I ran all night and day…

Mr Skosh St Leonards

One of the things I love about running are the unexpected sights that you encounter along the way. I haven’t run on the lower part of the prom for a while and I discovered this great new piece of street art this week. The purple and neon-pink are evoking total 80s vibes. I feel like they should install speakers and play a constant rotation of synth-pop and new wave music. A Flock of Seagulls anyone? 😉

Art work by Mr Skosh.

The Ancient Mariner Big Read


Curated by The Arts Institute of The University of Plymouth:

“The Ancient Mariner Big Read is an inclusive, immersive work of audio and visual art from the 21st century that reflects the sweeping majesty and abiding influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 18th century epic poem.”

Divided into forty episodes, the multimedia project combines each reading with a piece of visual art like the one above1, created by Stanley Donwood, for the eleventh instalment.

The list of readers is varied and each one brings a unique voice to their given section of the ballad. The moment when the mariner shoots the albatross is delivered with added menace by Willem Defoe; while Olivia Laing’s reading is steeped in sorrow as she describes the “curse in a dead man’s eye!”


At less than two minutes per instalment, the poem is made readily digestible. And the combination of ambient sound and distinct delivery bring each section of the poem into sharper relief.

Returning to Laing’s section of the poem, for example, I was struck anew by the following two stanzas:

“The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmèd water burnt alway
A still and awful red.”

The juxtaposition of the moonlight with the bloody sea distinctly captures the beauty of Coleridge’s writing while conveying imagery that is inherently melancholy and horrifying. This instalment also provided my favourite image2 thus far (above), created by Desmond Morris. Like Coleridge, he perfectly captures the contrast between the beautiful and the grotesque.

As of this morning, the project reached the half-way point but it’s never too late to jump in. Each episode can be enjoyed in various places, including YouTube and Spotify. However, the richest experience comes from the project website itself where each reading is complemented with the art work, contextual information, critical commentary,  and the relevant stanzas of the poem.

So pull up a chair and listen to the “bright-eyed” mariner’s tale.

  1. Stanley Donwood, Residential Nemesis, Acrylic on canvas.[]
  2. Desmond Morris, The Voyager, Oil on canvas.[]

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei RALast Saturday, Jennifer and I went to see Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy. We got there about thirty minutes before the doors were due to open, affording us time to look at and sit amongst his Tree sculptures that now fill the Royal Academy’s courtyard. The piece offers a calm and somewhat uncomplicated introduction to his work. One that is in stark contrast to many of the pieces currently housed inside the Royal Academy’s walls.

The doors opened at 10:00am. We collected our tickets and headed straight into the show. Each room offered a specific insight into Ai’s life and work – celebrating his use of found materials; his creative originality in blending the old with the new; and putting front and centre his will to challenge the establishment that has for so long sought to suppress his views.

Ai Weiwei Bikes

Walking out and mulling what we had observed over lunch, it was evident that Ai’s work had profoundly affected the both of us. Each piece was a statement and a question. Through wood, iron, porcelain, marble, and many other materials Ai made us question our place in the world.

In particular we were both struck by his piece ‘Straight’. Constructed from reclaimed rebar from the damaged school buildings, following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the piece is a powerful symbol. Weighing in at 150 tonnes it is a poignant reminder of the strength and solidarity of the Sichuan people following the massacre. It is a also testament to Ai’s own endeavours to seek answers for the parents and families of the children killed due to the poor construction of the school buildings.

Ai Weiwei Straight

This was the tip of the iceberg. Not one piece in the exhibition is superficial – to be taken at face value. Each room implores you to engage with Ai’s story. And it is a deeply meaningful one; fraught with the scars of persecution.

Photos: CC. Jennifer Michie.