Archived entries for

British Sporting Success

After more British success in the 2013 Tour de France, Mark Perryman, editor of a new book on last year’s London 2012 looks at what it means to a collective national identity.

A British encore in the Tour de France. Not even a sniff of winning the yellow jersey for 99 years, now we have two in quick succession. On the same day England pile up the runs at Lords to go 2-0 up in an Ashes series, for the first time since 1979. Add Andy Murray at Wimbledon ending the 77 years of hurt since the last British man won the singles title at our ‘home’ Grand Slam and the Lions tour victory down under, their first since 1997. Plus golfer Justin Rose winning the US Open, the first Englishman to win a major since 1996. 2013 already has all the signs of repeating what seemed to be an unbeatable 2012 summer of sport, topped of course by Team GB finishing third in the London 2012 Olympic medals table. Continue reading…

The Machine

The Machine

A play about chess and computers doesn’t, on the face of it, sound as if it would provide much potential for nailbiting drama. But those who decided on these grounds to give The Machine a miss should be kicking themselves. It’s a gripping piece of theatre, brilliantly written and featuring outstanding performances from the two leads.

Running for 11 nights at the Manchester International Festival before it transfers to New York, The Machine focuses on the famous 1997 six-game chess match between the charismatic Russian Garry Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue, designed by Taiwanese computer scientist Feng-hsiung Hsu. With the audience playing the role of the studio audience for the televised show-down, the action begins with the first game, and we return to the match repeatedly throughout the play, alternating with perfectly paced flashbacks that explore each man’s past and the immense personal and emotional sacrifices each made in the build-up to the historic contest. Continue reading…


Arguably the most hotly-anticipated jewel in the Manchester International Festival’s crown, Macbeth, starring Kenneth Branagh in the title role and jointly directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, sold out in a mere nine minutes when tickets were released back in January, even before the venue for the production had been announced.

As it turns out, it’s staged at St Peter’s, a deconsecrated church in the central Manchester former industrial district of Ancoats. The audience are required to collect their tickets from another location beforehand so they can be assigned a ‘clan’ (a slightly twee gimmick that I couldn’t really embrace) and escorted in groups to St Peter’s itself. Continue reading…

Summer Days – Why Sport Matters

Editor of a new book which reminds us why sport matters, Mark Perryman explores the collective national investment in The Ashes, Andy Murray and the British Lions in the sporting summer of 2013.

The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people” – Eric Hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm’s acute observation concerning the impact of sport on national identity has been carted out so often that it is in danger of descending into becoming a cliché. Yet its enduring currency is reinforced by the fact that Monday after last weekend’s miracle of British sporting success at both ends of the global hemisphere commentators and politicians were scrambling to stake a claim for what the Andy Murray and Lions victories tell us about Britishness. Continue reading…

Bruce Springsteen Olympic Park 30 June 2013

Bruce Springsteen by Lilly Allen for The Substantive (portrait)

Fifteen days before a swift return to London, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played the whole of Darkness on the Edge of Town, the second part in a wonderful three-act performance at Wembley Stadium; it is an album he has described as having the toughest songs he had at the time, uncompromising in the spirit of the emerging punk music of the day and still what he sees as the essence of the band. London and Wembley Stadium were privileged.

With a deserved reputation for being flexible there was little doubt the headline performance at the newly opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for Hard Rock Calling would bring a few different songs from an amazing back-catalogue than those at Wembley and it turned out to be another album show, this time with the back-to-back tunes of Born in the USA in the middle of the set. Continue reading…

Hard Rock Calling Kasabian Weller The Twang

The Olympic Park opened as music venue on Saturday 29 June 2013 as the new host for the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, with the first day full of guitar based acts including Kasabian, Paul Weller, The Twang and The View.

For all the written words, radio documentaries and television seasons about ignored and neglected communities there is one tribe who still seem to have been treated as invisible for years: the British indie music fan. With original independent music hijacked as a vehicle for bland, middle-of-the-road music marketed to masses of bed-wetters there has been little both original and sensational in the indie bucket in UK in the last ten years, with the exception of the Arctic Monkeys; so, it is no surprise that when The Stone Roses return they are celebrated like a literal resurrection and that even the Saturday at Hard Rock Calling 2013 is pounced upon like a rubber bone thrown in the direction of a starving dog.

There is no Arctic Monkeys, who headlined Glastonbury the previous night, but instead four stages of decent enough music with a number of acts who all have elements of a passionate following. It was far from a sell-out and there were many tickets given away free by organizers who wanted both a spectacle and a captive audience for their £5 pints but  many were there primarily for the bands.

The day attracts lots of people who want to believe in the music, many of whom, throughout the day, spend much of their time turning away from the stage to intently sing the lyrics to the person they are with; they range in ages, from the young who weren’t around in the early nineties, to those who probably not only bought Style Council records on release, but now have haircuts for which their faces look slightly too old. Continue reading…

Confederations Cup: The Final

In his final piece on the 2013 Confederations Cup, Tom Bodell reflects on a stunning 3-0 victory for host Brazil over reigning World Champions Spain.

Just shy of one month ago, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil hosted Roy Hodgson’s England in the grand re-opening of the famous Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro. The build-up had all been focussed on Brazil and stressing just how out-of-form the Selecao were. Twenty-eight days later and the same Brazil under the stewardship of the same wily old coach have hosted and won a successful Confederations Cup, with just over a year until the World Cup kicks off next summer. Continue reading…

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