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Liberation Music

Richard Gott: In Memory of Cornelius Cardew, 12 March 2009

Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished 
by John Tilbury.
Copula, 1069 pp., £45, October 2008, 978 0 9525492 3 9
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... to fill in the details of his life, written with affection, humour and perspicacity by the pianist John Tilbury. Tilbury was Cardew’s friend and colleague, and a one-time (and part-time) fellow-traveller on the Maoist road; he has spent a quarter of a century writing this book. Aficionados will love his ...


Iain Sinclair: Thatcher in Gravesend, 9 May 2013

... began as our ferry, the Duchess M, butted out, cross-current, from the revived container stacks of Tilbury Riverside (Maritime). She was carrying an elderly couple and one distracted, finger-scrolling young man. Back in August 2007 the Lower Thames and Medway Passenger Boat Company Ltd, owners and operators of the Duchess M, were fined £18,000 (with £9000 ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London, 18 November 2004

London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... by the sight of potato-sellers whipping their asses in the street; he visits the theatre to see John Henderson play Falstaff; he takes his family down the Thames to Vauxhall Gardens. He also studies the newspapers, intrigued most of all by the doings of high society. His outraged account of the Gordon Riots of 1780 (‘the worse than Negro barbarity of the ...

See the Sights!

Gillian Darley: Rediscovering Essex, 1 November 2007

The Buildings of England: Essex 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 939 pp., £29.95, May 2007, 978 0 300 11614 4
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... or less for City workers, not to mention Essex men and girls. After monarchs, ranging from King John, whose hunting lodge was at Writtle, to Henry VIII, who built New Hall at Boreham (still standing), came Elizabethan lord chancellors (one is buried at Saffron Walden, another at Felsted) and Georgian lord mayors and City luminaries (too many to list). Their ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre, 20 December 2018

Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... an exercise in historical accuracy, it was pretty impressive, even if this wasn’t Manchester but Tilbury Fort, on the Thames Estuary. The Victorians filled the area behind what is now St Peter’s Square with grand buildings such as the Free Trade Hall (now a hotel) and Manchester Central railway station (now a conference centre). Leigh’s set designers ...

Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I, 10 July 2003

England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... posthumous progress through the collective psyche of her country’. Historians, beginning with John Foxe and William Camden in her own time, and extending across the centuries to Patrick Collinson and David Starkey in our own, have examined Elizabeth’s reign from a variety of angles, analysing its various subtle strategies and compromises, attempting to ...

Something about Mary

Diarmaid MacCulloch: The First Queen of England, 18 October 2007

Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen of England 
by David Loades.
National Archives, 240 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 1 903365 98 8
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... Boleyn and her daughter. The uncharitable (a category that includes most English historians since John Foxe) would probably add Elizabeth’s half-sister to make up a formative trio. Bloody Mary inadvertently brought back heroism to English Protestantism after some unfortunate hiccups during and after the reign of Edward VI. Mary spent her early years as the ...

Utopian about the Present

Christopher Turner: The Brutalist Ethic, 4 July 2019

Alison and Peter Smithson 
by Mark Crinson.
Historic England, 150 pp., £30, June 2018, 978 1 84802 352 9
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Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing 
by John Boughton.
Verso, 330 pp., £9.99, April 2019, 978 1 78478 740 0
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... of Robin Hood Gardens, East London’s dock operations were moved downriver to the Port of Tilbury. Poplar, already a depressed area, became a post-industrial wasteland with high unemployment. On the nearby estate, which had been built as a ‘live architecture exhibition’ for the Festival of Britain in 1951 (the Smithsons dismissed the folksy ...


Iain Sinclair: At Bluewater, 3 January 2002

... jet-lagged, combing the ranks, struggling with heavy bags: which terminal was it, which floor? Tilbury, the old port for London, with its many platforms and shuttle of trains, has died; it’s an echoing ghost. Bluewater (no access by river) has 60 buses per hour, 130 trains per day, five taxi ranks and colour-coded carparks without number. The design is ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... they were ‘rendered ideological by the critical discourse of the period’, that’s to say, by John Berger’s insistence that they were ‘engaged’ whether they liked it or not. Their drab everyday subjects and their exaggerated reprise of the Camden Town Group’s brand of murky domestic realism lent plausibility to Berger’s ...

In the bright autumn of my senescence

Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 1994

In the Heat of the Struggle: Twenty-Five Years of ‘Socialist Worker’ 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 288 pp., £12.50, November 1993, 0 906224 94 2
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Why You Should Join the Socialists 
by Paul Foot.
Bookmarks, 70 pp., £1.90, November 1993, 0 906224 80 2
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... two, talking about giving peace a chance. A self-satisfied Labour councillor wearing a CND badge. John Berger, the star guest, putting his usual spin on the dishonest line of the Communist Party. No doubt there was a resolution to send a telegram to Downing Street. There was also, I dare say for the sake of ‘unity’, a pro-Chinese speaker (for some reason ...

Aldermanic Depression

Andrew Saint: London is good for you, 4 February 1999

London: A History 
by Francis Sheppard.
Oxford, 442 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 19 822922 4
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London: More by Fortune than Design 
by Michael Hebbert.
Wiley, 50 pp., £17.99, April 1998, 0 471 97399 8
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... We think now of Margaret Thatcher and Ken Livingstone, but the pattern can be traced back to King John, when London sneaked its own municipal charter under the lee of the barons, and even before. From almost the start, the dominance of Roman London in the affairs of Britain was a surprise, and shakily defined. But the climax came in the 17th century, in ...

‘We prefer their company’

Sadiah Qureshi: Black British History, 15 June 2017

Black and British: A Forgotten History 
by David Olusoga.
Pan Macmillan, 624 pp., £25, November 2016, 978 1 4472 9973 8
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... or Scottish privateers. Most of them worked as servants in London or in southern port towns. John Blanke was a trumpeter who performed at court. In 1509 he was present at the funeral of Henry VII and performed at Henry VIII’s coronation. Two years later he performed in the celebrations heralding the birth of Prince Henry, the longed-for son of Henry ...

Suffering Souls

Marina Warner: Ghosts in the Middle Ages, 18 June 1998

Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society 
by Jean-Claude Schmitt, translated by Theresa Lavender Fagan.
Chicago, 290 pp., £26.50, May 1998, 0 226 73887 6
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... acutely; the fires of purgation are corporeal, though the souls that feel them are not. Gervase of Tilbury reports these events, but does not tell us the name of the girl, an interesting predecessor of Saints Bernadette and Thérèse of Lisieux, or Elizabeth Radclyfe, Yeats’s psychic medium, and many more young females who have altered their status and their ...

Welcome Home

Sukhdev Sandhu: Memories of Michael X, 4 February 1999

Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multiracial Britain 
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
HarperCollins, 422 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 00 255909 9
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... about to be wrought on a monochrome, war-weary nation. The docking of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury in 1948 did not herald the beginning of multiracial Britain, even if that myth has become entrenched in the wake of last year’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Black people had lived here for years: in addition to the long-established communities in ...

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