Section: Arts

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Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 2. Birth of the human soul

Simon Chater

There’s no original sin in Dante! The soul is born of joy and seeks to return to a state of joy. In my first three tasting notes I’m going to skip about, dipping once only into each canticle – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. If that’s a success (that is, if enough people read me to […]

Something lost to find again

Catrina Davies

Catrina Davies discovered her true self in Europe. In September she left Cornwall for Portugal, from where she reflects on severance, belonging and betrayal. When I was ten my parents took me and my sisters to France for a week. We drove onto the ferry at Plymouth, all squashed into our Citroen AX, disembarked in […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes

Simon Chater

1. The Dark Wood Dante is at once the most influential and the most neglected of Europe’s poets. Since the early 14th century, when he wrote, he has inspired countless other writers in almost every European language, yet today he has few readers outside academia and Italy. In this series of commentaries on excerpts from […]

Awards part two: some more good people, thankfully!

Anthea Simmons

Most dogged defenders of our food & farming standards: Devon MPs Ben Bradshaw, Luke Pollard and Dorset MP Simon Hoare stand amongst those who braved the government to demand standards be enshrined in law and not on the table in any future trade deals. (Devon MP Neil Parish almost made it into this select group, […]

Goodbye to all that

Karol Kulik

As an American living in England for over 50 years, being neither a Brit nor a European, I’ve kept my views about the EU and the Brexit debate to myself… until now. Despite the last-minute ‘agreement’, I still find it incredibly sad to watch the British government and Brexit supporters turning their backs on the […]

Box set: a pot pourri of delights

Anthea Simmons

We’re not all about politics, climate change and Covid-19 at West Country Bylines. We try to bring you some deliciously diverse fare. Here’s a selection of articles you may have missed. Please enjoy and share!

John le Carré: Traitor or Patriot?

Mike Zollo

“El Brexit es la mayor idiotez perpetrada por el Reino Unido” “Brexit is the greatest act of stupidity perpetrated by the United Kingdom” For many years I have followed with interest how some elements of the European press present the UK. Whenever there is a major event, it is fascinating to compare the treatment of […]

In search of Cinderella – a virtual pantomime for Somerset

Richard Crowe

“In search of Cinderella” came out of a conversation between Deb Richardson, producer at Somerset Film, and me. It was late July/early August when theatres across the UK were announcing there would be no pantomime this year.  This was an intolerable proposition for a county like ours, with its numerous local societies producing an annual […]

John le Carré – prescient chronicler of a nation betrayed

Tom Scott

Obituaries describing John le Carré as a “Cold War spy novelist” are selling him short. More than any other contemporary writer, he had a finger on the dark pulse of our times. It’s not often that the death of a novelist can be described as a national event, but the passing of David Cornwell, better […]

Weird and wonderful words – week 4

Sadie Parker

Rejoice! Lockdown is almost over – sort of. I was hoping this would be a universal moment of ‘euneirophrenia’: the feeling of contentment that comes from waking up from a pleasant dream. Sadly, for those exiting lockdown to enter into tier three, it probably won’t feel all that much different to being in actual lockdown. […]

Walter Raleigh and Sherborne’s castles

Valery Collins

Sir Walter Raleigh was loved and hated by Queen Elizabeth I and despised by King James His own great passion, however, was for the Dorset town of Sherborne. He has left his mark on three of the town’s attractions: he lived in the two castles and he intervened in a dispute at the medieval St […]

Weird and wonderful words – week 3

Sadie Parker

Well that didn’t last long. Here we are, back on the ‘sorry-go-round’ – trapped in a repetitive cycle of depressing actions or events. There were glimmers of good news. Hope of a vaccine, and even of vaccines, plural. Lewis Hamilton became the most successful Formula-1 champion ever, raising the spirits of Britain’s sports fans. The […]

Calling young writers! Enter our competition!

Anthea Simmons

Are you based in Cornwall, Devon , Dorset or Somerset? Under 25? Want to write? We are a team of volunteer, citizen journalists and editors, passionate about the truth, democracy and good writing. We’ve been going since late August 2020 and have already had well over 300,000 readers and high levels of engagement on social […]

What’s next for Somerset Film?

