Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Interview with Dr Leo Mellor

March 15, 2009

leomellorDr Mellor is the Roma Gill fellow in English at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge; he specialises in modernism and Second World War literature. He teaches for several papers across the BA course and supervises dissertations on 19th- and 20th-century topics.

7am Wake up to the Today programme. Go to the gym, followed by breakfast with my girlfriend, a theatre director and translator.

8.45am Walk to college, which takes about 45 minutes.

10am Give a 50-minute lecture. I do about two a week, at the moment it’s literature and the Second World War.

11am Have an hour-long “supervision”, a one-to-one (or two) tutorial with students about their essays. I do about 12 a week.

1.15pm Eat with the 60 other fellows of the college at high table. It’s a really good way to bond as a unit.

2.30pm Give a weekly seminar, on modernism and the short story.

4pm More supervisions and endless emailing, mostly with the 30 English students I’m responsible for, but also arranging library visits, organising symposiums and contacting the editor of a book I am writing on London’s bomb sites and the literature of wartime London. I also set entrance exams and interview prospective students in December and January.

5pm Work on my book – it’s my first. I try to clear one full day a week, but the reality is that the three eight-week terms pass in an intense, exciting blur, and holidays are for research and writing, preparing reading lists, lectures and seminars.

7pm Sometimes I eat in college, work late in my office and then catch last orders in the pub and debate with friends. If not, I walk home listening to my Welsh-language podcasts practising my vocab. My mother is Welsh but I grew up in Brighton, so I only speak a little.

8pm Prepare for tomorrow’s supervisions, reading all the essays I will be discussing. Practise lectures on my cat Tolly.

8.30pm Cook dinner. I enjoy cooking as a way of relaxing.

9.30pm More preparation. Then I’ll read in bed until I fall asleep at about midnight. I have countless books on the go at once. I like to read articles and journals around my subject, but also completely off-topic as well. As a child, I just wanted to read books and I’ve fallen into a career where I get paid to do that. Some days, I can’t quite believe it. 

This piece first appeared in the Observer Review

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Interview with Yeukai Taruvinga

December 7, 2008

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Photo: Suki Dhanda

Yeukai Taruvinga, 26. Opposition campaigner who fled Zimbabwe fearing reprisals from Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party

‘I didn’t want to leave my country and my family, but I had to flee when I was physically abused by the militia of the ruling Zanu-PF government for supporting and campaigning for the opposition. Within hours of arriving in the UK I was told my claim for asylum had been refused. They wanted me to produce evidence, but how could I? I asked them: “What is more important, the evidence or my life?”

‘I was held for a week, then told to report once a month to an immigration centre while my case was reviewed. Four years later, I was told that my case had been refused and I was being sent back. All I had was my handbag. They wouldn’t allow me to get anything from my home, or to contact my solicitor. I was so scared that I would be deported to Zimbabwe, where I would be imprisoned and never see my family again. Seven years later I’m still waiting on the Home Office. They say my case will be decided by 2011, but until then I cannot work or study. I am in limbo. Most of my time is spent volunteering for Women Asylum Seekers Together, a group campaigning for and empowering women asylum seekers.

‘This idea that asylum seekers get free houses, cars and mobile phones is a lie. When I first claimed asylum I was given £30 a week and a shared room in a bedsit. Now I am classified as a ‘failed’ asylum seeker, yet the government accept that it is not safe for me to return, so I am given accommodation and £35 a week in supermarket vouchers.

‘I want to pay tax, support myself and pay my way but I am not allowed. I want to work with young people and do something positive. I want young people to say: ‘”This is Yeukai. Be like her.”‘

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.

Juneau Projects Interview

November 19, 2008

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Interview with Matthew Bourne

August 17, 2008

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Matthew Bourne, the most talented choreographer of his generation, famous for his all-male Swan Lake, talks about his new ballet, a contemporary retelling of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray – the hottest ticket at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Why did you choose Dorian Gray?

It’s been on the list of things I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve constantly been put off it because the characters are so nasty. Then I realised that we love a lot of stories where the heroes are villains; we still like them and want them to succeed.

Do you want us to dislike Dorian Gray or feel sorry for him?

If you met him, you would be charmed by him, even with the knowledge that he ends up killing people. That’s how he gets what he wants. He’s a bit like the characters in American Psycho or Dexter; they’re killers, but they are charming. They’re not monsters.

Why the modern setting?

The story seems very relevant to now; the obsession with youth and retaining youth, this facade of what’s in front of the camera, and what goes on behind; how it can ruin your life and turn you into a monster. The death of Heath Ledger made me think about that a lot. Also, I was at a party last year and Orlando Bloom was there. He was just so ordinary-looking, and yet to many people he’s the most beautiful man in the world. I want to try to show how you create this image.

How do you see the portrait?

I don’t like supernatural things, so rather than this gothic idea of a portrait in an attic getting steadily more grotesque, we’re using photography to show Dorian becoming an icon as a billboard model. You will see a disintegrated billboard later in the show, but the piece is more about how his soul is destroyed.

