Monday 27 February 2012

Culture Clash Blog 27/2/2012

Hi all, welcome to my belated first blog of 2012,my cultural musings this week are...
We Need to Talk About Kevin

I'd been meaning to start reading this book since the beginning of last year after I caught one chilling episode of it being serialised on Radio 4 but unfortunately in the middle so I had no idea why I was so unnerved. I finally got round to beginning it around Christmas and although a usually speedy reader its taken me almost two months to finish it. The main reason being that this book is so harrowing you do have to step away from it for more than a few hours after reading a couple of chapters. It’s not just the story of a boy who performs a terrible atrocity but it is the chronicle of a tortured woman who rehashes events to try and work out who is to blame.In examining the events leading up to Kevin's actions interspersed with almost stream of consciousness style recounting of her life in the present we see how her life has been irrevocably changed not just by what Kevin does but by his birth itself. The novel also appears to be a staunch critique on the postmodern society that we live in.The notion that only performing an act so atrocious can get you noticed in a world where everyone is obsessed with television and making it big but also one where no-one appears to be happy with the hand that they are dealt.
Lionel Shriver has created a book that can't help but make the reader examine the way that they think about their own lives and the factors that influence their decisions. There is ableakness in the twist at the end that plays on your mind way after putting the book down.
I was excited to find out whilst reading the novel that a film adaptation was being created by Lynne Ramsey. I have to say that having watched this adaptation it is a crime that it has not received more recognition at the Academy Awards and at the BAFTAS. Tilda Swinton and Ezra Millar  turn out chillingly convincing performances and despite having a difficult novel to adapt considering it is  written in letter form Ramsey has utilised the key elements to make an artistic and atmospheric film where large parts of the storytelling are left up to the cinematography and movements of the actors rather than relying on dialogue pulled straight from the novel. The novel and the film are very different experiences in terms of how the story is told but both are definitely worth look perhaps more for those who like a gritty read and aren't afraid of having their perspective on life challenged.

Man or a Muppet
I think it’s great that Brett McKenzie’s song writing talents have been recognised with an Oscar this week for Best Original Song from the new Muppet movie. It shows that good song craftsmanship can come in many forms, and one of these is definitely comedy! Hopefully Flight of the Concords will gain a few more new fans through this, and perhaps decent niche comedy will come back into the fore rather than all the canned laughter fuelled shows that have started to reappear.

Incidentally the new Muppet movie is also well worth a look! With some amazing cameos from Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Grohl (dressed as one of the best Muppets in the world ever!) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory), and the general Muppet mayhem it’s amazing for both children and adults.The best thing about it if you’re a massive Muppet geek, is references to previous films and series that have gone before – the jokes about road movies that refer back to the first movie for example, and of course the reprisal of Kermit singing the Rainbow Connection with Piggy! i’m a closet Muppet...or am I am
In other news:

Images of Benedict Cumberbatch in the new Star Trek film have been leaked, and he looks like he’s taking a serious beating...Vulcan death grip anyone...

Monday 21 March 2011

Culture Clash Blog - 21/3/11

Hello fellow culture fans!

Apologies for the lack of blogness from me of late. Work has got in the way of my cultural indulgences, but I'm back with a variety packed issue for you this week! I got to two amazing gigs in the last week or so, and have begun reading a new novel by Neil Gaiman, as well as taking in a film during our beloved Orange Wednesday last week. My first recommendation is as follows:


If you're not sure whether you like folk or not, this is an artist that will surely make you decide either way! Seth Lakeman is an artist who is a master of the fiddle and the folktale, combining both to create crowd rousing melodies and captivating lyrics.

This was the third time I'd seen the wondrous talent of Mr Lakeman in action, and this paired down performance did not disappoint. Instead of his usual 5 piece band including his brother on guitar, Seth appeared on stage with only a percussionist and another guitarist. However this simplified line-up only served to highlight both the skills of the musicians present on the stage, and the power of the melodies created.

