An Inspector Calls is set in 1912 long before its first performance at the end of the Second World War. It is in fact set in a different world, one that seemed so peaceful and secure. The period from around 1901 to 1914 has largely been seen as a English Golden Age and the setting for Wind in the Willows, The Magicians Nephew and Three men in a Boat.
At the start of the play Mr Birling wants to make a “little speech”, note how he emphasises his importance with his language. He plays at being the kind little father despite the turbulent relationship with his own son Eric. In reality Birling is “not the kind of father” Eric can go to when he is in trouble but this does not stop Birling pretending. Birling makes a number of predictions. He is being set up by JB because the audience know that war does come in 1914, the coming age is one of labour/industrial strife and the Titanic sinks on its first voyage.
I think that this is of crucial importance. The Birling family are tied to the metaphor of the luxury liner with Sybl as the figure head of the ship, proud and mighty, but the one who smashes headlong into the iceberg of social responsibility.
Writing later Joseph Conrad dismissed the surprise at the loss of the Titanic by arguing that people had confused size with greatness. This is exactly what the Birlings have done. They have confused their financial and social power with greatness and their titanic is no match for social responsibility.
We left home a little after 10am yesterday morning, waving goodbye to our eldest daughter who is looking after the house, and set off towards the south west and my parents house. After stopping at a picnic area to stretch our legs, we finally arrived late in the afternoon. This morning the weather has arrived […]
This magical photograph is of an actual place in Cornwall, called St. Nectan’s Glen. I know it well because I have been there. I have stood beneath it, getting soaked to the skin, and I have climbed up the rocks and stood looking down at the majesty of the thundering water. The sight and sound of […]
Lady Godiva (1892) by Edmund Leighton (Public Domain) How do we experience poetry? This is the question I have been considering for several years. A poem can be read from a page while sitting on a comfy chair in front of a roaring fire, on a sandy beach, in a library or on public transit. […]
Of all of JB Priestleys work, and there is a lot of it, the most well known is this play. I myself have been drawn back to it repeatedly since I studied it in school. It deals with an intrusion by a mysterious Inspector to the family life of the Birlings who are having a dinner party for their prospective son in law and daughter.
The crux of the play is that all the characters have, by degrees, contributed to the suicide of one Eva Smith. It is a clever idea and shows JBs view that we are all part of society and all must look after each other.
A good version of the play can be found here. But I do find the actors a little bit too posh for the “pulled myself up by my bootstraps” Birlings. I would love to hear your comments below.
As you all know I am a graduate of the University of Lampeter otherwise known as St. Davids University College. I spent five happy years in West Wales where you are only half an hour from the sea, half an hour from the mountains where buzzards fly and people have lived for time immemorial.
Today is the Founders Day when the College was founded. Today I will be raising a glass to the memory of Bishop Burgess and dining on roast beef.
I have chosen roast beef and red wine because I am unaware of the actual traditions of the college. My only criticism of the college is that formal hall was abolished in the 1960s. I learnt this in the late 20th century and when I asked why I incurred the wrath of my lecturer who told me that it was elitist. I must admit that made me laugh.
So in memory of better days and my lecturer I will engage the traditions of Porterhouse Blue and try to emulate the great feast. Wish me luck, at least there will be no speech.
Today marks the end of the First World War. No other even in modern history has had the same impact of this four year conflict and I believe we are still affected to this day.
The war started in 1914 and by the end of it men, women, children and even nations and empires were no more. Many European monarchies came to an end and the very map was redrawn.
Fighting took place all over the globe, even on the lakes of central Africa. In deserts, fields bombed into moonscapes and in the skies men fought and every year we remember them and pledge ourselves to the goal of … never again.
A spectacular one Kilometre trail of lights, projection, music and reflection is planned for the Coventry Canal in November. Random String is Ludic Rooms’ biennial festival of arts and technology. This year they are bringing light, sound and projections to a stretch of the Coventry Canal, following a 1km trail that ends in the Canal […]
I was listening to the Today programme on Radio4 and happened to hear the boss of the City of Culture Trust, or whatever it is called, boasting about Coventry. He said that;
"Coventry was the City Break you did not know that you wanted"
Now I am proud of my little city and think that it has got a lot of selling points. He sounded like he was struggling to identify good reasons to go to Coventry. He pointed out the Transport Museum, which I think is like car porn, soft car porn. He mentioned the galleries and I though to myself, there is only one! Isn’t there? If there are more then I do apologise. Meanwhile I went to the Herbert this afternoon and found the Turner Prize being exhibited. As if Coventry had not suffered enough. Or maybe it was kind of fitting. The Turner Prize, art without the people in mind, in a rebuilt city where no regard was taken for the people who lived there. I do remember that the New Cathedral is also an art gallery, but I think that this is a ploy to make the worship look amazing in contrast. The final selling point of the city was that it was in the process of redevelopment and was opening itself up. I nearly crashed the car in rage at this ignorance. The city has been in a state of redevelopment since it the 1900s. City planners actually regard the Blitz as a good thing because a load of lovely building were destroyed without annoying public consultation.
But lets imagine that you do choose to take a break in Coventry, what are you going to do? Well I think that you should consult a few guide books and one that I would recommend is 111 Places that You Shouldn’t miss in Coventry. The Amazon blurb says that it is the ultimate insider guide, so insider that one of the authors lives in Rugby and the other in London. The guide itself misses a good many of the real gems of Coventry but one of the shining lights is the Big Comfy Bookshop at Fargo. The Big Comfy Bookshop hosts events such as the famous “Rangers of Mordor Minor Tolkien Readers Group”, a literary festival, hosting workshops for the Coventry Writers Group, regular poetry nights and gigs. It has been the beating heart and living soul of Fargo for years but now is closing at Christmas. In the year of Coventrys City of Culture we are losing one of the most important cultural venues in the city. Should we just repeat that? I can’t be bothered to type it. Please re-read the paragraph but do not get stuck in a logic loop, do not re-read it more than once.
Coventry is a city where things get done for or too the population. Its like the essay by George Orwell, How the Poor Die. What strikes me about the events being run by the City of Culture is how many are during working hours. I would love to attend so many events but they are when working people are working. The is true of FaB Lab. Their fantastic courses are not open to working people even if they are willing to pay for them. If you are working and you want to do culture in Coventry then you have to get involved with clubs and societies outside of the mainstream providers. Furthermore with the City of Culture people there seems to have minimal involvement of Coventry people on the stage, the role of Coventry people seems to have been as unpaid labour as city ambassadors and they look depressed.
I am going to have to leave this now because I have a few months of The Big Comfy Bookshop left and intend to get to as many events as possible.