This piece first appeared in Observer Review

Lykke Li

June 1, 2008

Laura Marling

May 4, 2008

Holy Fuck

May 4, 2008

Morgan Spurlock – Osama Bin Laden

April 27, 2008

How did your wife Alex feel about the film?
We were two months into pre-production of Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (released 9 May) when we found out she was pregnant and there was a real hold-the-phone moment – here’s your husband going off traipsing around dangerous places months before you’re about to have a baby. She didn’t like it, but she’s incredibly supportive of me.

Is the world really that much scarier today?
When our parents were raising us, there wasn’t the threat of someone walking into a subway and blowing things up. There’s a different level of danger now. Even in the Cold War, nuclear bombs were ‘over there’.

Are you still on the healthy diet you took up at the end of Super Size Me?
My wife and son are vegan and I’m 66 per cent vegan, as I usually eat two of my meals at home. In the Middle East I ate a lot of street food. I had more mutton than I will ever have in my life. I just ate whatever people had. The key is not to ask a lot of questions.

Does it concern you that your film doesn’t mention oil or examine the Middle East crisis in depth?
You can’t tell every story. We shot 900 hours of footage which we edited down to 90 minutes.

How do you answer criticism that you led people to believe you found Osama bin Laden?
People were asking me: ‘Did you find him? Did you speak to him?’ when we were still editing the movie. My response was: ‘See the film. Wait until we’re done.’ Why would I give away the movie? Were people really that surprised? They were saying: ‘Oh my God. This little film-maker found him.’ I think it’s incredible for people to have that faith, but let’s be realistic.

What about the end of your trip when you get to the tribal area of Pakistan and turn around?
By going in there, was I really going to change that much? I had to make a choice and ultimately I think I made the right one – I came home to be a father.

Were you worried that a film with that title would be an anticlimax?
I don’t think the film is anticlimactic. It shows that Osama bin Laden is everywhere and nowhere. He is this enigma. His influence is in every country that we went to. The film is about showing this myth, this ideology and demystifying this person. In the United States, we get one version of Muslims and Islam on television – a minority of people who scream and yell. You don’t get to hear from the silent majority. We talked to those people on the trip and it was important to give this voice to the voiceless.

How will you bring up your son (now 16 months)?
The biggest thing for me is to expose him to as many people and cultures as possible. You need to be able to experience other people and not live in a box.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review

David Oyelowo

April 6, 2008

David Oyelowo, star of Spooks, was photographed for Underexposed, an exhibition that celebrates black actors by Franklyn Rogers, now showing at the National Portrait Gallery and in London Underground stations. It is curated by Fraser James.

Were you concerned about being part of a project that defined you by your skin colour?

I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to come away from the term ‘black actor’, but at the same time, black actors in the UK are at a crossroads; a point beyond which things could genuinely get better or could digress again. If it takes something like this to generate attention and interest, then I’m very happy to put my name to it.

Is the situation bad in Britain?

Yes, it definitely is, and for all sorts of reasons. I have had a lot of opportunities in the UK, but in order to keep that going I’ve had to move to the States. In America there is an audience who have been educated about seeing black people in things, so producers don’t balk at the idea of putting black actors into productions. In the UK there seems to be this weird perception that there isn’t an audience for black leads or high-profile black projects.

Who were your role models?

All my role models were American actors – not black British actors. I looked up to people like Adrian Lester, Lennie James and David Harewood, but they were people I saw as a kind of bridge to becoming Denzel Washington, which is sad, but it was just the fact of the matter at the time.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review

Interview with Matthew Slotover, Frieze

March 2, 2008

(Pictured with Frieze Co-Director Amanda Sharp)

Q Is the urinal in my local pub a work of art?

MS: No – Duchamp’s urinal was art once he put it in a gallery. In fact, one working definition of art is anything that is in a gallery.

Q Why are there so few great female painters?

MS: Art (and society) was a lot more subject to sexism 50 years ago than it is now. Since that period, there have been plenty of very good female painters, 2006 Turner Prize-winner Tomma Abts among them. How much history needs to pass before an artist is called ‘great’? That is the real question.

Q When does a movement become a movement?

MS: Movements are overrated and invented by the press. Ask any artist if they feel or felt part of a movement – the good ones will all say no.

Q Can you make a great work of art accidentally?

MS: Art is about the context in which it is made as much as the object itself; objects take on different meanings in different contexts. If the artist is unaware of the context, it’s very unlikely the work will be very good.

Q Can graffiti be a work of art?

MS: Graffiti is something written on a wall, and, of course, art can be exhibited or produced anywhere: a wall is just another venue. Banksy’s work is achieving very high prices at present. He’s making paintings for private collectors, but I’m not seeing museum shows of his work yet. All good artists think about their audience and I do think that Banksy’s work is fantastically arresting when you see it. Street art is designed to be seen out of the corner of your eye, on the hoof. Art that’s made for galleries is made to be looked at in a more static way for a longer period of time and may not be so striking immediately, but perhaps resonates for a longer period. But the term ‘work of art’ is being used here as the pinnacle of visual culture which is not a correct assumption. Is graffiti as important culturally as Picasso? Now that’s a very interesting question.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review’s 50 arts secrets revealed piece