This set combined both favourite older tracks such as Scrumpy's Set and Kitty Jay, as well as newer one's from his current album 'Hearts and Minds'. He even previewed some new tracks from a forthcoming concept album that is set to be inspired by people in history who have laboured with their hands.

I love the infectious nature of Seth Lakeman's style of folk. It is not geared to a certain generation, but appeals widely, and embraces both modern and traditional styles.

Check out some of his music via we9 at:


This was a really fun evening of varied music put on by Eagle Radio in aid of the Eagle Radio Trust.
It featured 4 bands, all of which really showed how high the calibre of the unsigned scene has become. The highlights of the show had to be Hotshot Sound Cafe and Our Lost Infantry.


Hotshot Sound Cafe have come a long way in the last few years, and now play with much more confidence and purpose. The only thing that jars slightly is the sheer range of styles. From a Muse cover, to an almost Coralesque track of their own 'Carnival' (which is pretty damn awesome!), they appear to have yet to find their niche. Their sound is however exciting, and they have a stage presence that really made the crowd get into the spirit of the evening.


Our Lost Infantry have something very unique going on with their style. They appear to sit somewhere between metal, indie and electro, and have a catchy beat and hook to their tracks which leave you singing the chorus lines way after the gig has finished. The highlight of their set would have to be the high note fuelled 'Starting Fires' which had the whole crowd singing along by the end of the track. I do love a track everyone can learn in the first 2 minutes of the song!

Check out Hotshot Sound Cafe at: and Our Lost Infantry at

My book of the week this week is another one slightly from the dark side...I will vary it up a bit soon I promise!! Neil Gaiman's American God's chronicles that story of Shadow, an ex convict who is trying to get his life back on track despite very adverse circumstances. Since he has come out of prison, the fates appear to have been getting in his way, as well as the supernatural. The book is laden with beautiful descriptions as well as a captivating plot, which moves from the past to the present in an elegant and fluid motion. The variety of style in the book is also appealing, as Gaiman utilises diary and letter formats, as well as traditional third-person narrative. The element of this novel that is most captivating me is the depth of the characters Gaiman creates. You may only meet some characters for a brief few pages, but they are painted so richly and graphically they stay with you long after you have left them in the previous chapter. If you are a fan of daring story lines and eloquent writing, American God's is one for you.                                       

My film of the week has to be The Adjustment Bureau. I know this might appear on the surface to be another conspiracy theory film, but this actually put a really interesting spin on it. It is based on a novel by the Sci-Fi author Philip. K Dick, who also wrote Blade Runner ( or more accurately 'Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?) What if you weren't in control of your future, but another set of people made those decisions for you to put you on the 'correct path'. Matt Damon's character comes into contact with these people when he tries to stray off what is deemed to be his correct path, when he meets the woman of his dreams. Surely he's meant to be with her if it feels like it's right...isn't he?
The excellent performances from both Emily Blunt and Matt Damon carry what could otherwise be a bit of an unbelievable plot along. You sympathise with the plight of two people having to deal with the notion that being together could destroy their futures, despite the feeling that together is how they should be. This real life issue against a science fiction setting works rather well, as the fantastical premise allows the viewer to explore the emotional issue of what is it to be in a relationship against a subplot that slightly over exaggerates the possible consequences. This over emphasis actually highlights what an important issue sticking to ones resolve against all odds is to the human condition - I came out of the cinema feeling quite moved by the notion that sometimes being together is all that counts...maybe that's just my over sentimental side winning out. Despite this and the occasionally perplexing plot - note the multiple doors to cross Washington DC in a matter of moments...yeah that could happen... I really did enjoy the performances and felt that what t the film was really trying to get at; the importance of freedom of choice and choosing what feels right in your gut regardless of what life throws at you; was a very valid and relevant one in today's climate.                                                                                                                       

That concludes my Culture Clash Blog for this week. Next week i'll be covering some ballet, the new album from Does It Offend You Yeah? and also a new book of the week. As always feedback is appreciated!! Thanks for taking the time out to read my blog and I hope it has been of some interest.

