and didn’t have modern devices such as thermometers.

They used their senses and knowledge to make adjustments as they worked. As the project team learned the hard way, small mistakes could be disastrous, resulting in spoiled beer and accidental porridge.

Recreating the technology of the past also highlighted the wider craft skills, such as coopering (making barrels), wicker-weaving, woodworking, and coppersmithing, that went into making all the equipment needed to make a pint. Much like heritage crops, these skills are in worrying decline.

Our oak fermenting barrels and mash tuns (a vessel used in brewing) were made by Les Skinner, at the time one of the last two master coopers in England. He has since retired. We had to go all the way to Portugal to find coppersmiths who could build a large freestanding boiler.

5. Even everyday beer was strong

One enduring misconception is that people were able to drink so much in the 16th century because their beer was relatively weak. Based on little evidence, it is assumed that beer of around 2% alcohol by volume (abv) was the most common drink of the working classes. But we know this so called “small beer” was widely rejected by workers, as well as by physicians, dietary writers, and government officials, who all deemed it dangerous to health.

Our experiment showed that a typical beer of middling strength actually had the potential to be around 5% abv, comparable to modern lager. This means people could have been extremely inebriated from merely what they drank alongside work. Unsurprisingly, there were loud and frequent calls for drinkers to show moderation.

Those calls often came, however, from the same people who liberally supplied their workers with beer. This suggests that the context in which people drank was very important. If having a pint or two at breakfast and dinner was acceptable, even expected, many more at the village alehouse was seen as more troublesome.

To learn more about brewing a beer from 1574, visit our online exhibition. A documentary film is coming soon. Details will be on our website.The Conversation

Susan Flavin, Associate professor of history, Trinity College Dublin and Charlie Taverner, Research fellow, history, Trinity College Dublin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

9.4.24

How art can inspire solidarity across borders | Tate

How do artists create work within their communities, in a way that helps us see injustice and shows us the way towards change? In this film we look at five artists who demonstrate the power of collaboration across borders: Outi Pieski, Carolina Caycedo, Anna Daučíková, Zanele Muholi and Rita Keegan. Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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8.4.24

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

Barbican show reveals the medium’s subversive nature

Textile art is having a revival, as the artists on show at the Barbican exhibition, Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art, attest.

The show is a comprehensive journey through the themes explored by artists utilising textiles as a medium. But it also invites deeper reflection on the societal shifts that have prompted a revival of the art form. Historically associated with femininity, domesticity and craft, textiles possess a deceptive simplicity that conceals their potential for subversion and political dissent.

The exhibition focuses on this subversive nature of textiles in contemporary art through works by artists including Feliciano Centurión. His delicate floral embroideries on modest blanket squares are accompanied by poignant stitched phrases such as “Soy alma en pena” (“I am a soul in pain”) and “Estoy vivo” (“I am alive”). These words express his battle with HIV and affirm his queer masculine identity.

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas’s collaged textile hanging, meanwhile, revises historical depictions of the Romani community. In doing so, the artist reclaims space for stories excluded from historical accounts. And Igshaan Adams’s immersive ethereal installation, crafted from beads and wire structures, prompts reflection on the collective opposition to artificially imposed borders in South Africa’s apartheid regime.

The changing landscape of exhibiting textiles

The exhibition also includes works by established figures such as Sheila Hicks and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Their works were displayed in the Wall Hangings exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1969, a pivotal show that legitimised the use of fibre within the realm of the fine arts.

Using unorthodox and found materials, female artists of this era departed from the European tapestry tradition. Their three-dimensional fibre structures both physically and metaphorically reclaimed space in an art world largely dominated by their male counterparts.

In the catalogue for the Barbican exhibition one of the curators, Lotte Johnson, remarks: “Back in 2020, we had collectively noted how textiles were proliferating across contemporary art practices.” This proliferation can be traced back to recent societal changes, as well as the instrumental role of cultural intermediaries including museums and private galleries.

Social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have highlighted the need to tell a more inclusive history of art and acknowledge the contributions of women, people of colour and indigenous artists who have been overlooked in traditional accounts.

Further, the global spread of biennials and fairs, along with increase mobility of curators, has contributed greater visibility of artists from continents such as Africa and South America. Their practices often employ textiles and recycled elements, transcending the European dichotomy between art and craft.

The consumer demand for handmade textile items – a trend in response to an increasingly digitised society – has also played a role in the renewed appreciation for textile-based art. Additionally, movements associated with environmentalism and third-wave feminism have embraced traditionally domestic practices such as knitting and crocheting. These enjoyed further popularity during the COVID pandemic as a stress-coping mechanism.