Mick Fletcher

“It was fresh air that kept us sane” said Kathy, reflecting on growing up in the 1940s. Kathy was part of ‘Making Waves’, three days of FM community radio shows created by Bridgwater Senior Citizens’ Forum in 2012. Broadcasting from an empty High Street shop, the Forum’s sometimes provocative but always warm-hearted shows were well […]

Weird and wonderful words – week 1

Sadie Parker

Hello lockdown, my old friend; I’ve come to walk with you again. How are we all feeling? You may have awoken early in a state of uhtceare (pronounced uht-kay-ara; the ‘h’ is as in ‘loch’), an Anglo-Saxon expression for the ‘sorrow before dawn’ when you lie awake in the darkness and worry about the day […]

…and on another front of the culture war

Eric Gates

“The National Trust has been contacted by the charity regulator over claims that it has strayed from its ‘clear, simple purpose’ to preserve historic buildings and treasures. Regulators approached the charity this month after receiving complaints from the public about its review into links between its estate and slavery during the British empire.” Do people […]

Protected characteristics or political playthings?

Florence MacDonald

I am a teacher and over the past month I have become increasingly aware of shifts in what is deemed acceptable for people to say and do in certain rôles, through interference from the government and, now, from the BBC. Phase 1 It began in early October with news of new educational guidance ‘Legal threat […]

Culture wars, censorship and the ghost of William Blake

Virginia Button

Earlier this month, the first round of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund was announced by Arts Council England, with a welcome £257m allocated to 1,385 theatres, museums, orchestras, dance companies, music venues and other arts organisations impacted by Covid-19. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced: “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, […]

Art Matters : Ashburton Arts

Anthea Simmons

Whatever Rishi Sunak did or didn’t say or did or didn’t mean  in his interview with ITV, the debate over the value of the arts and of artists in our society and economy has been front and centre recently. And rightly so. The UK’s creative industries are estimated to contribute around £13 million to the […]

Extreme political stances

Mike Temple

The once autocratic King Lear, now stripped of power and exposed to the storm, ushers the poor Fool into the hovel, then kneels and prays:                                                                 Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,                                       That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,                                       How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,                                       Your looped and windowed […]

The power of art in times of crisis

Vicky Rosier

World Mental Health Day is on 10 October. This year, as we all try to navigate the emotional uncertainties of Covid-19, learning to manage our mental health is an essential skill. I hope this personal story helps to highlight the importance of finding and embracing some individual means of dealing with symptoms of poor mental […]

Poetry, nature and covid-19

Miles King

This year, of all years, people have become much more aware of their local surroundings; in particular, places they can visit to experience nature in their everyday lives – or at least those who were physically able to get out of their houses and weren’t stuck inside shielding. The Covid lockdown threw into sharp contrast […]

Do-gooders are in the majority, Patel. Get used to it.

Anthea Simmons

Here’s the thing, Priti Patel. You bang on about the activist lawyers and the do-gooders all you like, but you’re forgetting something. Most people are actually decent. Most people prefer being kind to being cruel. Most people do not want to live on a diet of hatred and fear. And most people, when faced with […]

The dark side of the prom: Cold War Steve beached

Sadie Parker
Cold War Steve's artwork on Bournemouth beach depicting the positive side of the UK and its valuese

When asked whether he would be producing any new episodes of his famous satirical show, ‘The Thick Of It’, Armando Iannucci replied that British politics was now so silly, it was beyond parody. One artist who has, nonetheless, successfully satirised not just British politics, but populist politics around the world over the past four years […]

Museums and galleries respond to the climate crisis

Virginia Button

The US west coast is on fire, the hurricane season is off to an early start and in the UK a year of unseasonal weather has resulted in the worst wheat harvest in decades – yet more reminders that climate change is a pressing and immediate global crisis. And, as leaves fall and mists rise […]

New photo competition (and an apology for last time!)

Anthea Simmons

Doh. It was a good idea, but we set an an impossible subject. You were all too kind (ironically, given the subject was ‘kindness’!) to point this out, but zero entries said it all. Sorry. Let’s try again. The theme this time is ‘sky’. After all, we need something to look up to right now, […]

Culture wars

Mike Temple

So what do populist leaders do when they’re in trouble? Answer: the same things they did to gain power. You don’t need the Cummings playbook to work out that it’s one of two things (or, better still, both): it’s play the blame game – blame the Jews, blame immigrants, play on people’s fears and prejudices; […]

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