Section: Arts/Humanities

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Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 17 – better together

Simon Chater

Life’s not a zero-sum game, say the souls on the Terrace of Envy, so don’t live it that way. Dante doesn’t ‘get it’ at first, but Virgil explains. We have just met Guido del Duca, scion of one of the leading families of Romagna, the region next-door to Tuscany, where Dante comes from. Like all […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 16 – enlightening grace

Simon Chater

The Divine Comedy is primarily a vision. It is the story of how one man, through grace, becomes pure in heart and hence able to see God. During his first night on the mountain, Dante’s damaged inner sight is cleansed and healed in preparation for the work of penitence that awaits him in purgatory proper. […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 14 – a dewy facial

Simon Chater

The first canto of Purgatorio celebrates our release from the pain and grief of hell. Virgil washes Dante’s face in the morning dew. Dante begins by announcing the change of mood: Boats and ships feature strongly in the Comedy, as symbols of the soul’s journey towards the divine. Here Dante is at the helm, his […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 13 – the hidden passage

Simon Chater

We are out of hell, but still close to the centre of the earth and it is still dark. Through the blackness, Dante can hear the trickling of a stream: The hidden passage that connects Inferno and Purgatorio is one of Dante’s masterstrokes, entirely his own invention. It conveys the idea that there is, after […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 9 – What, are YOU here?

Simon Chater

On burning sands, under a soft rain of flames, Dante meets his former mentor, Brunetto Latini. His “sin” is homosexuality, according to the dictates of formal religion. But what does Dante think? We are in the circle of the violent against God, nature and art. The naked souls here, whose baked features are caked with […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 8 – the wood of the suicides

Simon Chater

Suicide is the ultimate form of self-harm. In Inferno 13, Dante invents a new language of pain and despair to evoke the tortured minds of those who choose this ending. At the start of the canto we return to the landscape of the poem’s prologue, finding ourselves, again, in a pathless wood – not coincidentally, […]

Immersive theatre at its most intense: To Refuge

Rachel Marshall

I just spent 45 minutes sitting in a bunker in central Exeter listening to sirens and bombs. This was Four Of Swords Theatre’s performance To Refuge, based around a work by Ukrainian playwright Elena Hapieieva: In the Bowels of the Earth. It was immersive theatre at its most intense. The performance takes place under The […]

The joys of printing and XR

Leslie Tate
Tree of life

I interviewed Stroud-based printmaker and artist Nat Morley about her unique processes, her protest art and her time spent with Barrel Well Aboriginal Community, Australia. Nat was a prize-winning geographer at Oxford University, sings with Tewkesbury Abbey choir, and her artwork is on permanent display at the Cotswold Craftsmen Gallery in Nailsworth. Leslie: What are the main artistic medium/areas you work in? […]

The man behind Operation Mincemeat

Mick Fletcher

The film ‘Operation Mincemeat’ released over the Easter weekend, tells the exciting story of a key event in the second World War. The Germans were tricked into thinking that an attack on Europe from North Africa would start in Greece rather than the more obvious route through Sicily. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper called it “The most […]

Don’t miss the Tinners Moon Festival, Ashburton, Devon!

Anthea Simmons

We wrote about the wonderful Ashburton Arts Centre back in October 2020 and director Andy Williamson explained why the venue was so loved by performers. The Tinners Moon Festival, which had had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, is in full swing right now and you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to […]

Proof of incompetence: the Channel 4 debacle

Mark Davyd

Regular readers of my Facebook posts will know that it is my position that this current government is dangerous because of its incompetence. I recognise that many of you find them to be cruel, or their policies deliberately designed towards the vicious and unnecessary, but my own experience is that they haven’t got a clue […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 7 – seduction by literature

Simon Chater
Rodin's 'The Kiss'

Among the carnal sinners in the second circle of hell, we meet Paolo and Francesca. Of all the stories in the Inferno, theirs is perhaps the one that most invites our empathy: the seventh of Simon Chater’s dips into Dante. Dante’s scene-setting is a powerful example of contrapasso ­– the idea that the punishment should […]

Au revoir to au pairs from Europe?

Tamsin Beadman
white black and brown hands on EU flag

“Carrero Blanco was blown up two streets away,” Isabel, my señora, mentioned casually on a chilly Madrid afternoon in December 1983 as we sat in her luxurious flat on Calle Hermosilla. “Have you heard of him? Ten years ago today, ETA blew up his car in Claudio Coello and it flew right over a church. […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 5 – the gate of hell

Simon Chater
gateway to Hell

Led by Virgil, Dante sets out on his journey. At the entrance to hell he sees these words inscribed over a dark gateway: The famous line here is the last, wryly quoted today in many a workplace and home. The absence of hope is the defining feature of hell, as anyone stuck in a dead-end […]

Elite sixth forms: a class idea?

Mick Fletcher
sixth formers in parliament

In a desperate attempt to divert attention from the mess in Downing Street, the government recently announced a flurry of ill-considered ’new’ policies. One was a proposal to develop a cadre of “elite sixth forms” which would “ensure talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to the highest standard of education this country offers.” I […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 4

Simon Chater
Dante's Inferno colour plate from early edition

Enter Virgil, voice of reason Continuing his series of dips into Dante, Simon Chater begins the descent into hell and finds some interesting parallels between Dante’s Florence and the world in 2022. Reason, sweet reason! How we – or some of us, at least – long for you in the age of Brexit, Trumpism and […]

Egyptian artefacts and enchanted arbours at Kingston Lacy

Valery Collins
Illuminated trees at Kingston Lacy

During the medieval period, the grand estate known as Kingston Lacy was part of a royal estate within the manor of Wimborne in Dorset. The manor house stood to the north of the present palazzo, close to a deer park. Supporters of the Crown were allowed to let the estate. After it was sold at […]

A scientist’s homage to the creative artist

Colin White

Once again, it would appear the government is revisiting its plans, first mooted towards the start of this year, to limit the number of students studying what they deem to be inappropriate courses. Courses which they consider unlikely to create instant taxable wealth for the exchequer, and/or to lead to solid, reliable starting salaries which […]

Closing doors: Brexit and TEFL teaching in Spain

Helen Johnston

West Country Voices has recently highlighted how Brexit is affecting the language teaching sector in the UK, with dire impacts on school trips abroad and on the TEFL sector in the UK. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has also, for many years, provided many British people with an opportunity to move abroad, selling […]

English language teaching: a troubled future?

Conor Niall O'Luby

The pandemic The ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ (TEFL) sector has for decades played a vibrant cultural and economic role across the UK, not just in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) area. The spring and, especially, the summer seasons, used to see large numbers of foreign students arrive to study English, make new […]