People At Work


I have to admit that I was less than convinced when I originally became aware of Penguin’s plans to publish a number of titles spoofing Loughborough’s very own Ladybird Books, given that it’s an imprint very close to my heart.

As it transpired my concern was misplaced as over the last few years Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris have produced a series of consistently very funny books (under the guise of Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups) while at the same time always making great efforts to respectfully acknowledge the artists responsible for the source material.

Perhaps unsurprisingly as a Ladybird obsessive I have bought (and thoroughly enjoyed) each and every book published under the Grown-Ups title, so it’s good to be able to add a copy of this final book to the collection.

The Wonderful World of Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups sees Hazeley and Morris (alongside another Morris who I think should be mentioned in dispatches given the volume of work he’s (I’m presuming) done in this final book with the artwork and design) bring the series to a close with a final flourish –  and this book is a joy.

While I’m here I should also mention this episode of the Art Detective podcast that sees host Dr Janina Ramirez talk to Joel and Jason about their love and admiration for the art of the Ladybird book – have a listen it’ll be an hour of your day very well spent.

BLOG - Stevenage

BLOG - Derek Jarman's Blue

While Mrs Weir is off watching a game of association football in the North of London, I’m at home catching up.

This includes sorting through a host of recently acquired books including a number from the New Penguin Shakespeare series which each come with enormously handsome woodcut-print cover illustrations by artist David Gentleman.

I’ve been collecting these on and off for a number of years now, through occasional finds in second-hand bookshops and charity shops but I’m still a number away from the complete collection (not that there is a complete collection as Gentleman was somewhat bafflingly replaced as the artist of choice before he’d finished the set himself).

One of the latest batch arriving here at Weir HQ is of particular interest given that it seems to be the copy once owned by Tom Craik, a professor of English at Durham University. I know this because on further examination of the book two letters from Dr Ann Thompson (who is now an Emeritus Professor of English at King’s College London) written to Professor Craik appeared from deep within the pages.

The letters ask for Craik’s advice in preparation for work she was doing on a new edition of the play for the Cambridge University Press. And if the preface of the edition I found on a popular online bookshop is anything to go by he obviously wrote back, “In addition I have had expert advice from Gary Taylor on textual matters, from Tom Craik, C. Walter Hodges and Marion Lomax on questions of staging…”.



Given my lack of activity recently, returning with a blogpost on slow radio seems entirely apposite.

A new wave of slow radio arrives on the back of BBC Radio 3 promising a more rigorous commitment with a raft of commissions that will provide listeners with “a chance for quiet mindfulness and a consideration of the world from another angle.” This promise, which follows on from similar ideas over at BBC Four, sounds like a promising one, and future programmes will include a variety of recordings from an evening at the zoo, to the sounds of Durham Cathedral, and then on Christmas Eve a three-hour walk through the Black Forest with writer Horatio Clare.

The first programme in this series (I think) comes from composer Iain Chambers whose contribution sees him work with “six major European museums to document the huge change within our acoustic landscape”. Apparently, his “hoerspiel for Westdeutscher Rundfunk was a finalist in the 2016 Prix Palma Ars Acustica” which would probably sound impressive if I had any idea what it meant.

Anyway enjoy, and keep an ear set for further programmes in the series.

Earlier volumes of Speechification can be found here Vol.001, here Vol.002 and here Vol.003, and further episodes of BBC Radio 3’s previous series into this more sedate approach to radio currently live here.

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Blog - Paul Farell

I was intending to do some exploring last weekend however a viral infection of my upper respiratory tract meant that my time in deepest darkest Sherwood Forest and its environs was somewhat short-lived. I did manage to make it into Nottingham to shuffle around in the rain for a few hours, where I picked up a number of very handsome cards by Paul Farrell from his Brutal is Beautiful series. 

In further brutalist news, if you remain unconvinced by Paul’s assertion that the brutal can indeed be beautiful then I should point you in the direction of John Grindrod’s latest book How To Love Brutalism. It’s an impossibly handsome publication with some grand illustrations from The Brutal Artist and it comes highly recommended to you regardless of your love for all things concrete.

Myth Or Legend


BLOG - Damien Hirst

Whilst Mrs Weir was elsewhere celebrating (somewhat) the beginning of the end of Le Professeur, Mrs Weir Snr. and I travelled the short distance required to see Damien Hirst at Houghton Hall.

