Welcome to my blog for 2017. The focus will as before be on culture and other leisure pursuits with a tourism twist. I’ll start with a late January round up.
The top seats of culture have been up for grabs and the outcomes are more than interesting. As Sir Nicholas Serota left the top job at the Tate for chairmanship of the Arts Council, numerous contenders threw their hats in the ring for his former post. We now know that Maria Balshaw will take up the appointment in June, leaving an interesting vacancy at the superb Whitworth Gallery. I wrote about it just 18 months ago when it won the Art Fund Museum Prize. Will she become a regular commuter or a permanent Londoner? Her husband, Nick Merriman in charge of the University Museum in Manchester may not be so keen to move.
And then politician turned museum director
A big surprise at the V&A where outsider Tristram Hunt MP won the Director prize – something of a change for this academic politician as he takes on approximately 800 staff, 2.3million objects, 4 million annual visitors, and a grant in aid of £37m, which now represents less than half of the total annual budget. Well, he’ll have a lot of help……. http://www.vam.ac.uk
Look out for the Hockney effect
Tate Britain is my local museum just 15 minutes’ walk from home. (Yes, I know how lucky I am.) There was a time when on a Sunday morning a stream of people would head for the Tate from Pimlico tube station. Then it went rather quiet. Alex Farquharson from Nottingham Contemporary took over as director in 2015 but it must be like turning round an oil-tanker in mid-Atlantic, considering the timescale for implementing exhibitions. And it is only now that good times are back with a David Hockney celebratory exhibition starting on 9 February. I shall be joining the returning throngs……. http://www.tate.org.uk
Heath Robinson in Pinner
At the other end of the scale and of London, a new museum opened last autumn, celebrating the work of William Heath Robinson. This was something of a dream come true for the Trust which was first established in 1992. It’s not hard to find it from Pinner station; it’s just a short walk through a small park to the spanking new museum building. On show are some of the famous Heath Robinson models but mainly drawings and cartoons from the collection which represents over 40 years of his work as a cartoonist and illustrator. Well worth a visit – good shop and a café nearby. Check opening hours at www.heathrobinson.org
Catch Emma while you can
There’s still time to see the Emma Hamilton exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich which closes on 17 April. The subtitle is “seduction and celebrity” and this imaginative exhibition includes numerous portraits of her by George Romney and others which charmed the cognoscenti of London in 1780s and 90s. And she became well-known as a pretty face to a much larger audience through the prints which were widely available.
Her story is well-known to me as I researched it in detail while writing the book “Finding Veronese: Memoir of a Painting”. The enthralling “Three Graces” portrait of Emma which I saw at the Duke of Hamilton’s home at Lennoxlove in Scotland has also been lent to the exhibition. She was married to Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador in Naples and a cousin to the Dukes of Hamilton. You cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Nelson had lived for just another ten years. Their unusual liaison seems to have been accepted by society during the short time they lived together at Merton Hall, thanks to Nelson’s heroic status. But that was not enough when he died in 1805. She was excluded from the funeral and future income. As a result she fell into debt (and drinking) and died in poverty in Calais, with their daughter Horatia at her side. A sad story told in an excellent exhibition. www.rmc.co.uk
And then my new book……My new book, “The Go Around”, is now on Amazon as an E-book. Set in London it’s a fictional account of what could happen one day when the elaborate systems we create to avoid air accidents break down. This is a tragic drama of course but the focus is on those on the ground – how do Londoners cope as parts of the suburbs are engulfed by the catastrophe. Go to www.amazon.co.uk to download, or discover more on www.ylvafrench.co.uk
This is a story for the 21st century where millions of people enjoy the ease and pleasure of air travel but also live in cities and towns below busy flight paths.
Every day some 1,300 aircraft land and take off from Heathrow Airport – one of the busiest airports in the world. And some of those aircraft I can see from my balcony as they descend on the flightpath over central London, heading west. It is a miracle that it hardly ever goes wrong.
Several years ago I had the idea to write a fictional story about an accident on the flightpath and what it would mean in the air and on the ground. I finished the story and put it away. A visit to the Heathrow Control Tower with the Tourism Society in the spring of this year brought it all back and I decided to rework the story and publish it as an eBook.
This is a story about the convenience, excitement and the orderliness of air travel and how it works so well, nearly all the time. When it does go wrong, the impact can be catastrophic. Quite a sombre subject, you will agree, as inevitably it involves many people dying and others suffering injury and loss. But there are miracles too, in my new book, “The Go Around”, now available as an eBook on Amazon.
It’s a sunny summer’s day in August in London and conditions at Heathrow are perfect with aircraft on the flightpath approaching the airport in a steady stream. The unthinkable happens – two aircraft collide over London’s western suburbs. The peace and enjoyment of a summer Saturday is shattered, as London’s emergency services respond to the disastrous consequences over a wide area.
“The Go Around” focuses on individuals and how they cope, as well as on the unlikely report that there are two survivors from one of the planes. Is that possible? The world’s media gather in a town hall in South West London to find out what went wrong – somebody must surely be at fault – or is it just the systems?
All the characters and events in this book are purely imaginary.
Ylva French is a writer and communications consultant with experience in culture, tourism, the arts and museums.