Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Earlier this year, at the Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, Staffordshire, I came face-to-face with 18th-century jelly moulds: all in that classic creamy Wedgwood Queensware glaze. Immediate lust.

I love the idea of the history of these things - the amazing history of the industrial revolution's earliest manufacturers, as well as the domestic history of the individual objects - who owned them? what did they make? who ate the jellies? How did the moulds survive unbroken?

Research showed 18th-century moulds were financially out of reach, but Victorian moulds are surprisingly affordable still, especially for wealthy relatives. I put antique Wedgwood jelly moulds on my birthday list.

And it came to pass I got one! Yay! I chose a Victorian contra-swirl patterned one. The markings indicate it was made by Wedgwood c1880, twenty years before my grandfather was born.

Rather utilitarian and in today's terms under-designed, these stamps have their own modest beauty: the hand that stamped them as mysterious and distant to us as the hands that carved ancient Roman inscriptions - and yet culturally they are just as readable and informative. The man or woman who stamped the marks in the wet clay back in 1880 is long dead, but the object itself could last for thousands of years - pottery can break, but doesn't degrade. Shards date civilisations.

So, have jelly mould, will make jelly! Can't say I am actually much of a jelly fan, but there does appear to be a culinary revival going on - check out hip London jellymongers Bompass and Parr's website. Jellies also have a fascinating and distinguished culinary history.

For my first attempt I decided to jellify an Innocent mango smoothy. My mould takes exactly a pint of liquid (Victorian planning!) - and according to the gelatin packet instructions I needed 4 sheets.

The gelatin sheets are like clear acetate lasagne sheets. You have to soak them in cold water for five minutes, when they become a bit floppy, like plastic with a faint jelly-ish texture. You take them out of the water and squeeze the excess liquid off (I was expecting the sheets to be sticky at this point but they weren't at all).

Meanwhile, I heated up the smoothy in a pan (instructions say not to boil). I then added the soaked gelatin sheets and gently stirred until they were fully melted - about another two minutes. I then decanted the hot jelly into the mould.

I was warned to wet the mould first, and leave some extra space at the top to allow for gravity to pull the jelly out. Apparently a Victorian cook's trick was to oil the mould with almond oil, and then freeze it quickly before adding the jelly (an option available to only the wealthiest cooks with access to ice, obviously.)

I then let the jelly cool down completely before placing in the fridge to set overnight.

Et voilà! The final result. I dipped my mould in hot water to loosen the jelly, and left it in slightly too long, resulting in melting and mould pattern erosion. Something to remember for next time!

I must say, the jelly was vastly superior to packet jellies - the freshness of the fruit smoothy makes a huge difference. Also, there was just enough gelatin to gently set the jelly - it wasn't rubbery at all.

Monday, May 16, 2011

tweeting eurovision 2011

Definitely noticed a change in the twittosphere this year - partly I think inspired by the higher calibre of the entries: there were just no pratfalls. Remarkably, two new twitter communities moved big-time into tweeting Eurovision - the politicos (Ed Balls MP!! Ian Dale! etc) and the fashionistas (Bryanboy, Hilary Alexander). The comedians and writers were out in force too, and all the usual Eurovision fans and obsessives. Terry Wogan is still much missed; Graham Norton was noticeably restrained in his BBC commentary - in fact, playing it quite straight.

RealMattLucas: I can’t decide whether to watch Eurovision or hack off my foot.

wesstreeting: Seeing who is tweeting about #eurovision. And judging them.

OwenJones84@wesstreeting #gaysagainsteurovision

OwenJones84: Tough on Eurovision. Tough on the causes of Eurovision

HarryLangford: Eurovision is the first convincing argument that I have heard for leaving the EU. #Eurovision

diamondgeezer: The scariest outcome of Scottish independence would be three minutes of Susan Boyle

FreeSouthLondon: Entering #Eurovision is just one of many perks an independent South London would enjoy, but I’m more interested in our own nuclear deterrent

What About My Dreams / Kati Wolf


lowellkm: What about dancing? #bbceurovision

MatthewWells: Oooh. That’s an impressive ring. #hungary #eurovision

travelling_wolf: Skinniest girl in Hungary. #eurovision

Lipstick / Jedward

maggiephilbin: Oh No still in pub - Jedward on screen but no sound WHAT AM I MISSING #eurovison

jackwallington: I never thought I’d say it, but Jedward just totally aced #Eurovision

benlocker: Eurovision. Wouldn’t work on radio.

