Thursday, 29 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part III)

Over the past four years – commencing with the huge amount of research I carried out to produce the Sustainable Tysoe? briefing paper (against the proposed Gladman development on Oxhill Road) – I have collated a large (digital) stack of documents dealing with various aspects of planning (specifically, neighbourhood planning) and development (not only of buildings, but of communities, of individuals, of neighbourhood resources). I have also contributed to this pile with the articles I have posted on my blog – The Bard of Tysoe – at least fifteen of which are responses to (mostly direct; although some do, admittedly, take a rather sideways glance at…) our parish’s various attempts to produce something resembling a neighbourhood (development) plan (NDP).

Great planning does not mean either “most restrictive” or “most laissez-faire”. It means creating the conditions for growth and change while maintaining a vision of the common good. It balances competing interests. It includes a grasp of the cumulative effect of individual decisions…. It can protect long-term benefits against damage from short-term profit. It has the ability to spot problems before they become crises and find a way to address them. It can review alternative approaches to an issue, such as population growth, and promote the best ones. It has clarity and consistency, so everyone knows where they stand. It has the ability to review the results of its own decisions, and learn from them. It is informed by knowledge, not guesswork. It is the result of genuine and transparent public debate.
– Rowan Moore: Boris, we agree London is a great city…

In my latest post on the subject – as it finally looked like there might be a version of the NDP submitted for examination (although not without a large amount of revision, and late-night cramming…) – I simply linked to these previous writings: as they (sadly, in the case of the ones offering constructive criticism) are still vitally relevant and pertinent (even those written three years ago). However, having all been ignored or denounced – and then summarily removed from the trail of documentary evidence that is needed to explain the evolution of the ideas captured within the Plan (as well as those so discounted) – I feel now is the time to collate (and, where needs be, summarize) their ideas in one place: not just to demonstrate how my prescience has, sadly, come to pass; but to use the inherent research and reasoning to explain, more thoroughly:

  • why I think the latest version of the NDP only narrowly fits that sobriquet or description;
  • why I (therefore) oppose it; and
  • how – had my writings (and, I suspect, others’) been heeded – residents could have contributed effectively to something more wide-ranging, more nuanced, more relevant, more complete, more useful (rather than – as with so much of the content – being paid lip-service).

Monday, 26 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part II)

As I pointed out in my previous post on the proposed Tysoe Neighbourhood Development Plan, my request for copies of the Representation Form in alternate formats for those of us who are disabled not only fell on fallow ground, but were deliberately deleted from the Tysoe Parish & Community website. As I cannot complete either the online form, or the paper one, I am therefore asserting my right – under the Equality Act 2010 – to provide my Pre-Submission Regulation 14 Consultation feedback in an alternate format – namely by way of this blog post, and all the other blog posts I have written on the subject, listed below:

Please note that should all these comments once more vanish into the ether, and not be appended as “evidence” to the version of the Neighbourhood Development Plan submitted for inspection, I shall ensure – through whatever channels are available to me – that they are put forward to the relevant bodies both as proof of long-term opposition to the Plan’s approval, methodologies and non-democratic nature; and as testimony to the fallacy of the supposed “consultation” that has been falsely promoted within the Plan itself (as most villagers would concur).

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In equal scale weighing delight…

Sometimes, rehearsals are even (or certainly seem, at the time, to be) more exciting than the actual subsequent concert: especially when they begin with a run-through of a new work you have become rather attached to – for its occasionally quirky, but heartfelt beauty; its extremely perceptive use of the chosen source material (and thus inspiration); and its composer’s utter belief in the almost supernatural talents of its commissioners – the transcendent Orchestra of the Swan – for whom no challenge seems insurmountable: no matter how complex it appears (at first, second, and third, glance) on paper. Not only do your not-quite-set ideas about the piece quickly gel; but unsuspected textures and emphases, themes and rhythmic conjunctions, emerge – especially with the insightful oversight of David Curtis: conjuring clarity and structure from what could easily be imagined as overwhelming and difficult. (You can hear all the extended time and major hard work he has spent in preparation emerging in the thoughtful instructions and discussions; can observe his willingness to listen and assimilate others’ needs and wants and ideas; you can almost grasp his ability to comfort and reassure.)

