Parts of a Vision

A quick word while there is still time to see it about the fantastic House of Annie Lennox exhibition now on at the Lowry. On loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, exhibits include a wall full of gold and silver discs awarded to Annie both for her work with the Eurythmics and her solo releases; a variety of costumes she has worn over the years; beautiful and striking pictures that show how she works with photographers and costume designers to create a playfully bold array of “characters” or personas; and recordings of her never officially released “Butterfly Music” (instrumental), which you can listen to through headphones as you peer into little glass cases containing a selection of personal artefacts. There is also a room where you can sit and enjoy her typically unique music videos, and information about the AIDS-awareness campaigns she has supported ever since hearing Nelson Mandela speak to the press on Robben Island.

The entrance to Annie’s temporary Manchester “house”

Although Annie – one of Scotland and the world’s most successful and respected musicians – did perform at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert (just Google it if you didn’t hear about the Jubilee), going around the gallery was for me a welcome relief from the seemingly exponential growth of Union Jacks and fawning newspaper front pages about England’s beloved Monarch. Still, the BBC made sure that we couldn’t forget about her, with rolling footage displayed on a giant outdoor screen that stands proudly in the centre of what they call their “public realm” at Salford Quays.

The Queen watches over us all…

Another exhibition on at the Lowry right now is about the man after whom it is named – L.S. Lowry, famous for his “unromantic” and to many critics “amateurish” pictures of industrial Northern scenes, painted between the late 1920s and 1960s. Of course, the Lowry always show something from their permanent collection of his work, but the themes change every so often. This time the focus is on his paintings of figures – both depictions of the “unfortunate” and poor characters who could be glimpsed in areas of Lancashire and Salford at a time when government didn’t offer very much to people struggling to make ends meet, and of important figures in his life such as the mysterious “Ann” (real or fictitious? Nobody can be sure). Lowry is often associated with a certain stark realism, or with an ethic of social reform. Yet he himself said:

“I wanted to paint myself into what absorbed me […] Natural figures would have broken the spell of it, so I made my figures half unreal. Some critics have said that I turned my figures into puppets, as if my aim were to hint at the hard economic necessities that drove them. To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them in the way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way: as part of a vision.”

I can’t help but imagine that the Queen and her family must look down from their balcony and also see a mass of half unreal figures. Parts of a vision that centres on their own sense of self-worth and family history rather than on the lives of the people themselves; and somehow when Annie Lennox speaks about her commitment to “good causes” I find it far more compelling than when Kate Middleton does.

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8 responses to “Parts of a Vision”

  1. Jemster says :

    What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it and the pictures are good too, as always. Your final comments about the Royal’s perceptions of the Jubilee are spot on. I was thinking a similar thing myself when I saw them on the news! And yes, Kate Middleton does charity work simply out of a sense of obligation as part of the royal PR machine, rather than out of a genuine sense of passion. And also, she has nothing else to do with her time. (“oooh, isnt she just like Princess Di”) Relieved you have not been infected by the royal fever and become a monarchist since your move down south. X

    • musingfrommanchester says :

      Oh! Thanks, Jemster. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 You’re right, it’s all about PR really, isn’t it? Turn up for charity work looking like you’re at a Vogue fashion shoot. Hmm. It’s all about “being seen” one way or another. Anyway you might be pleased to know that tons of folk in Manchester couldn’t care less about the Royals either……..a lot of the “celebrations” are really just attempts by shops to draw in a few extra customers. Can’t blame them I guess but it’s still a bit of a culture shock!

  2. Jemster says :

    Yes, definitely. The Royal Correspondents always focus on her and what she is wearing and how polite she was to the crowds, instead of the actual charity she is there to promote. I think she should show up wearing jeans and a t-shirt instead! I’m definitely relieved that lots of people down there couldn’t be bothered either – watching the BBC and ITV coverage you would think the whole of England were pro-monarchy. Any republicans are airbrushed out or shouted down. It has reminded me of those state run propaganda TV stations that you get in dictatorships. Don’t you agree? It’s so cringe-worthy and embarrassing. Even The Daily Record got in on the act, but I think that’s cos they now share so many stories and staff with the Daily Mirror. It’s a shame it doesn’t really feel like our national paper anymore. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the Annie Lennox exhibit! The Eurythmics were great! I liked your wee joke btw. “just Google it if you didn’t hear about the Jubilee.” Lols. 😀

    • musingfrommanchester says :

      Yes, it definitely is like propaganda. Even C4 News were gushing about it all, with about 4 minutes (no joke) for other stories in an hour long programme. Disappointing really. News producers/journalists need to be a bit braver I think and say “let’s be the ones to NOT devote too much space to this” (not just the Royals but Cheryl Cole & co. too). They might be surprised how many people would love that!

      • Jemster says :

        Channel 4 news too?! I am really surprised by that! I just don’t get it. Even your favourite Ian Hislop was gushing about the Thames pageant on HIGNFY and being very defensive about it. I just don’t get it! Why does having a job in the media mean you have to become a royal brown noser? Are they all hoping to get MBE’s? I wonder what John Lennon (who sent his medal back to buckingham palace) would make of Paul becoming one of the establishment, wheeled out for every royal concert. Any thoughts? X

  3. Jemster says :

    Any excuse for a link to a JL vid/song eh? Lol. Yeh, you’re right. Who knows? Maybe he would have become less of a rebel in his old age and more a part of the establishment himself?? X

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