Museums have been pivotal in endorsing the revival of textiles. And the increased prevalence of women in positions of power at cultural institutions is partly why. The retrospective on Anni Albers at the Tate Modern in 2018, for example, is much-cited as a show that put the spotlight back on textiles. The show was supported by the appointments of Frances Morris as director of Tate Modern in 2016 and Maria Balshaw as director of Tate the following year.

Additionally, a new generation of curators are shaping curatorial programmes to include a more diverse range of artistic practices. These curators were educated by feminist art history scholars such as Griselda Pollock and have now moved into influential roles within prominent art institutions.

Interest in textiles is also gaining momentum within the private art sector. According to the art market database Artprice, textile works generated US$40 million (£31.6m) in 2022, a significant increase from $13 million in 2012.

Private galleries are exerting a growing influence on the art world, and have contributed significantly to the visibility of fibre art and textiles. Last October, the private gallery Alison Jacques opened a new space in London with a solo show on Sheila Hicks. At the Brafa art fair in Brussels in January 2024, Richard Saltoun showcased Textile Pioneers, which exhibited works by Barbara Levittoux-Świderska and Magdalena Abakanowicz, among others.

While the promotion of female textile artists is certainly a welcome shift towards a more inclusive representation of historical artistic contributions, the private sector’s commercial considerations cannot be overlooked. Female artists have been defined as “the bargain of our time”, and textile works are an affordable purchase for underfunded institutions and collectors who cannot afford works by male artists from the same period.

Moreover, the practicality of textiles, being easier to transport and install compared to paintings, further enhances their appeal to galleries.

The resurgence of textiles in contemporary art provides a vital opportunity for conversation and revision within both the art world and society at large. It also highlights the complex interplay of cultural intermediaries who juggle idealistic efforts and pragmatic commercial interests.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation


Francesca Stocco, PhD Researcher, Art Market, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

26.3.24

First Encounter: Tai-Shan Schierenberg on Portrait of a Young Woman | Tate

Portrait painter, Tai-Shan Schierenberg describes the first time he saw Meredith Frampton's painting, Portrait of a Young Woman and how the piece has impacted his own work. Meredith Frampton painted Margaret Austin-Jones in a tall vertical format. This echoes the full-length portraits of women painted in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the precision with which Frampton paints, combined with the work’s feeling of extreme stillness, gives this work an uncanny, modern tone. Frampton said that he made this painting ‘to celebrate an assembly of objects... beautiful in their own right’. He noted that, as Austin-Jones was very musical, the cello was an ‘appropriate symbol’. Frampton also designed the white vase on the table. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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14.3.24

Stories from the archive – Evelyn Dunbar | Tate

With over 1 million items, Tate's archive is an incredible place of discovery. We sat down with Tate's Library & Archive Coordinator, Federica Beretta to hear more about her role and the stories behind artist and illustrator, Evelyn Dunbar's archive pieces. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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27.2.24

How Tumblr raised a generation of feminists

Briony Hannell, University of Sheffield

Like so many millennials, my teenage years on the multimedia microblogging platform, Tumblr, introduced me to feminist politics, which inspired my burgeoning interest in gender and feminism at university. My experiences as a Tumblr teen at the height of its popularity inspired my book, Feminist Fandom: Media Fandom, Digital Feminisms, and Tumblr, which examines the platform in the early- to mid-2010s.

By the end of the 2010s, reports indicated that the majority of young women identified as feminists – a far cry from the preceding decade marked by ambivalence and unease, if not outright hostility, toward feminism.

From high-profile celebrities such as Beyoncé and Emma Watson declaring themselves feminists, to feminist books dominating the bestseller charts, to feminist commentary in Elle and Teen Vogue, popular culture in the 2010s was marked by the sudden and spectacular resurgence of feminist politics.


Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

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Why you might start to hate the influencers you once loved

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Feminism, it seemed, had lost its former reputation as an outdated and dirty word. By 2017, feminism was so central to the zeitgeist that it was declared the Merriam-Webster word of the year.

Many commentators have argued that feminism’s visibility on social media was instrumental to this revival, ushering in its fourth wave. And few social media platforms received quite so much attention for their progressive, queer and feminist ethos as Tumblr.

Beyoncé’s 2013 song Flawless declared her identity as a feminist.

