DecArt/Alvaro Cortes

DecArt, a talented ten-piece ensemble of young London-based musicians, rounded off Trinity Laban’s wonderful 2015 season of free lunchtime concerts at St Alfege in Greenwich with a programme which had at its core a dynamic, uncompromising, challenging but rather short new work by 28-year-old Spanish composer Alvaro Cortes. It was hugely enjoyable – but I think the decision to sandwich it between two magnificent pieces by Mozart meant that it was somewhat overpowered. Still, I’m looking forward to catching DecArt the next time they venture south of the river.



Laura Jurd

Jazz trumpeter Laura Jurd was in sensational form when she played a gig at Oliver’s in Greenwich with her band Dinosaur (an ironic name given that the quartet are all in their early 20s) and her special guest, sax virtuoso Mark Lockheart. The highlights of a memorable night were an amazing take on the Christmas carol In The Bleak Midwinter, the beautiful wintry anthem Hardanger and (my favourite) Jurd’s composition Sebswing, which not only showed off her own extraordinary writing and playing skills but also spotlighted her ridiculously talented bandmates – drummer Corrie Dick, bassist Conor Chaplin and keyboardist  Elliot Galvin – as they brilliantly navigated the tune’s intricate score and helped to make the whole more than the sum of its very considerable parts. Jurd is undoubtedly one of the rising stars of contemporary music and this concert – to raise funds for refugees held in Calais – underlined why. If you’ve never seen her before, do something about it immediately.

Artist & Empire

There’s a serious problem with this exhibition at Tate Britain – and it’s not the politics. Yes, there is some hideous imperialist propaganda on show and, yes, some of the artefacts were almost certainly looted. But what finally does for this display of four centuries of colonialism is the paucity of artistic accomplishment. Six rooms containing at least 100 exhibits – including works by such luminaries as Van Dyck and Reynolds – manage only three masterpieces between them: an amazing William Blake vision of Nelson confounding Leviathan, a wondrous portrait of TE Lawrence by Augustus John and, best of all (and the last picture in the show) a 2009 mixed-media poster by the Singh Twins entitled enTWINed. It’s almost worth the entrance fee just to see those three.


Martin Carthy

Just before he played at a wassail night in south-east London, I asked Martin Carthy whether he is currently on tour. He looked at me with a surprised smile and said: “I’m always touring.” For a man in his 70s he has amazing energy – and his musicianship is as magnificent as ever. In a one-hour set at Charlton House he showed off his unique guitar-playing style – percussive and minimalist yet laidback and melodious – and sang a programme of songs dating back centuries, including The Devil And The Feathery Wife, the wonderfully bawdy Tailor’s Britches and The Downfall Of Paris. He finished off with a brilliant take on the theme from The Third Man. But there’s no doubt he’s Number One.

Film: Frank Auerbach

I went to the premiere at Tate Britain of the film Frank, a portrait of Britain’s greatest living artist (and famously publicity-shy) painter Frank Auerbach by his documentary-maker son Jake. It offered a unique insight into the artist’s working life and was followed by a question-and-answer session with Jake, who responded to several of the enquiries by saying he could not answer for his dad and insisting he knew no more than those who had just seen the film. Rather brilliantly, however, Auerbach Snr – who could have answered all the questions in mesmerising detail – was sitting inconspicuously in the auditorium listening to and watching everything that was going on. It was a rather wonderful example of the truth behind Edgar Allen Poe’s story, The Purloined Letter. Nothing is so invisible as when it’s in plain view…

Gen Li/Naufal Mukumi

Two Trinity Laban graduates played piano works of extraordinarily contrasting styles at St Alfege, Greenwich. Li gave us a programme of Bach, Scarlatti and Chopin before bringing tears to my eyes with his delicate, elegant rendition of Debussy’s lovely Images, Book 2. Mukumi then took over the stool and gave an exhibition of thunderous, almost violent, musicianship in an exhilarating half-hour than included Beethoven’s Appassionata and ended with Balakiriev’s Islamey. An astonishing concert.

Grayson Perry

I was returning from a fascinating weekend visit to a group of enthusiasts in Harwich who are building a replica of the Mayflower to sail it to America to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ 1620 voyage ( when I stumbled across Grayson Perry’s A House For Essex at Wrabness. I’d seen it before on TV but it’s even more astounding in the flesh with its extraordinary design and gorgeous setting on a hillside overlooking the Stour estuary. Sadly, unable to look round inside because it is rented out but what a piece of architectural art…