All the best


Tuesday 1 March 2011

Culture Clash Blog - 1/3/11

Hey Guys,

Happy first of March to one and all, and with a new month must come new reviews of the cultural variety!

This week's blog has a slightly theatrical theme, mainly because I was lucky enough to get to see two amazing plays in one week! It's worth mentioning at this stage the amazing 'Under 26's Pass' scheme which is run by the National Theatre, that allowed me to see Danny Boyle's Frankenstein for only £5! This scheme is completely free to join, and allows under 26's to attend performances in participating theatres for only £5 every time, and you can get a friend (who must also be 26 or under) in for £7. Check the scheme out at


This play was an adaptation of a series of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected, brought to the stage by none other than the brilliant part creator of the League of Gentleman, Jeremy Dyson. These stories did not at all suffer by being transferred from the page to the stage. With minimalistic yet effective settings and a minimal cast, the stripped down and simplistic way of presenting these tales only served to heighten the impact of the stories. Short and snappy dialogue coupled with strong characterization from all the players served to suck the audience in to the mystery of the stories completely. I loved all the twists and turns, and the naughty black humour of all the best Roald Dahl stories was present in spades. I came out feeling as if I'd been treated to 80 minutes of completely cheeky indulgence, despite these tales being from Dahl's adult books, they definitely indulge the child inside!!


I felt so very lucky to get tickets for this amazing performance. Sadly both Benedict Cumberbach and Naomi Harris were missing from the performance I attended, due to being 'indisposed'. However this did not mar the performance, as all the understudies turned out an outstanding performance. The star of the show however had to be Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature. The sheer energy of his performance was breathtaking, and he managed to carry the monster from a childlike new being to an experienced and dangerous creation in a sensitive and powerful way.

The adaptation did not twist the themes or narrative too much to fit the stage, which was great as you felt the gravity of the messages of the text just as much as you would reading it.

The music provided by Underworld heightened the performance without it being massively noticeable above the action. It served to emphasise and accent the actions of the performers rather than compete with them for dominance. Coupled with the amazing use of the stage and scenery, this helped to completely immerse the audience in the story. I felt that I was as much a part of the monster's journey as Frankenstein himself as the sensations created by the illusion on stage were fully engrossing and spellbinding.

The cast came back on stage to an almost full standing ovation - one that was very much deserved. I would recommend this performance to anyone, whether you are a fan of the novel or not, it is a fantastic piece of theatre, which carries a message about human life that is more relevant today than ever.

The play is going to be broadcast at cinemas nationwide on the 17th and 24th of March. See below for details:


As I have been speaking about Roald Dahl's adult books frequently in this blog, I felt it only appropriate to recommend a collection of his stories. ' The Great Automatic Grammatizator and other stories', is a great jumping off point for newcomers to Roald Dahl's stories, and it is also good for people who are a fan of his children's books; and want an easy transition into his adult stories. From sly and cunning waiters playing cruel tricks on their employers, to fur coats that cause more trouble than the usual to their new owners, these short stories showcase a fun; and yet clever and intelligent collection of Dahl's work. They are great to read in succession, or to just be dipped into at your leisure, as the stories do not link on in any particular way. This is definately another book I would recommend for the commute to work as well!


This week I want to flag an interesting adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. This disturbing story tells of a world where women are used primarily for reproduction. A 1984 style society where fear and an excess of control has led to knowledge being restricted to the few and pleasures curtailed. This is not a book that I enjoyed reading, but as a radio adaptation it is far more easy to digest. I think in the current climate in the CCTV society we live in, it is a scary premonition of how bad things could be. Lets just hope Atwood and Orwell's premonitions never come to pass!! Have a listen via the link below:

Next week I'll have more music recommendations, as well as a new film recommendation section for you all to check out. I hope this has been of interest, please let me know if you have any feedback or comments


Natalie 'Cherry' Hill

Monday 21 February 2011

The Culture Corner: My first Culture Clash Blog! 21/2/11

The Culture Corner: My first Culture Clash Blog! 21/2/11: "Hi, I'm hoping this blog will become a one stop shop for people who want to discover something new, be it a band they've never tried before,..."

My first Culture Clash Blog! 21/2/11


I'm hoping this blog will become a one stop shop for people who want to discover something new, be it a band they've never tried before, a radio show they've not listened to, a writer they've never explored or even a new play that's being performed!! I'm going to break down my blog into small sections that I will update with new features once a week. Please let me know if there us anything I could cover to make this blog more useful, or any changes that make it more accessible. I am very open to constructive criticism!!!! So here we go...


In the last few weeks I managed to get to two gigs which I think are well worth documenting, first up:


This band are a delight to watch, combining catchy rap phrasings with 70's infused funk and soul vibes. There's even an occasional country folk twist in there too, with both an mouth organ and a Banjo making an appearance on stage during the evening! I've never been to a gig where the band imparted such enthusiasm and energy to the audience. From the offset, lead singer 'Ninja' was jumping around the stage with boundless abandon, and soon the whole crowd were following suit. It was like being at a giant house-party! Highlights of the concert had to be a floor rocking version of 'Ladyflash' (From their debut album Thunder, Lightening, Strike) and a promising introduction to their new album; their new single 'Buy Nothing Day' (from Rolling Blackouts). Try and catch them on the rest of their UK dates, and have a listen to their back catalogue at:


This is the second time I have seen Hold Your Horse Is live, and they never disappoint. This band have had a good year so far, having received air play from both Zane Lowe and Tom Robinson. With their raw vocals and catchy bridge riffs, it's not hard to understand why. They ripped up the venue with 'When You Show Up' a very very catchy track with relentless hammering guitars and a highly screamable chorus this is not for the faint hearted! The band should be commended for the sheer amount of energy they exert on stage, and you can check out their debut mini album 'Rammin' It Home' via their My Space:

All their current tour dates are also on their should you wish to track them down. They are currently touring with MOJO FURY, another band who are well worth checking out - they have something of the Placebo about them which is quite appealing.


'THE MAN IN BLACK' Series 3 - Radio 7 Saturday's 6.30pm and Midnight.

Mark Gatiss reprises his role in the Man in Black, showcasing tales of the creepy and macabre for our listening pleasure. This is the third series that has been broadcast of this selection of tales, which are far more creepy and haunting than anything from 'Tales from the Crypt' or any other such programme in the genre. This weeks offering 'The Printed Name' left me completely spooked - I will never think of a printing press as an innocent tool of spreading knowlege for good again!

Check it out via - Unfortunately programmes are only available for 7 days on I Player so you'll have to get there quick!


My first book of the week features is not one to everyone's taste, but I had to feature it having been in a romantic reading mood post valentine's day! Not wanting to pick up a trashy romance novel, I decided to visit a classic for my mushy reading session, and discovered 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen. Far from a soppy and silly romance, this tells of love lost, and a yearning for it to be regained. Ann, having been advised to refuse the proposal of the love of her life 'Captain Wentworth' by seemingly well meaning friends and relatives, now has to endure watching him continue life without her. Via this she discovers much about her personality and what it means to be truly firm to your values, in life as well as in love. 

This may sound mushy to many, but the book is written with such humour and satire, that I think even a none romance fan would be able to read Persuasion with interest and ease. At 267 pages long it is a good commuting read, i'm almost half way through and i've only been reading it for 3 days! There's also a brilliant television adaptation available on DVD featuring Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) as Captain Wentworth and Sally Hawkins (Happy go Lucky) as Ann.
However if this isn't for you, wait for next weeks blog where i'll be dealving into the dark world of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected......

Thanks for reading my blog this week! Next week i'll be having a bit of a theatre themed blog, featured 'Roald Dahl's Twisted Tales' at the Lyric in Hammersmith, and also Danny Boyle's 'Frankenstein' at the National Theatre. I'll also be featuring my book and radio programme of the week. Please let me know if there's any books, DVDs or CD's you think I should check out, and let me know if this blog has been at all interesting to you!!!!

All the best and have an interesting week!

Natalie 'Cherry' Hill