Since its conception in 2007, Tumblr has developed a reputation for its appeal to marginalised users, especially LGBTQ+ youth, girls and young women, and people of colour. Widely used for sharing knowledge, community building and personal and creative expression, both Tumblr and its users readily embraced its reputation as a space committed to social justice and the open, self-governing exchange of ideas.

Why and how, I wondered when writing my book, did this platform in particular play such a central role in the feminist experiences and identities of so many of my millennial peers? Here’s what I found.

1. Design

The design and functionality of Tumblr differentiated it from other popular platforms at the time. Unlike Facebook, where explicit identity cues – including your real name, age and location – are required for use, the only identity information Tumblr required of users was their age, email address and a pseudonymous username.

Tumblr allowed users to have a high level of control over their visibility and the way they presented themselves. By virtue of its simplicity, customisability and (initially) lax approach to content moderation, Tumblr enabled a greater sense of privacy and freedom of expression than its more popular competitors. This made the site appealing to those hoping to explore identities, issues and interests that could be unwelcome elsewhere.

Tumblr’s anonymity made it feel safer for its marginalised users, inviting curiosity, experimentation and openness in those important first encounters with feminism.

2. Broad definition of feminism

Feminists have long emphasised that no single or universal “feminism” exists. Few versions of feminism on Tumblr achieved the height of attention enjoyed by liberal, white, western, middle-class feminism. But others nevertheless found a footing there, providing insight into the relationship between feminism and anti-racism, queer liberation, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and more.

Emma Watson’s 2014 UN speech on feminism was popular on Tumblr.

The wide variety of marginalised perspectives and voices on Tumblr combined to play an educational and consciousness-raising role in the lives of its users, offering more complex and critical insights into intersecting inequalities.

3. Culture

For many users, Tumblr’s ultimate appeal lay in its mixture of political and educational content and content that was more playful, leisure-oriented and interest-based.

Many of the Tumblr users I interviewed for my book described their Tumblr blogs as a highly personal repository of all of their passions and interests, from personal life to pop culture and politics. As Emily, who is now in her late 20s, recalled: “I got my Tumblr account when I was 14. I remember an acquaintance suggested it, so I checked it out, and it really offered me a place to collate all my interests. I fell down the rabbit hole pretty quickly.”

When we last spoke in 2018, she said that she was hesitant to leave Tumblr, describing it as a “living document of everything I’ve ever been interested in”.

The mixture of personal and political material on Tumblr served an important purpose for young feminists on the platform. No longer was feminism an abstract, academic and detached endeavour. Instead, it was immediate, engaging and playful, embedded into a bespoke timeline compiling users’ every interest, passion and political affinity.

Decline and nostalgia

Tumblr’s controversial adult content ban in 2018 was widely seen as a death knell heralding its demise and signalling the end of an era for a Tumblr feminism marked by the embrace of different sexual and gender identities.

Yet the ban’s partial reversal in November 2022 has ushered in hopes of a Tumblr revival. These hopes are built on Tumblr nostalgia: a yearning for an imagined past of the platform centring its progressive sensibility.

This yearning is partially driven by doubts about whether today’s popular platforms will harbour the same feminist potential for the next generation. For example, while TikTok has shown some signs of promise, it’s also home to prominent anti-feminist communities and has come under fire from marginalised content creators.

Moreover, its focus on visibility and exposure, compared to Tumblr’s focus on pseudonymity, makes users vulnerable to networked harassment, which, as many feminists have noted, disproportionately impacts women and gender minorities.

Despite its imperfections, Tumblr’s unique design, culture and sensibility combined to shape a generation of feminists in the 2010s. I don’t see any modern websites or apps that would be able to follow suit in the 2020s.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation


Briony Hannell, University Teacher in Sociology, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

23.2.24

Explore the history of The Tanks | Tate

Tate Modern's Director of Programme Catherine Wood explores the industrial history of Tate's underground art space, The Tanks. Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl




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19.2.24

Keeping the spirit of punk alive

Keeping the spirit of punk alive in British culture embodies a commitment to the DIY ethos, a philosophy rooted in independence, rebellion, and self-expression. At its core, punk challenges conformity and empowers individuals to create, innovate, and resist mainstream norms.


One of the hallmarks of punk's enduring legacy is its embrace of the DIY spirit. This ethos encourages people to do it themselves, whether it's creating music, art, fashion, or challenging societal structures. In the realm of music, punk bands often eschew traditional routes to success, opting instead to self-produce albums, book their own shows, and distribute music through grassroots networks.


