Category Archives: Culture

MPs should spend more time in front of the dispatch box, not the gogglebox

Photo - Helen CattThe Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, has today spoken out against the eviction of Laura White from last week’s X Factor.

The 21 year old singer from Bolton had been tipped to make it all the way to the final.

This is a matter of enormous national importance, a travesty of justice that should not go uncorrected by the highest powers in the land.

And why has he stopped there? Where is his mighty stand against the towering wrong that put Rachel Stevens in the bottom two on Strictly Come Dancing?

Or his raging condemnation of the cruel regime of Dancing on Ice which imposes a four-hour daily workout routine on helpless Emmerdale Star Roxanne Pallet?

If not Burnham, what MP will stand up for the downtrodden rejects of reality TV?

Oh, sorry Lembit, I forgot about you.

Reality Politics

Actually, Burnham’s comment was a quip designed to make a point.

And a very good point it was too.

Saying that MPs are often tempted to talk about what they wanted to see on the small screen, he added:

“Mainly we should resist that temptation to comment on editorial matters.”

Here, here Minister.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron’s recent comments on the Ross-Brand-Sachs scandal were, in my view, totally out of place.

I would expect the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to be concerning themselves with far weightier matters in a time of financial crisis.

Yes, the BBC is publicly funded but it is not a Government body and its editorial judgements should not be a matter for Parliament.

Getting involved just smacks of taking gratuitous pot shots or worse, an attempt at being ‘down with the people’ – a form of political ‘Dad-dancing’.


Unfortunately, Burnham’s excellent point got buried by his subsequent addition:

“Although the temptation is great in my case having seen the wonderful and talented Laura White very harshly voted off X Factor on Saturday.”

Cue such headlines as ‘Culture Secretary Andy Burnham Slams Laura White’s X Factor ejection’.

Oh dear. The age of irony is dead.

I’m a Politician, Get Me Out of Here

Still, it looks like there could soon be even more reason for the Rt Honorable members to be tuning in.

John Sergeant, the BBC’s erstwhile Political Correspondent, is still affably tangoing his way through Saturday nights with all the grace of a crippled rhino.

And today The Sun announced the new line-up for I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Wending their way toward a bush-tucker trial will be former Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick and ex UKIP MP Robert Kilroy-Silk.


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A Rankin photoshoot? Yours for £20

Renowned photographer Rankin, who has taken the portraits of celebrities from Kylie Minogue to the Queen, today offered his photographic skills to the public – for just £20 a time.

Isobel Smith gets the Rankin treatment

Rankin fans queued outside the National Theatre on London’s South Bank to have their portrait taken against his trademark white background.

Isobel Smith, 26, from London was one of those to get the photoshoot experience.

She said:

“It was pretty amazing. I was a bit nervous but excited at the same time”

Another person waiting her turn was Jessica from Canada. She told Don’t Know? that she was excited about getting her picture taken by the celebrated photographer.

“I mean, how often do you get that chance?” she added.

Congo Crisis

The event is being held on behalf of Oxfam, with all proceeds going to the charity.

Rankin explained:

“I’m down on the South Bank today because we’re seeing a catastrophe unfolding in Congo. I visited before the current crisis and even then the level of suffering there was horrendous. I hate to think what it’s like now”

Earlier this year, Rankin travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to photograph refugees in the country’s Mugunga camp.

'Jasmine, Photographer' by Rankin (courtesy of Oxfam)The resulting photographs are currently being shown in an exhibition called “Cheka kidogo” outside the National Theatre.

Cheka kidogo means ‘laugh a little’ in Swahili.

Rankin shot his subjects in his traditional celebrity style. He says:

“I think we have become anaesthetised to traditional photographs of conflict victims. By taking my celebrity portraiture style of photography and applying it to the survivors in the camps in Congo I have tried to get beyond the statistics and show the human side of the conflict”

Celebrity Conflict?

But is there a risk that the involvement of a fashion photographer could trivialise the conflict?

Sean Kenny, a Press Officer for the charity, doesn’t think so. He defended the partnership with Rankin:

“He can talk to people who we wouldn’t usually hear from”

This could prove crucial as Oxfam plans to expand its presence in Congo from helping 85,000 people to 200,000. Kenny says that this will cost an extra £1 million.

The Rankin event won’t have raised quite that much this time around; only about 35 people had signed up to have their photos taken by 12.30.

The principle behind it is sound though, thought one woman waiting to have her picture taken:

“If you appeal to people’s vanity,you’ll do well” she said.

For background information on Rankin, click here.

This article also appears as one of my contributions to Don’t Know? magazine.

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Review: Quantum of Solace. Bond is back – well, after the first half an hour

The name might be Bond, but for the first half hour of Quantum of Solace you could be forgiven for thinking it was Bourne…

The latest film in the series picks up shortly after the point where the excellent Casino Royale left off; a first for the 50 year old franchise.

And we join James slap bang (literally) in the middle of high-speed car chase around some perilous mountain roads.

It’s exciting, it’s fast and it’s unexpected.

But the problem is that’s all Bond does for the first thirty minutes: run around crashing/killing/chasing things.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I do like a little plot development between bust-ups. Or just anything to give a change of pace.


I have always liked Bond because he isn’t just an oaf who beats things up for a living.

Well, alright, he does. But at least he usually has a reason. And he does it with style. 

Now I have to admit that I had been anaesthetised into a stupor by the endless Bond-related adverts shown in the lead up.

This probably didn’t help.

But I honestly found I didn’t much care. Where is the wit? The charm? The plot?

Lost Plot-erty

Hold on Bond fans, it’s ok. He miraculously finds them in airport.

And from then on, the film is pretty much excellent.

Daniel Craig’s James is smarter, wittier and more intense than previous incarnations. His wry observations are clever rather than louche and his taut portayal sucks you in.

Craig also stacks up wonderfully against Judi Dench’s ‘M’. Their relationship is rocky yet touching and truly ‘sparks’.

Olga Kurylenko, too, is absolutely blistering (no tasteless pun intended) as Camille, the ‘damaged goods’ pursuing her own vendetta.

Her blending of a wild passion with a childlike view of the world creates a fantastically fragile character.


The plot, once it kicks in, is also in the realms of the believable. Well and truly gone are the days of the intergalactic giant lasers and tin foil space suits.

It’s good, it’s topical and it’s believable (if a little complex).

And there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the viewer interested.


There were a couple of disappointments though.

Gemma Arterton’s portrayal of prissy Agent Fields smacked a little too much of St Trinians for my liking.

It gave you the rather uncomfortable feeling that Bond had taken to knocking off the Head Girl in his spare time (perhaps there’s a lead for Charlie Higson’s next Young Bond novel….)

David Harbour’s Gregg Beam is also truly dreadful. An out of place stereotype in a movie that is as gritty as the desert it’s filmed in.

On the whole though, the film was a good watch. I’m not sure it quite lived up to my expectations but it has certainly whetted my appetite for the next.

With Bond’s personal vendetta out of the way, now we can hopefully see a return to something more akin to Casino Royale, with Craig’s fascinating portrayal of a compelling 007.


Highlight: Watch out for the comically juxtaposed svelte naked woman next to “and Judi Dench as M” in the opening credits!

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