Although I wasn’t entirely convinced by what was on offer from the UK’s richest living artist (I’m sure he’ll struggle on regardless) there were some high-points. Myth and Legend, the two sculptures sat directly outside the house looked particularly good against the brilliant blue sky (although that isn’t always part of the show) and Observe, Identify, Reason, Analyse, Measure, Modify and Reproduce / Space, Time, Form, Matter, Substance, Change and Motion, two pieces of kinetic sculpture found inside the Stone Hall were entertaining if somewhat reliant on their inspiration from the bingo halls of Britain.

The highlight of our visit for me wasn’t anything by Hirst but, as ever, James Turrell’s Skyspace which is one of the permanent fixtures at Houghton and worth the price of admission on its own.

BLOG - Gedney:USSR

If you’ve missed Speechification Vol.001 and Vol.002 then further context can be found elsewhere. I won’t repeat myself for a third time because that may alienate the few people who still pay an (intentional) occasional visit.

So here are three pieces of radio (and one additional piece of music), two from BBC Radio 4 (albeit one via a repeat on BBC Radio 4 Extra) and one from BBC Radio 3, and all I hope, firmly in the spirit of the original Speechification site.

Target Practice
Sometimes everything seems connected.

Following a brief conversation with Mr Maxim Griffin in relation to his intended expeditions to Donna Nook – a salt marsh just South of the mouth of the Humber used by the Royal Air Force for bombing practice – I made a decision to visit a similar set up that can be found at Gedney Drove End (just  twenty or so miles from Weir HQ). It’s one of those places that’s in easy striking distance of home but somehow it’s somewhere that I’ve always succeeded in failing to visit.

That same day this documentary about RAF Holbeach was broadcast – RAF Holbeach is an academic air weapons range (no me neither) that’s located at Gedney Drove End, albeit that there’s very little physical evidence of it.

A couple of days later I remedied my failure to visit by travelling through the mists that had hung around all week to investigate these literal edgelands, to find that Maxim’s assertion that the location was “deep weird” remarkably accurate. It’s a disarmingly (although I suppose appropriately so) remote location, and once you’re stood on the sea-wall looking out into the Wash a bafflingly alien landscape. Throw in an occasional pillbox, a distant control tower and signs warning of unexploded ordnance and it doesn’t get any less weird. Well worth a visit though, and somewhere I shall return to when the weather is more forgiving.

As a further aside Maxim is currently looking for support over on Unbound for his new book, Field Notes “An illustrated voyage into the depths of time, space and Lincolnshire. It contains Werner Herzog, sausages and mild peril.”  Needless to say, I can’t recommend this to you enough.

Cold Art
This second documentary echoes the first with “Louis K Wilson meeting fellow artists who, like her, make work inspired by the Cold War”. In particular, the inspiration is drawn from the architecture of the era with the programme opening (once again with coincidental proximity to where I’m currently sat) at a Royal Observer Corps underground post in North Norfolk.

Like the artist, Stephen Felmingham I was aware of these Royal Observer Corps posts from an early age as a fairly visible example was located on the edge of the village that I grew up in. The record of said outpost, on the excellent Subterranea Britannica, mentions that it’s occasionally opened to the public, which seems to be something that has passed me entirely by – must investigate that further.

Late Junction
This last piece of radio is only an excerpt, but one that adds some further colour to the previous programme. Taken from a recent edition of Late Junction on “the sound of secrets and subterfuge” over on BBC Radio 3, it consists of a number of field recordings made by Freya Hellier (which already feature somewhat in the Cold Art programme above, which she also produced) at the Field Station Berlin, one of the largest listening stations built in the early 1960s by the US, although now abandoned and being slowly consumed by mother nature. 

BLOG - Concretism

Finally not a piece of radio but a piece of music, albeit one that continues to maintain the theme.

This is the opening track from the new Concretism album, entitled For Concrete And Country, released on the Castles in Space label (who specialise in “limited edition vinyl pressings of new and newly unearthed vintage, alternative pop and electronica”) with artwork from none other than Mr Richard Littler aka the Leader of Scarfolk Council. A copy of the record, on “utilitarian black vinyl” (I missed out on the very limited “nuclear bunker hospital bay” turquoise) should be arriving at Weir HQ in the next few days, and if this is anything to go by it’s going to be very well received.

So if “the cold war is back with a vengeance” at least it can be handsomely soundtracked.