A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)


hubert von herkomer - paintings

Hubert von Herkomer (26 May 1849 – 31 March 1914), British painter of German descent. He was also a pioneering film-director and a composer.

Herkomer was born at Waal in Bavaria. Lorenz Herkomer, his father and a wood-carver of great ability, left Bavaria in 1851 with his wife and child for the United States, settling in Cleveland, Ohio, for a while, but returned to Europe and settled in Southampton in 1857.

He lived for some time at Southampton and in the school of art there began his art training; he visited Bavaria with his father in 1865 and briefly studied at the Munich academy, but in 1866 he entered upon a more serious course of study at the South Kensington Schools, and in 1869 exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy.

In same year, he also began working as an artist for the newly-founded newspaper The Graphic. It was by his 1875 oil, The Last Muster, after a woodblock from 1871, that he definitely established his position as an artist of high distinction at the Academy . He was elected an associate of the Academy in 1879, and academician in 1890; an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1893, and a full member in 1894; and in 1885 he was appointed Slade professor at Oxford, a position which he held until 1894.

In 1896 he was knighted by Queen Victoria, and in 1899 awarded Pour le Mérite by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

He exhibited a very large number of memorable portraits, figure subjects and landscapes, in oil and watercolour; he achieved marked success as a worker in enamel, as an etcher, mezzotint engraver and illustrative draughtsman; and he exercised wide influence upon art education by means of the Herkomer School (Incorporated), at Bushey, which he founded in 1883 and directed without payment until 1904, when he retired. It was then voluntarily wound up, and is now defunct.

Despite being a prominent member of Royal Academy, Royal Water-Colour Society and the Royal Engravers, as well as being on familiar terms with the royal family, Herkomer was never totally accepted by the British establishment: He was ultimately a victim of the deteriorating relationship between Great Britain and Germany, where he shuttled in between, spending most of his summers in Bavaria.

Herkomer's massive house, Lululaund, named after Lulu Griffith, second of his three wives, served as his studio, school, theatre and movie studio, where he put on productions of his own plays and musical compositions.

Four of his pictures, Found (1885), Sir Henry Tate (1897), Portrait of Lady Tate (1899) and The Council of the Royal Academy (1908), are in the Tate Collection. In 1907, he received the honorary degree of DCL at Oxford, and a knighthood was conferred upon him by the king in addition to the commandership of the Royal Victorian Order with which he was already decorated.

Herkomer was also a pioneering film maker. He established a studio in Lululaund and directed some seven historical costume dramas, designed to be shown accompanied by his own music. None of them seems to be preserved.

Herkomer died at Budleigh Salterton on 31 March 1914 and was buried in St James's Church, Bushey.

The largest collection of his work is held by Bushey Museum, England, and some is in the Herkomer Museum, Landsberg am Lech, Germany.




Whitley Bay poet Keith Armstrong and graphic artist Peter Dixon of North Shields begin an arts residency at Tynemouth's Grand Hotel towards the end of June.

They will be documenting the hotel in words and images and the results of their residency wil be launched in a brochure and special display on Thursday 9th September as part of North Tyneside's Heritage Open Days programme.

Armstrong and Dixon recently collaborated on 'From Segedunum to the Spanish City', a book about North Tyneside's rich heritage, funded by North Tyneside Council and Awards for All, which also featured the Grand Hotel.

The two artists have just returned from a highly successful arts pilgrimage to Prague.

Further information: Northern Voices Tel. 0191 2529531.

prague floods 2002

On the 12th August 2002, Prague was hit by the worst floods it had experienced for more than 100 years.
In less than 48 hours, the Vltava swelled to 4 times its normal size, breaking the riverbanks and flooding massive regions of the Czech Republic capital. The city was placed in a state of emergency, and over 50,000 people were evacuated from the center. Huge areas of the city's powergrid were shut down, leaving even those not directly threatened without power for days. Historic sites such as the National Theater and Rudolfinum came close to devastation as the floods grew worse.


'Like many poets, his verbal sensitivity is in inverse proportion to real human sympathy, a sublimated selfishness evident in his
life as much as his work.' (Terry Eagleton on Lawrence Durrell)

'Burns was not wholly at his ease in Edinburgh, caught between his natural inclinations and the demands of polite society, between his democratic instincts and the need to flatter those who could make his way easier.' (Allan Massie)

'Lorca was a firm believer in the value of the anonymous village poet who 'extracts in three or four lines all the rare complexity of the highest sentimental moments in the life of man'.' (J.L.Gili)