Popular / Eric Saade


ajscroxton: I’ll take all four. Thanks. #eurovision

MatthewWells: I'm calling it for Sweden #eurovision #winner

Watch My Dance / Loucas Yiorkas feat. Stereo Mike

MacPsych: Can we give Greece a musical bailout? #ESC2011

Get You / Alexej Vorobjov

Scaraboo: A jaunty song about stalking #Eurovision

jonathancobb: dubious sexual predator pop from Russia #eurovision

nok32uk: It was going to be called ‘Ooh Get You’ but that was considered too camp #bbceurovision #esc2011

Sognu / Amaury Vassili

technicalfault: “Comb” is now trending on Twitter in Europe #Eurovision

rjakesuk: Mr France has far far far too much hair #Eurovision

Markgatiss: Half-way through turning into a werewolf?

EvilGayTwin: France: boring but kinda hot. Are hot Men a requirement for Eurovision? #Eurovision

Madness of Love / Raffaele Gualazzi

EvilGayTwin: Italy was different. I take back my comment about hot men. #Eurovision

jamesmoran RT @jamesjammcmahon: Wogan, if you’re reading this, now is the time to buy a bottle of gin and set up a twitter account #eurovision

United Kingdom
I Can / Blue

jamesup: I can! I will!

idiaz: I can.. I will ... mute this song. #esc

JWhatX: I hope they don’t piss this song against the wall #eurovision

ajmy: What is with the Grindr pics in the background? #esc

MatthewWells: Glad to see Blue playing to their strengths #pecs

Soeno: Europe has vote for Blue solely on Simon Webb’s muscles alone. Hot hot hot. #eurovision

DavidAllenGreen: Bless, they’ve even got little blue suits on so we can remember their name. #eurovision

HilaryAlexander: Loving Blue’s tough tux look at Eurovision

DrSamuelJohnson: Oikish Mummers BLUE do perform dress’d for NAPOLEONS’s Retreat from Moscow #eurovision

travelling_wolf: Blue can’t. #eurovision

So Lucky / Zdob și Zdub

pauljchambers: Speechless #eurovision #Moldova


robin_intheuk: OMG!! Beastie boys with bizarre pointy hats #eurovision *sniffs wine for possible sabotage*

SplashMan: Madonnas Bra #Eurovision

thisisdavid: There are NOT enough unicycles in #Eurovision #Moldova

interactivemark: HOW THE FUCK DO YOU NOT VOTE FOR MOLDOVIA?!?! Fetch me my phone boy... #eurovision

Taken By A Stranger / Lena

travelling_wolf: The feeds to Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain replace this song with a video of Angela Merkel talking about bail outs... #eurovision

Charles_HRH Calm down Harry. That isn’t Pippa. #eurovision

Ewan RT @willhowells: Seriously, Lena, don’t do a song about it, REPORT IT TO THE POLICE. #eurovision

stebax: Tainted Love without the good bits.

DavidAllenGreen: Damn, she has trousers on this year. #Germany #eurovision

thisisdavid: The dancing sperms are fun. #Germany #Eurovision

JGONeill: Oh, that Teutonic humour! *slaps lederhosen*

Change / Hotel FM

DavidAllenGreen: This country used to produce vampires. Now crooners. Progress? Hmmm. #Romania #eurovision

NickiePhilbin: #tgesc #eurovision Is this the right time to announce I once slept with a Eurovision entry that came last - in every respect :(

The Secret Is Love / Nadine Beiler

PaulBurston: She makes Leonna look edgy

timlusher: My boyfriend’s verdict on Austria: “witness protection hair”

travelling_wolf: After the original Austrian act was in a tragic sausage accent it is lucky that the hotel receptionist was up for it. #eurovision

acediscovery: I live in an austrian household. We’re block voting for austria #tgesc

Running Scared / Ell/Nikki

edballsmp: The set for Azerbaijan has echoes of ELO ‘Out of the Blue’ live show ...

PaulBurston: I’m reminded of Lulu and Jason Orange

travelling_wolf: We should remember when watching this that there is nowhere in Azerbaijan to record music then hear it back. #eurovision

MatthewWells: The Azerbajani boy needs to ditch the tranny in the wedding dress

thisisdavid: google maps has gone down due to people finding #Azerbaijan #Eurovision

mrchrisaddison: This is like an ad for the First Class Lounge on Virgin Atlantic. #Eurovision

orbyn: The lady from Azerbaijan could be a relatively successful Shakira lookalike #eurovision

No One /         Maja Keuc

PRDH: Fuck me! It’s Xena, Warrior Princess!!

JWhatX: I’m running out of adjectives ; is Slovenia good? #eurovision

BevaniteEllie Destabilising... ! RT @IainDale: @edballsmp OMG. You’re scoring it too? I thought I was alone #moreincommonwithedballsthanithought

Queen_UK Edward is beside himself. He has that very outfit. #eurovision

Leanne_Cee #Eurovision Sorry Slovenia, but I just don’t think leather thigh boots are practical in this heat

thoroughlygood: I wouldn’t mind trying on SLOVENIA’s singer’s bodice for myself. You know. For research purposes. #eurovision http://bit.ly/lOEhA0

TheBuddhaSmiled: Steel reinforcements needed to hold up those Slovenian tits. #Eurovision

LeeBinding: The Aguilera cloning program is a SUCESS! #Eurovision

Ewan: Slovenia. Let’s just say only 17 women on the planet can wear boots like this. Brassy Shirly Bassy esque Maja Keuc is 1 of them, #eurovision

Coming Home / Sjonni's Friends

CllrTim: To think they used to arrive in longboats wielding axes, raping, pillaging.. Not sure if this may be worse.. #Eurovision #Iceland

ajscroxton: Too much comedy brass in Iceland #eurovision

JGONeill: hot gay action from the mumford and sons of reykjavik

Angel / Mika Newton

knitboy: My shoulders feel so bare after watching Ukraine - needs me some feathers #bbceurovision

jamesmoran: RT @jodiekearns: Sand painting is no unicycle. #eurovision

scottm: Get out of the way, dear, and let us see the artwork #Eurovision

maggiephilbin: RT @nickjbarlow If aliens landed in the middle of #Eurovision, would we notice? << only if they sang in tune

adventuresofboz: She is basically warbling in front of a screensaver, isn't she. #eurovision

Čaroban / Nina

maleo: 60s-FABULOUS! They’ve been holding onto those dresses since we sent them over in ‘78 though...

edballsmp: Well well @iaindale - Serbia in a late dash for the line - good #Eurovision song

BevaniteEllie: Just laughed out loud! RT @tom_watson: I’ve temporarily unfollowed @edballsmp #Eurovision

MmeGuillotine: Did they even have the 60s in Serbia? #eurovision


photo by hedgiecc

DavidAllenGreen: At the very doors of Hell, Beelzebub will undoubtedly say “let’s remind ourselves of the #Eurovision entries again”.

LeeBinding I’m horrified to look at my scoresheet and see #Jedward is my favourite. My world is falling off its axis.

owenblacker: Hey, finance guy at RTÉ. You hear that cheer for #Jedward in the auditorium there? Hahahahahahahahaha #esc2011

tomroyal: Hurrah! Am reliably informed that the one-wheeled drug gnomes were the best. Whoever the hell they were.

indiaknight: Lordy. #Moldova

orbyn: I’m going to vote. I’m going to fucking vote. I can vote, I’m an adult, I’ve had vodka. It’s fine #eurovision

jonwillchambers: Not a clue who’s going to win. Amazing voting coming up #eurovision

MacPsych: Denmark on top. Ph’narr... #ESC2011

LeeBinding: Come on Blue! Well, Duncan definitely. #Eurovision

Queen_UK: 2 points from Iceland. One is not knocking that off your bill. Get fishing. #eurovision

scottm: So Blue are currently 5th, which is where Jade Ewen finished. Expect Duncan to join the Sugababes any day now #eurovision

JGONeill@stevyncolgan yes olympics + diamond jubilee + eurovision = George Osborne found hanged in No 11

Syniq: THEY’RE BANKRUPT! THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT!!!! #eurovision #Jedward

AngryBritain: I can’t, I won’t, you know, we’ll lose #bbceurovision

travelling_wolf: Let’s hope four points from Greece is enough for Ms Merkel. #eurovision

Simmsey: The French. 1 point. Close the tunnel

ajscroxton: Don’t look so happy, Bosnia. Serbia’s only giving you 12 points because they want you back. #eurovision

bbceurovision: Ireland only gave Denmark 12 points because they have the same hair as Jedward...

Queen_UK: Your interest rate has just gone up by 200% Ireland. And one’s coming over next week to collect. #eurovision

travelling_wolf: At the end of this Jedward won’t be allowed to leave Germany for ‘financial reasons’ #eurovision

ajscroxton: I want Italy to get this so bad. Berlusconi to do the halftime show next year! #eurovision

The Winner - Azerbaijan
Running Scared / Ell/Nikki

Running scared to Azerbaijanphoto by CharlesFred

squawkbox: I’m very pleased for Azerbaijan. They have tried so hard since entering a few years ago. #eurovision

manx_maid So next year Europe will extend to a mere 1000 miles or so from the Chinese border !! #eurovision

acediscovery: The only thing I liked about the azerbaijan song was that the video had cable cars in it #tgesc

owenblacker: Sweet Jesus, put the big glass trophy down, pretty Azeri boy! #esc2011

jackyrabbit: Ok actually seeing them fight for that trophy while singing made it all better #eurovision

ajscroxton Time to continue my annual tradition of listening to Katrina and the Waves at this point #eurovision

FAULTYCAPSLOCK: The Reptiles fixed Eurovision.

All photos © Pieter Van den Berghe (EBU) except where otherwise stated.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eurovision: The 2011 Final

So, most of Europe reached for their atlases last night - where exactly is Azerbaijan again? That’s right, next year Europe will extend to within 1000 miles of China, and only a hop away from Iran!

Sundip: More people from within the Europe Union voted for the winning Azerbaijan group than for the President of the EU! #Awkward

Apart from worries over the state of hotels and gay rights in Azerbaijan, the European television companies will no doubt sigh with relief - Azerbaijan is one of the few countries rich enough to stage the competition in the current economic climate, and they are absolutely desperate to do so. Should be mega - expect something to rival Moscow in 2008.

Seriously, Azerbaijan deserves big congratulations for their winning song “Running Scared”, sung beautifully by Ell & Nikki, who had such great performance chemistry. It was also highly amusing watching them fight over who got to hold the trophy in close-up while singing their reprise.

I really should have placed a bet, shouldn’t I? - A first or top three for both Azerbaijan and Sweden would have been the ticket. The joker in the pack was Italy - coming up from absolutely nowhere (and against everyone’s expectations for a sophisticated jazz number) to finish second.

Poor Blue finished 11th, and behind Jedward too - so a pretty miserable finish for the UK, albeit vastly better than the ‘nul points’ we are used to from previous years.

My head is still buzzing, but here are a few initial conclusions:

1) The bookies can get it so wrong! - France was a massive favourite for months during the build-up, only to disappear in the voting. Poor Amaury Vassili must have been devastated.

2) Opera and show tunes do not work. Not for Amaury Vassili, nor for Norway last year, or the disco-fied opera Sweden did the year before that. The UK did best in this genre in recent years with Jade Ewan’s Andrew Lloyd Webber number, which finished 5th.

3) Despite Eurovision having a huge gay signature, Gay Anthems paradoxically don’t work either. Sweden never had success with their past entries in this genre; Iceland got nowhere last year; Malta didn’t even qualify this year; and Hungary - a really storming anthem and another bookies’ favourite to boot - finished well down the header board this year.

4) What does work? - Good-looking cute boys have won very frequently in recent years, but the song has to appeal too. Josh Dubovie was cute, but his song was awful. And Jedward’s talents were flattered by an excellent pop tune and hugely sophisticated production.

5) Is Eurovision getting boring? A twitter friend expressed regret this year twitter lacked the bright banter of previous years. He suggested it was because there were so many more people tweeting now that the wittiest gems get lost in the electronic blizzard. There may be something in this; I think however it is also the case that the competition is evolving and the Eastern European countries are all now capable of producing respectable attempts - there was a total lack of unintentionally funny acts this year (cf Armenia & Ukraine a few years back). The ‘funny’ acts were all knowingly, calculatedly funny - Moldova just as much as Ireland (both the UK’s highest scoring countries).

Tweets, yes, I have to say there were fewer that caught my eye, so I don’t know if I will continue my tradition of tweet digests next year.

6) Where to now for the UK? The poor BBC must be at its wits end. Maybe do an Italy and take a break for decade or two?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Eurovision 2011: My Favourites and Picks

The running order for tonight:

1. Finland

2. Bosnia & Herzegovina

3. Denmark

4. Lithuania

 5. Hungary

6. Ireland

7. Sweden

8. Estonia

9. Greece

10. Russia

11. France

12. Italy

13. Switzerland

14. United Kingdom

15. Moldova 

16. Germany

17. Romania

18. Austria

19. Azerbaijan

20. Slovenia

21. Iceland

22. Spain

23. Ukraine

24. Serbia

25. Georgia

I will be waving the flag for Blue tonight, but they do have stiff competition and this is Eurovision, so anything could happen!

Blue is the first UK entry for very many years that I wholeheartedly feel has a chance. The band has also been working the build up in very professional manner. Win or lose I hope they do well out of it.

My big worry is Eric Saade from Sweden. A part of me really hates this, as Sweden had a much more adventurous and better song last year: they’ve just been utterly cynical this year, giving the punters a bit of what they want! Eric is handsome and engaging and will no doubt win over many many fans. Another Aleksander Ryback?

My favourite song of the whole competition is What About My Dreams, sung by Kati Wolf for Hungary. Unfortunately, Kati’s performance on thursday was somewhere below her best, and unless she can rise to the occasion tonight I doubt she will win. I’ll be thrilled if she does, though.

Jedward are amazing! It will be a laugh if they win with Lipstick for Ireland, and much of Europe may feel the same on the night. This strategy certainly worked for Lordy.

Alexei Vorobiov from Russia was also an early favourite of mine with Get You (his song about Gypsy grabbing), but the buzz seems to be fading away around his act. Can Russia do it again?

The big five are really mounting a strong fight back: Amaury Vassili from France has got an amazing tenor voice matched with amazing looks and seems to have taken Europe by storm. He’s been the bookies’ top favourite from the beginning and could easily storm away with the prize with Sognu.

Azerbaijan’s Ell & Nikki impressed strongly with their live performance of Running Scared on Thursday. Azerbaijan always seem to be bookies’ favourites and this could be their lucky year.

A special mention for Lena with Taken by a Stranger - I don’t think Germany expect to win twice running with the same artist (and I would be hugely surprised) but this is a lovely, haunting song and the video is gorgeous - huge plaudits to Lena and Germany.
Well, Good Luck UK’s Blue! Only a short wait until we find out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eurovision 2011 Semi-Final #2

So, last night was the second Eurovision semi-final in Dusseldorf!

squawkbox: *dashes back to flat for #eurovision semi final 2*

squawkbox: Fanfare! Eurovision semi final 2 has started #eurovision

HotLabour: If France wins, I'm switching back to freedom fries. #Eurovision #ESC11.

JayRow: Oh Christ, 30 seconds in and I think the Irony App on my iPhone just crashed.... #eurovision

nickminers: Dammit you’re all watching #eurovision instead of looking at my lovely photos http://bit.ly/lqmBVu

mrchockabloke: I've watched the Eurovision semi-finals. Prefer to save myself for the full horror that is the final.

The ten lucky countries going through to the grand final tomorrow are:

Bosnia & Herzegovina










As usual, I’ve compiled a taster of tweets from the evening. One of my favourite tweeters, thoroughlygood, was strangely absent from my twitter stream. I discovered later this was because he was actually in Dusseldorf Stadium! He provided a great audioboo which captures the highly-charged stadium atmosphere:


The evening was the story of two sets of twins. Unfortunately, Eurovision couldn’t ultimately handle both pairs and the lovely Twiins from Slovakia had to leave the competition. Jedward from Ireland, however, stormed through to the finals with one of their best performances ever. Both pairs inspired huge numbers of tweets from their admirers and detractors, and Jedward’s haircuts proved strangely trend-setting amongst the contestants.

edwardclarke: Belgium is very distinctive. That's a plus #eurovision

handbagpets: @edwardclarke that is possibly...the only plus?

edwardclarke: ooh gorgeous legs, Slovakia #eurovision

nok32uk: Two mini-Geri Halliwells dipped in gold #eurovision #esc2011

ScotDale: The Slovakian Twins really are identical! #Eurovision.

feggie: Go Twiins. The slovakian Jedward but more fuckable. Audience like them, me too. #Eurovision

vikkiharris1976: #EuroVision (Slovakia) Ha Ha! Not trying to sell sex at all! Certainly aint there for their vocal talents! #BitchyMe

Zipacna_42: OOh! it's the other twins! The attractive #Slovak ones! #Eurovision


CornishCalzone: Moldova = the motherfucking best #eurovision

scattermoon: Moldova: it's like the Smurfs on acid #eurovision (and it's awesome!)

squawkbox: POPULAR #eurovision

HotLabour: Saade on my face and tell me that you love me. #Eurovision #ESC

owenblacker: I'll have two, thanks, delivered to my room. Don't bother gift-wrapping #Sweden #esc2011 #bbceurovision

owenblacker: I think, performing in front of most of the gay men of the Western world on Saturday, you will indeed be popular #esc2011 #bbceurovision

robitito: By far the best so far. #Sweden #eurovision And they've got a key change.

owenblacker: O HAI! #Cyprus #esc2011 #bbceurovision

Soeno: I'll have the one in the rear! So to speak #Cyprus #bbceurovision

ms_cornwall: OMG the outfit is a killer #ESC #Slovenia

PRDH: This woman is the spiritual successor to the slutty Roman soldiers that the Ukraine had last year. #eurovision

gooneruk: Good BOOTS from Slovenia #eurovision

owenblacker: Instant favourite RT @lordofmisrule: It's alright, I know how defeat her. Does anyone have any stairs? #eurovision

grwndi: Oh how clever! They've kept all the Stupid Hairstyle Acts until the end. #bbceurovision

SequinedShoes: i want #jedward hair. badly. #bbceurovision.

Dr_PaulC: Lead singer of Demark looks like a rather fit version of Jedward grr! #bbceurovision

prlivesey: Jedward should sue for haircut copyright violations. #bbceurovision #denmark

ScoobyDoofus: Considering they're twins, Jedward are REALLY out of sync with each other! #eurovision

LandersIE Hunter: So after months of rehearsal #Jedward are STILL out of time and tune. #Eurovision

fechtech: FANTASTIC performace JEDWARD! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! #bbceurovision

Daniel_Penfold: It's a real talent to not be in time with the beat, your twin or yourself #jedward #bbceurovision

memyselfandjohn: #bbceurovision proof Europe has no musical taste, as the wrong twiins go through!!

johnmanthorpe: I don't know what to do now it's over? Puff. Wrestle a giraffe? #bbceurovision #eurovision

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ai Weiwei - Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads

Ai Weiwei's magnificent ceramic sunflower seed installation at Tate Modern has just ended, and today his first monumental bronze outdoor installation, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads opens to the public in the courtyard of Somerset House, having just been to New York and Sao Paolo.

"Designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits serving in the court of the Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong, the twelve zodiac animal heads originally functioned as a water clock-fountain, which was sited in the magnificent European-style gardens of the Yuanming Yuan. In 1860, the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged. In re-interpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on questions of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the “fake” and the copy in relation to the original."

The installation is a real triumph - very imposing physically, and richly layered conceptually - a wonderful icon of the way cultural exchanges happen through the centuries. It can only add to this most prominent contemporary Chinese artist's global reputation.

So it is absolutely extraordinary that at this exact moment the Chinese authorities have chosen to 'disappear' the artist - he hasn't been seen or heard of since the 3rd of April when he was arrested while boarding a flight to Hong Kong.

Gwyn Miles, Director of Somerset House Trust, has issued this statement:
"Like everyone who admires and respects the work of Ai Weiwei we are dismayed and aggrieved by the news that he has been detained by Chinese authorities. We deplore the actions taken against Ai Weiwei and his friends and colleagues, and indeed any curtailment of individual’s human rights. We are very concerned about their safety and wellbeing and ask for information on their whereabouts to be released and them not to be detained without a fair trial."

"Ai Weiwei has chosen and approved the installation set up for Circle of Animals at Somerset House and the works have already been shipped to the UK. The sculptures will be installed as planned and Circle of Animals will open to the public on 12 May. We believe that more than ever, his work should be seen and appreciated by as many people as possible."