In the DIY punk scene, there's a palpable sense of community and solidarity. Bands collaborate with local artists and venues, fostering a supportive network that values authenticity over commercialism. This ethos extends beyond music into other creative spheres, where individuals repurpose materials, experiment with unconventional techniques, and challenge established norms.


The spirit of punk thrives in the grassroots efforts of zine creators, DIY fashion designers, and activists who use art as a tool for social change. From squats to independent venues, DIY spaces provide platforms for expression and resistance, serving as incubators for countercultural movements.



G.P.Thomson






Desperate Bicycles - Handlebars

15.2.24

How to write a love song

How to write a love song – three tips for beginners from a songwriting expert

Panitanphoto/Shutterstock
Glenn Fosbraey, University of Winchester

Love and romance are unquestionably the dominant lyrical themes of popular music. In fact, research in 2017 found that “love” has been the most common theme for pop song lyrics in every decade since the 1960s.

If you’re trying to write a love song for the first time, you might not know where to begin, or cringe at the thought of being schmaltzy. But love songs don’t necessarily have to be romantic. In the 2011 song Suck it And See, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner proposed that the ultimate compliment to bestow upon a loved one is to say they’re “rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock”.

An even stranger example comes courtesy of Underneath This Lamppost Light (2008) by The King Blues where the singer expresses undying love and devotion through the line: “I’ll kiss you after you’ve thrown up in the gutter / I’d do anything for you”.


Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Valentine’s Day: research-backed tips for dating app success

Online dating fatigue – why some people are turning to face-to-face apps first

Love Island – what the show can teach young people about commitment


One of my own favourites, Dry Your Eyes by The Streets (2004), not only eschews terms we’d associate with love, but launches into an expletive-laden ramble in the third verse, demonstrating how love can leave us unable to express ourselves eloquently (or even coherently).

Other songwriters, however, prefer the more direct approach. The likes of Billie Eilish, Avril Lavigne, Mike Love, Lou Reed, Chuck Berry, The Ramones, and dozens of others all releasing songs simply titled: I Love You.

I research song lyrics and creative writing. Here are my top tips for making your own love song special.

1. Ensure it’s accessible

Although the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Streets and The King Blues have tried something a bit different, their quirky expressions of love risk alienating people who can’t make the connection between the image they’re presenting and the emotion they’re linking it to.

As I note in my book, Writing Song Lyrics, while such original phrasing may bring freshness to the subject matter, non-universal images may be so foreign that the connection isn’t made between them and love. This can make your words less impactful.

As it is, most successful love songs draw on the same tropes over and over. Rain, for example, is frequently used to symbolise pain and misery – think November Rain by Guns ‘N’ Roses, or Raining In My Heart by Buddy Holly. And sunshine is frequently used to represent happiness – think You Are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder or Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles.

If a listener doesn’t have to work too hard, you could be on to a winner.

2. Keep it simple and familiar

Three of the top five bestselling love ballads are cover versions – Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet, Unchained Melody by Robson and Jerome and I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. This suggests that when it comes to love songs, we’re drawn to something we’re already familiar with.

This video from The Axis of Awesome shows how the same four chords have powered many of our best-loved love songs.

A 2012 experiment found that participants generally preferred songs that they rated as more structurally predictable.

Most popular love songs have discernible introductions, verses, choruses and bridge sections. Some, like I Will Always Love You and My Heart Will Go On, swap bridges (the parts of the song that connect the verse to the chorus) for dramatic key-change sections, but the best ones all strive to keep things as simple as possible.

3. Make your lyrics relatable

Love songs can act as a mirror for our own experiences. As listeners, we use songs as substitutes for what we cannot say. As such, it is important that we can relate love songs we listen to our own experiences.

This is probably the reason why so many love songs are broad in terms of their subject matter, focusing on generic occurrences, people and places rather than specifics to maximise their relatability. See Adele and Ed Sheeran for all the examples you could ever need in this area.

But if you want to write a song for that special someone, try to add a smattering of personal details. That will emphasise that the song has been written for them and them alone.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation


Glenn Fosbraey, Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Winchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

4.2.24

Paul Garrard - artist

Paul Garrard is a contemporary British artist whose work spans various mediums, including collage, painting, drawing, printmaking, and digital technologies. His art is characterised by a unique fusion of traditional techniques and modern sensibilities, creating a distinctive visual language that captivates viewers.

Garrard's drawings, particularly from his early work, are equally compelling, showcasing a meticulous attention to detail and a refined skill in draughtsmanship. His use of line work creates intricate patterns and textures, giving his drawings a captivating complexity. Often, he explores themes of nature and mythology, intertwining classical motifs with contemporary aesthetics.

The artist's influences are wide-ranging, drawing inspiration from both classical art and contemporary movements. Garrard's work pays homage to the rich history of art while pushing boundaries and exploring new territories. This dynamic fusion of tradition and innovation is a hallmark of his artistic identity.Renowned for his multifaceted body of work, a large part of which carries the indelible mark of Dadaism amidst his creative repertoire. Influenced by the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century, Garrard infuses his art with the spirit of Dada, embracing its ethos of artistic rebellion and radical experimentation.


Beyond his technical skill, Garrard's art often carries a deeper narrative. Themes of identity, society, and the human condition permeate his work, inviting viewers to contemplate and interpret the underlying messages. His pictures, in particular, serve as a visual commentary on the complexities of modern life, offering a mirror to society's triumphs and struggles.


In Garrard's pictures, the echoes of Dada reverberate through his unconventional compositions and bold visual statements. The movement's emphasis on the absurd and the irrational finds resonance in his art, as he subverts conventional notions of form and representation. Garrard's ‘canvases’ become battlegrounds of creative insurgency, where traditional boundaries are blurred, and the unexpected reigns supreme. Through his exploration of light, shadow, and colour, he channels the anarchic energy of Dada, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and inviting viewers into a world of artistic upheaval.


In the tradition of Dada collage and montage techniques, Garrard layers textures and motifs with a sense of playful abandon, blurring the lines between representation and abstraction. His art becomes a celebration of the absurd and the nonsensical, challenging viewers to question established norms and embrace the chaos of the modern world. In this fusion of tradition and iconoclasm, Paul Garrard emerges as a torchbearer of the Dada legacy, breathing new life into its radical vision for the 21st century art scene.


In the art world, Paul Garrard's contributions have not gone unnoticed. His work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, garnering acclaim for its originality and thought-provoking nature. Art enthusiasts are drawn to the depth and sincerity embedded in each piece, recognising Garrard's ability to evoke emotion and provoke introspection.


Paul Garrard emerges as a multimedia artist whose creative explorations extend beyond traditional visual mediums, occasionally delving into the realms of sound and vision. In his interdisciplinary approach to art, Garrard seamlessly integrates elements of music, video, and performance, forging immersive experiences that transcend the boundaries of traditional artistic expression. Drawing inspiration from his diverse influences, including Dadaism, Garrard's forays into sound and vision serve as extensions of his artistic ethos, challenging audiences to engage with art in new and unexpected ways. Through his multimedia endeavours, Garrard continues to push the boundaries of creativity, blurring the lines between different artistic disciplines and inviting viewers to embark on a journey of sensory exploration.


In conclusion, the art of Paul Garrard is a testament to the enduring power of visual expression. His ability to seamlessly blend traditional techniques with contemporary themes results in a body of work that is both timeless and relevant. Garrard's art invites viewers to embark on a journey of exploration, where every stroke and detail tells a story, and each piece serves as a window into the complexities of the human experience.


G.P. Thomson





30.1.24

Through Cable Street Beat, music became a potent antifascist weapon against the far right

The Cable Street Mural by Dave Binnington Savage, Paul Butler, Ray Walker and Desmond Rochfort (1979 – 1983). Amanda Slater/Wiki Commons, CC BY

In the 1980s, Britain’s far right was on the rise. Fascist parties fielded over 100 candidates in the 1983 general election. And culturally, the far right was also making ground.

“White power” bands like Skrewdriver and Peter and the Wolf began drawing sizeable crowds and selling thousands of records. In 1987, Skrewdriver’s frontman founded Blood & Honour, a music network that soon gained followers and branches throughout the US and Europe.

Blood & Honour’s emergence caused tremors among the UK antifascist movement. Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), the dominant antifascist group of the time, struck back with their own musical network: Cable Street Beat (CSB).

This is the story of how music became a battleground in the 1980s and 1990s, as antifascists fought fascism with guitars and microphones.

Cable Street Beat

Cable Street Beat was named after the antifascists’ celebrated victory over Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. Before the second world war, British MP Oswald Mosley had commanded a growing fascist movement that had been fiercely resisted by antifascists.

Black and white photo of Oswald Mosley
British MP Oswald Mosley commanded a growing fascist movement. National Portrait Gallery

On October 4 1936, Mosley amassed his Blackshirts on Cable Street to march through the East End of London. However, around 100,000 militant antifascists gathered to oppose them, ultimately preventing the fascists’ march.

The first CSB gig was held on October 8 1988 at the Electric Ballroom in London. Newtown Neurotics, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and punk poet Attila the Stockbroker electrified a 1,000-strong crowd.

Crucially, the audience also heard a powerful speech from Solly Kaye, an antifascist veteran of the actual Battle of Cable Street five decades earlier. Kaye warned the assembled concertgoers that fascist “songs” were “poison put into the minds of young people”.

Brendan, an AFA and CSB organiser and horn player with antifascist punk band the Blaggers, described to me how CSB was needed: “Firstly as a way to draw people who might be attracted to the far right into a more progressive type of politics … Secondly it was needed to bring people together from different cultures. Thirdly, just to stick two fingers up to the far right.”

The power of punk

CSB drew energy from the UK’s frenetic punk scene. Bands such as the Angelic Upstarts, Snuff and Yr Anhrefn all enthusiastically took up CSB’s cause. They shared the stage with antifascist activists who gave rousing speeches.

Punk poet Attila holds a microphone in one hand and beer in the other.
Punk poet Attila the Stockbroker in 2018. Madchickenwoman/Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA

Punk, and in particular the working-class focused, aggressive Oi! subgenre and related skinhead subculture, was an area that the far right had long tried to colonise.

Blood & Honour wanted to believe otherwise, but the skinhead movement (which originated in the 1960s) had roots in Jamaican culture and reggae. Indeed, few skinheads had any interest in white power.

“If far-right politics helped inform the identity of some within the … skinhead subculture,” says historian Matthew Worley, “then the vast majority resisted and rejected the substance of the fascist message.”

CSB gained considerable ground in this battle. High-profile bands like The Specials and The Selecter played benefit gigs. Multiple other bands – including The Oppressed, Knucklehead and Spy Vs Spy – put out AFA fundraising CDs.

Thomas “Mensi” Mensforth, the charismatic lead singer of the Angelic Upstarts’ (who sadly passed away in 2021), even narrated an AFA documentary produced for the BBC in 1993.

Unity Carnivals

CSB’s most high-profile strategy was its Unity Carnivals. The first, held in Hackney Downs Park in 1991, attracted 10,000 attendees. This made it the biggest public antifascist event in a decade. Bands including Gary Clail’s On U Sound System, The 25th of May and The Blaggers kept the vast crowds dancing all day under the banner of antifascism.

But the partying was punctuated with serious political rhetoric. Throughout the day activists gave speeches and handed out flyers. Brendan was part of the team that organised the carnival.

“It’s a cliché,” he told me, “but that carnival really did unite people. It brought a really diverse crowd together in Hackney and really got the political messages across.”

Two more carnivals followed: another in Hackney in 1992 and one in Newcastle in 1993, where The Shamen headlined with their chart-topping song Ebeneezer Goode.

Ebeneezer Goode by The Shamen.

Freedom of movement

CSB was wound down in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, music remained a central element of AFA’s activism.

By the early 1990s, electronic dance music had taken off in the UK. Antifascists immediately saw the potential and in Manchester local DJs and AFA set up the Freedom of Movement campaign in 1993 to mobilise these ravers. AFA’s magazine, Fighting Talk, declared Freedom of Movement’s aim was to “politicise the previously apathetic dance club scene, raising issues of racism and fascism”.

From 1993 to 1996, AFA put on a series of antifascist club nights in cities from Edinburgh to London. They also released an AFA benefit album, This is Fascism, featuring prominent DJs and producers including Carl Cox, Drum Club and Fun-Da-Mental.

The Blaggers had close links to AFA, playing multiple benefit gigs.

Fascism is on the march again. The far right in Italy, Argentina and the Netherlands have all recently experienced electoral victories. Many other countries – such as the US, Brazil and India – have experienced explosions in far-right activity.

Findings from my own research and others’ demonstrate that fascists are adept at using culture to achieve their goals. It enables them to transmit their hateful ideology, generate money and forge networks across countries.

But the successes of CSB and AFA provide us with valuable lessons. Music can send a powerful message and mobilise hundreds of thousands to resist racism. Its emotive nature can change listeners’ worldviews, and help create a shared culture that is antithetical to the far right’s divisive goals.

This is an area where antifascists can make real gains against their foes: uniting antifascism and music is a tried-and-tested method for winning over the hearts and minds of people against hatred.


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Alexander Carter, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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