'Most of Hogg's best poetry was written when his object was to please himself rather than Edinburgh. Thus his many excellent songs make no concessions to the taste of genteel society but are rather written in the spirit of the traditional folk songs he knew as a child in Ettrick Forset.' (Douglas S. Mack on James Hogg)


prague metronome

The Metronome is a giant, functional metronome located overlooking the Vltava River and the city centre of Prague. It was erected in 1991, and stands on the plinth left vacant by the destruction of an enormous monument to former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (the monument was destroyed in 1962). The 75-foot-tall (23 m) Metronome is now mostly a scenic vista and a meeting place for young people. It was designed by international artist Vratislav Novak. The area behind the metronome is also a famous skatespot where skateboarders from Europe and around the world congregate and film throughout the year.

josef sudek - photographs

'When I seek another word for mystery, the only word I can find is Prague.' (Angelo Maria Ripellino)

Josef Sudek (March 17, 1896, Kolín, Bohemia - September 15, 1976) was a Czech photographer, best known for his photographs of Prague.

Originally a bookbinder. During The First World War he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army and served on the Italian Front until he was wounded in the right arm in 1916. Although he had no experience with photography and was one-handed due to his amputation, he was given a camera. After the war, he studied photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke. His Army disability pension gave him leeway to make art, and he worked during the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. Always pushing at the boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the need to move forwards from 'painterly' photography. Sudek then founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of assistants.


To Be a Poet by Jaroslav Seifert

Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.

In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický's death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.

Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.

Flare up, flame of words,
and soar,
even if my fingers get burned!

A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one's finger.
But not even Puchmajer's Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.

In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman's smile and
wind-blown hair.

That has been my destiny.
And I've been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.

Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers

Seifert: 'My origians are proletarian and I thought of myself for a long time as a proletarian poet. But, as one grows older, one discovers different values and different worlds. For me, this meant that I discovered sensuality....All language can be thought of as an effort to achieve freedom, to feel the joy and sensuality of freedom. What we seek in language is the freedom to be able to express our most intimate thoughts. This is the basis of all freedom. In social life, it ultimately assumes the form of political freedom....When I write, I make an effort not to lie: that's all.'


the bootiful game!

Football: a dear friend to capitalism
The World Cup is another setback to any radical change. The opium of the people is now football

Terry Eagleton
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 June 2010 21.00 BST

If the Cameron government is bad news for those seeking radical change, the World Cup is even worse. It reminds us of what is still likely to hold back such change long after the coalition is dead. If every rightwing thinktank came up with a scheme to distract the populace from political injustice and compensate them for lives of hard labour, the solution in each case would be the same: football. No finer way of resolving the problems of capitalism has been dreamed up, bar socialism. And in the tussle between them, football is several light years ahead.

Modern societies deny men and women the experience of solidarity, which football provides to the point of collective delirium. Most car mechanics and shop assistants feel shut out by high culture; but once a week they bear witness to displays of sublime artistry by men for whom the word genius is sometimes no mere hype. Like a jazz band or drama company, football blends dazzling individual talent with selfless teamwork, thus solving a problem over which sociologists have long agonised. Co-operation and competition are cunningly balanced. Blind loyalty and internecine rivalry gratify some of our most powerful evolutionary instincts.

The game also mixes glamour with ordinariness in subtle proportion: players are hero-worshipped, but one reason you revere them is because they are alter egos, who could easily be you. Only God combines intimacy and otherness like this, and he has long been overtaken in the celebrity stakes by that other indivisible One, José Mourinho.

In a social order denuded of ceremony and symbolism, football steps in to enrich the aesthetic lives of people for whom Rimbaud is a cinematic strongman. The sport is a matter of spectacle but, unlike trooping the colour, one that also invites the intense participation of its onlookers. Men and women whose jobs make no intellectual demands can display astonishing erudition when recalling the game's history or dissecting individual skills. Learned disputes worthy of the ancient Greek forum fill the stands and pubs. Like Bertolt Brecht's theatre, the game turns ordinary people into experts.

This vivid sense of tradition contrasts with the historical amnesia of postmodern culture, for which everything that happened up to 10 minutes ago is to be junked as antique. There is even a judicious spot of gender-bending, as players combine the power of a wrestler with the grace of a ballet dancer. Football offers its followers beauty, drama, conflict, liturgy, carnival and the odd spot of tragedy, not to mention a chance to travel to Africa and back while permanently legless. Like some austere religious faith, the game determines what you wear, whom you associate with, what anthems you sing and what shrine of transcendent truth you worship at. Along with television, it is the supreme solution to that age-old dilemma of our political masters: what should we do with them when they're not working?

Over the centuries, popular carnival throughout Europe, while providing the common people with a safety valve for subversive feelings – defiling religious images and mocking their lords and masters – could be a genuinely anarchic affair, a foretaste of a classless society.