If there had been any disquiet or nerves beforehand, not only were they (almost) invisible, they must have soon evaporated, such was the apparent aplomb – and audible wonderment – building from the first bars, rapidly, into that trademark transparency and crispness (not to mention the resulting deeply-affecting emotions). As a result, queries were resolved in an instant; enthusiasm was piled upon contagious enthusiasm; balance was sought, and then quickly found; and (for lack of better words) the music caught fire!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part I)

Surprise ballot results are all the rage, it seems: deflating arrogance; defying expectation; demonstrating the real power of real people. Being at the heart of “the Shires”, huge local majorities for Brexit and a part-time, non-resident Tory MP (more interested in property and anti-environmental, non-executive, share-bearing, board positions) are givens… – however, as with last week’s General Election, seeing (what is now called) The Neighbourhood Development Plan – rather amusingly (as it covers the years 2011–2031) entitled TYSOE – A village for the 21st Century and Beyond – through to implementation (whatever that means) may not be so simple or predictable.

A few days ago, a piece of paper entitled “Save Upper Tysoe” fell through our letterbox. Yes – another campaign against another invidious building scheme: proposing another dense housing development in another unsuitable place. No – not by one of the accustomed large property developers or house-builders… – but as outlined by that aforementioned Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).

Yes – really.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

And the courage never to submit or yield…

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell
Pain, it appears, has no appointed programme; nor consequent sleep any scheduled assignation. Alive (afterwards) to the fact that I had spent too much of my day in writing – itself a diversion from the devouring distress of a deepening migraine, gnawing at my left eyeball like some resolute rodent after rotting fruit – it was, however, the subsequent clumsiness – born of fading concentration; my proprioception misty and maladroit (even at the best of times) – that was the crucial moment’s mainspring: an instant unwinding, a lightning strike cascading through my stricken, confounded limbs; rapidly unfurling its coercion, before reconvening all its clout, condensed, at the accustomed spot, speck… the spike where my circuits were sabotaged so very long ago.

What hath night to do with sleep?
No manner of oscitant opioid, lethargic anxiolytic, or torpid tricyclic would rid me of my wretchedness and wakefulness: an expected early night failing fast; successive struggles satisfying me that the only remedy – however short-lived – should be yet more distraction: my boots, recuperating by the front door, cajoling me, inveigling exercise and exploration; demanding to get back on my feet.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An old friend of OOTS…

Whilst writing the programme notes for the last concert to contain a commission written for OOTS’ 21st Anniversary seasonViola and Double-Bass Take Centre Stage! – I had a brief email conversation with composer Julian Philips: who has produced an immensely beautiful work, Ballades Concertantes, for solo viola, double-bass and chamber orchestra, as a companion piece to Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s Sinfonia Concertante for Double-Bass and Viola.

The words which follow are all Julian’s; the musical excerpts are the first lines of each of the four Machaut Ballades that inspired him.

Ballades Concertantes developed out of an engagement with two different historical traditions – the late-fourteenth-century Ballade of Guillaume de Machaut, and the later eighteenth-century sinfonia concertante, as developed by Haydn, Mozart or Dittersdorf. Machaut, because my recent opera The Tale of Januarie – based on Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale – had engaged with late medieval music; and the music of Machaut – who was the great figure of his day, and very much known to Chaucer – was still in the air. The sinfonia concertante, because David and the orchestra were keen to celebrate their twenty-first anniversary by reviving a form which gives solo spots to individual orchestral players. In this case, the viola and double-bass.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Aqui está encerrada el alma de .....

Yesterday was Elgar’s 160th birthday; and I was in need of a big dose of some of the big man’s big music. Fortunately (despite my friend Paolo – probably rightfully… – jokingly calling me a “traitor” for deserting the Orchestra of the Swan, serenading the so-called summer, at Armscote Manor…), the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) were at Malvern, celebrating, too!

Only his Violin Concerto had been listed originally; but the concert opened with a gem-like example of his ‘smaller’ music: the wonderfully enchanting Serenade for Strings. Just a tad uncertain, to begin with – despite a perfect opening entry from the violas – this soon gathered momentum, and the required relaxation, to become a rather lovely, and involving, performance. I had forgotten – despite experiencing the CSO’s magical renditions so frequently – how thick and rich symphonic strings can sound (on their own); and was momentarily flabbergasted. (To be honest, I prefer the sparseness and openness of the OOTS string sound – which I think is more suited to this work.) But the CBSO delivered the requisite amount of charm and affection – conductor Michael Seal gently and amiably swaying in time – to put a huge ear-troubling smile on my face! It also achieved its objective of immersing us flawlessly in an Elgarian soundscape and mood… – although nothing can really prepare you for the soul-plumbing depths of his most masterly masterpiece (see below).