What’s Been On My Mind This Week

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1. Yesterday, the 29th March 2014, the first same-sex marriages took place in England and Wales, following the legalisation of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act last year. Few countries afford equal marriage rights and it’s wonderful to think that, if we want to, we will all have the right to get married one day and that our relationships are now seen as equal and valid in the eyes of the law. Equal marriage is something many never thought possible, and, though there is still much work to do in the fight for equality both in the UK and abroad, it is something we should celebrate and be proud of.

2. Back in November, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling introduced a ban on sending books to prisoners as part of a ‘tightening up’ of the system of rewards and punishment. This was picked up on in the media this week and a number of literary heavyweights have joined in protest against the new legislation. In a time when prisons are overcrowded and there are questions over their usefulness in terms of rehabilitation, it seems an incredibly shortsighted, not to mention antiquated, decision.

3. Freedom of expression has taken another blow in Turkey where the government has banned the use of Twitter and YouTube. Turkey already has a bad history of censorship and reprisals against writers, journalists and users of social media and it is therefore (sadly) hardly surprising that President Erdoğan – accused of corruption, manipulating the media and plotting war against Syria – has taken such extreme measures in the run-up to the municipal elections.

4. Tony Hall, the BBC Director General, gave a speech this week in which he outlined the new BBC vision for arts coverage. Billed as ‘the greatest commitment to arts for a generation’, in reality, it sounded like Hall was more concerned with making new appointments and adding yet more levels of bureaucracy to the organisation. While clearly brilliant and talented, the appointments of practitioners such as Nicholas Hytner and Nicholas Serota will do little to further diversity in the arts; there is little focus on new writing or on women; there is yet more Shakespeare, opera and ballet and no mention of theatres and companies that are pushing the boundaries and challenging themselves – and us – with innovative ideas that will encourage further engagement with the arts. Furthermore, it’s strange that, just days after this announcement came the news that the BBC is axing long-running culture programme The Review Show.

5. A damning report into the way the police investigate domestic violence was published this week: apparently only 8 out of 43 forces respond well to such cases, many officers show a distinct lack of empathy and don’t take victims’ stories seriously. There is a worrying increase in incidents of domestic violence in this country (11% since 2010-2011), and yet a corresponding decrease in convictions.

6. I went to Ember Yard on Friday for a work lunch (hence no photos or review), and the food was delicious. It’s a new tapas restaurant from the Salt Yard group and the menu included lots of vegetarian choices, which obviously made me happy. The parsnip-buttermilk chips covered with manchego cheese were particularly good.

7. This week I read Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites which has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman in Iceland to be executed (in 1829), it’s both a gripping mystery – even though we know the outcome – and a beautiful evocation of a hostile place and time.

8. I’ve been listening to Singles, the new album from Future Islands, just released this week. Having not listened to their music before, I can’t judge whether it’s better or worse than their previous output, but, given my love of synthpop, I’m enjoying this new discovery. The singer, Samuel Herring, also looks like an interesting character; watch this video of them performing live on the David Letterman Show recently and you’ll see what I mean . . .

 

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