With football, by contrast, there can be outbreaks of angry populism, as supporters revolt against the corporate fat cats who muscle in on their clubs; but for the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished. And any political outfit that tried it on would have about as much chance of power as the chief executive of BP has in taking over from Oprah Winfrey.






Thomas Spence claimed that he was the first writer to use the phrase ‘the Rights of Man’. When, in 1782, he visited a former miner and farmer, who had retired to live in a cave at Marsden rocks to escape from a landlord, he ‘exulted in the idea of a human being who had emancipated himself from the iron fangs of autocracy to live free from impost’ and chalked over the hearth of the cave:

‘Ye landlords vile, whose man's place mar
Come levy rents here if you can,
Your steward and lawyers I defy
And live with all the Rights of Man.’

This anecdote is given in a note to another ballad ‘The Rights of Man for Me’ composed during confinement in Newgate in 1794:

THE RIGHTS OF MAN FOR ME (Tune - Maid of the Mill)

There are many fine schemes contrived by the great
To deceive silly souls do ye see?
And render them passive for pure conscience sake
And mould them to fell tyranny.
Yet for all their fine arts with their preists in their aid,
Their threats and their deep policy,
I’ll laugh tem to scorn while loudly I sing:
The Rights of Man boys for me.

This world for the poor they say never was made,
Their portion in the heavens be,
And more, that they envy them their happy lot
So certain’s their felicity.
But thank them for nought if the heavens they could let,
Few joys there the poor would e’er see.
For rents they must toil and for taxes to boot:
The Rights of Man then for me.

Then cheer up all you who have long been oppress’d,
Aspire unto sweet liberty.
No fetters were formed for a nation to bind
Who have the brave wish to be free.
To reason attend and blush at your chains
And throw off vile slavery
And let each man sing till loud echoes ring:
The Rights of Man boys for me.

As for me though in prison I oft have been cast
Because I would dare to be free
And though in black Newgate I did pen this song
My theme I’ve not altered you see.
In jail or abroad whatever betide
My struggles for freedom shall be
Whatever fate bring I wil think, speak and sing:
The Rights of Man boys for me.


‘In the summer of 1782 a man near 80 years of age and his wife made one of the caverns under Marsden rocks, near (South) Shields, their place of residence. In the earlier part of his life, he had been a miner at Allenheads, but having removed to (South) Shields, to avoid the charge of housekeeping, he and his wife formed the resolution to retire to one of these caves, which they furnished. The romantic situation and the singularity of the thing drew numbers of people to visit them, whom they accommodated with refreshments, even ladies and gentlemen in car-riages drove to the place and partook of the old couple's cheer.’
The refreshments were alleged to have been procured by smuggling.
Local tradition knew the old miner as 'Jack the Blaster' Bates. Alex Robson of North Shields, the veteran seamen's leader who figured in the S.S. Linaria case and was active in the Red International Seamen's Union of the nineteen-thirties, claims to be a descendant.
The grotto was taken over and greatly expanded in the early nineteenth century by a Whitburn publican, Peter Allan, also seeking, like Jack, a means of running a business without paying ground rent. Allan excavated a ‘ballroom’, a dining-room and a gaol in the rocks, extra space that was much needed as, besides his his family, the grotto accomodated two pigs, a beehive, a greyhoud, a one-legged raven called Ralph and a lovelorn sailor whose hermit-like existence and unkempt appearance led him to be known as ‘Peter Allan’s hairyman’. The Allan family were eventually forced to pay rent to the farmer who owned the land above the grotto. (Source: Edward Vallance, A Radical History of Britain, Little, Brown, 2009).


the keyboard kid


stalin statue in prague

In 1951, Otakar Švec was contracted to build a large statue of Stalin followed by a flank of proletarians in Prague, Czech Republic. Three weeks before May Day (the day which the statue was to be unveiled) Švec followed the lead of his wife and stuck his head into a stove, inhaled the gas, and killed himself. Otakar Švec won a contest held by the Communist Party (the only party) to create a piece of art with which he didn’t agree, and it would be that same Party which would also eventually side with his position. After revelations were made public about Stalin’s various crimes, the political climate had changed and Stalin was no longer regarded as a communist hero. In October 1962, the largest statue of Stalin on the planet was strapped with 800 kilograms of dynamite and blown up in a colossal display of government funded artistic destruction. The message being sent was loud and clear and bits of the statue scattered all over Letna Hill in Prague. The space remained empty until after the Velvet Revolution in 1991 when a large metronome was erected. The metronome represents the constant passage of time and, so far, no one has felt the urge to attack it. The area at which Stalin once stood looking over Prague is now inhabited by skateboarders who enjoy riding the smooth granite surface which was laid by the communists.

more of prague

jingle back in prague!

the jingling geordie

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whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur