Lately

Suddenly, summer. Long evenings, warm, humid days, that itch to escape the town and spend the nights fishing.
Dinners with friends.
Music with legends…
…and with some future legends.
Barbeques and bonfires.
Somewhere in Oxford: my spirit animal.
The Arts Festival got off to a dramatic start…
…but you can’t keep a good event down, so off we got, on Bonn Square. Neither the fire nor the occasional rain sullied our spirits, and we managed to have a great day, despite the clouds and even the occasional rain. Now two weeks’ onslaught of culture, and summer holiday.
We even had an audience.
The Arts Festival Oxford runs till 3rd July. You can find the Festival diary and buy tickets here.

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Lately

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After Carmelites, Tosca. I have never seen Tosca live, and for some reason it’s a work I have never been in love with, even though it was the one that really started my love for opera. The music is fantastic, but somehow I don’t ever end up moved by it the same way I’m moved by Traviata or Billy Budd. The present ROH production – and my Saturday night visit – is as close to the old school, golden age as is possible, all period sets and grease paint. It doesn’t quite take flight, but Sondra Radvanovsky was fantastic, and I finally got to meet the man in the first picture. That has to count for something.

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And after Tosca, the arts festival. Much happened, and not all of it happy or uncomplicated. But in the end, we were successful, all the work paid off, and plans for next year are going ahead.

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Last nights of Oxford magic.

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I arrived in Finland yesterday, my first early July visit in years. The nights are still white, and I don’t quite know what to make of them anymore. Sleep, at 11.30pm, when the sky is still blue and the sun not quite set yet? Oh dear. The weather could not be better, which is such a relief after the dark, disastrous winter visit. This is Finnish summer as I remember it – warm and dry, silent, the colours like in a 1970s photograph. There’s no drama, no extreme, just friendly, gentle calmness.

Summer night

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Summer Night, Riverside

In the wild soft summer darkness
How many and many a night we two together
Sat in the park and watched the Hudson
Wearing her lights like golden spangles
Glinting on black satin.
The rail along the curving pathway
Was low in a happy place to let us cross,
And down the hill a tree that dripped with bloom
Sheltered us,
While your kisses and the flowers,
Falling, falling,
Tangled in my hair…

The frail white stars moved slowly over the sky.

And now, far off
In the fragrant darkness
The tree is tremulous again with bloom
For June comes back.

To-night what girl
Dreamily before her mirror shakes from her hair
This year’s blossoms, clinging to its coils?

Sara Teasdale

Argentinian tango in the rose garden, for the MCS Arts Festival.

End of the road

For many months now, I have been planning the opening street party of the MCS Arts Festival, happening this week. This has been a long, occasionally difficult process bringing as much frustration as it has brought joy and moments of success. The last week – when all arrangements were already in place, everything booked and we ready to go – brought a sudden venue change when a Victorian sewer collapsed under the street around the corner from Broad Street, forcing us to change our plans and downshift considerably. But, after all was said and done, we had a great day.

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The day dawned grey, and the rain was falling hard by the time the first performers – a brass band – got on the stage. The gamely carried on, and soon enough, the party really was happening.

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The sun came out eventually. But not before the whole team and a samba band had got soaked.
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Crowd dancing to the big, cool sound of Electric Swing Circus, a Birmingham electro swing band taking a break from Glastonbury to perform on Bonn Square.
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The Oxford-based Duchess came on the stage just as the rain started pouring again.
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Some cartooning happened: local artist Neill Cameron created a hilarious commentary about the adventures of a giant robot in the event.
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The juggler needed a bit of help from the robot.
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Faces in the crowd.
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Long day drawing to an end.
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