Anish Kapoor, one of our leading sculptors, has issued a call to action by artists and the world's cultural organizations:

"As a colleague – I don't know him personally – I feel that as artists we have a communal voice and it's important that we stick together, that we have a sense of solidarity with each other," he said.

"It would be nice to see the art world come together a little more. Perhaps all museums and galleries should be closed for a day across the world. I think some such campaign needs to form itself."

Kapoor said the Chinese state's behaviour was reminiscent of the Soviet era, when "the voice of artists of different kinds was seen as being dangerous".

He added: "It does bear witness to the barbarity of governments that if they're that paranoid they have to put away artists. It's a ridiculous situation."

The situation is very distressing. China should view this artist as a tremendous asset to its image and growing cultural reach in the world.

I do recommend popping along to the exhibition at Somerset House. I particularly enjoyed they way they have chosen to exhibit the scultures next to fountains, as an echo of how the originals were designed to be viewed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eurovision 2011 Semi-Final #1

.photo © Alain Douit (EBU)

And the competition has begun! Tonight saw ten countries proceed to the finals, and the hopes and dreams of another nine dashed. Amongst them was the wonderful Stella Mwangi of Norway with Haba Haba - such a pity.

My favourite, a rather nervous Kati Wolf for Hungary with What About My Dreams wasn’t up to her peak vocally but looked amazing in an asymmetrical turquoise mini, and more importantly got through. Alexey Vorobiof from Russia also made the cut. My guilty pleasure Turkey dropped, as did Armenia (a stunning effort). This means the large diaspora vote for both countries will not affect the final unduly.

Azerbaijan as ever had a very popular number. It grew on me in performance - this might actually be a contender. Unless Kati finds her voice sadly I doubt she can win, as storming a tune as What About My Dreams is. And of course the UK holds thumbs for our brave boys Blue with I Can (as one of the big five we are automatically in the final)

And the winners are:


These tweets caught my eye:

Ewan Tonight's Eurovision drinking game is simple (as always). Drink on a pyrotechnic effect (warning, Azerbaijan might kill you)

Con_Dem_Nation why are people watching eurovision when they don't have to?

MrLondonStreet Surely it's crazy that you can vote in #eurovision before you've heard all the songs? Anyone would think people choose on nationality alone.

HotLabour It's no single ladies is it?

squawkbox No number of flames will help her! *drinks Irn Bru* #eurovision

MrLondonStreet This Armenian entry is quite spellbindingly dreadful. Exactly what Eurovision should be about. #eurovision

Daaniellle Turkey, ever heard of a band called The Darkness? #eurovison #turkey

miketd Would I enjoy Eurovision more if I got very very drunk, very very quickly? Desperate times call for desperate measures...

taylorjauk #Eurovison San Marino is this a real country???

KathrineHoegh #eurovision semifinals. The only think worse than the #eurovison finals.

bryanboy BF on Croatia: "I'm suffering!!"

thoroughlygood Look. At the size. Of. That. Rock. #Eurovision #esc2011 #Hungary

nickminers Uh oh. There's a program on the telly that I don't like but loads of people are Tweeting about it.

benlocker Portugal has gone mad. #eurovision

MrLondonStreet Oh dear, Finland. James Blunt meets Zak Goldsmith (and it's even more horrendous than that description suggests). #eurovision

Con_Dem_Nation Does anyone know how much is spent on Eurovision and what the financial benefit of it is? There's a saving right there!

thoroughlygood Somebody's welding. #Azerbaijan

MrDuncanJames So far loving hungry and Azerbaijan and they both got the biggest cheers here in dusseldorf stadium!

stebax Shit. Missing some stellar badness from Portugal in Eurovision! I'm hearing great things about them

Celiaka What's up with all the dresses this evening? They only have one sleeve. Austerity measures? #eurovison

squawkbox I'm in love with CHEW #armenia #eurovision

Bluesilvahalo YAY! #Azerbaijan is trending! I know a good crap eurovision song when I hear it!!

Microphonunlock Norway goodbye ... Europe sucks!!

redexile These are the *top* ten finalists? #eurovision

tiza_ GO BLUE!!! #eurovison

Twitter exploded with hard-core Eurovision tweeting. However, there was some stiff competition, as this tweet attests:

Jason_Cobb #apprentice reminds me that capitalism isn't working, Comrades.