The Sunday Seven.
Jenny Colgan.

Yes, Jenny Colgan!  I know!  I know!

How did you become a writer?

I tried lots of different things; stand up (awful), sketches for the BBC (no interest whatsoever), children's books (hmm). Writing novels was just the first thing that clicked, I failed at everything else.

What was your inspiration for Doctor Who: Dark Horizons?

Well I love the Lewis Chess men - there's some in the National Museum of Scotland and some in the British Museum and I was just fascinated by the fact that nobody knows how they got there. There are theories of course, but truly it's a mystery, so I thought the Doctor might want to find out.

What was the trickiest element to achieve?

This will sound odd, but in the tv shows everything is wrapped up in forty five minutes and they usually play in almost real time whereas the books take place over several days. This presents practical problems to do with meals, night time etc. Those were tricky.

Of everything you've done what have you been most pleased with?

I wrote a series of books about a boarding school under a pseudonym (Jane Beaton). They didn't sell well AT ALL, but I love them, they're kind of like Malory Towers for grown ups and remain the books I would most like to read if I wasn't me, if that makes any sense.

How much did you have to change your writing style to fit in with Doctor Who?

Not much, except it's a bit more adventurous and death defying. But really I feel my job is just to tell a cool story in a cool way, so the process didn't feel madly different. It was a bit odd writing for a character who exists physically though. Every time I see a picture of Matt Smith now I do a massive double take.

Who’s your favourite writer and why?

Ooh, there's so many, and I like different writers for different moods. I love Jon Ronson's general air of pathos; I love John Irving for his cheerful humanity. I love George Eliot for describing the world, and Douglas Adams for building it and James Heriot for being so kind towards it. I could go on and on and on, I really could. With a gun to my head I might suggest Philip Larkin had some kind of short cut to the essence of humanity not necessarily granted to the rest of us.

What stops you from feeling listless?

I never feel listless. I often feel jittery, if that helps. Let me see, I run a lot, I have three young children and I have three books coming out this year so I really don't have the time. If I'm ever in danger of feeling listless, I suppose I just remember how terrified I am of the zombie apocalypse, and that gets me back to jittery in no time.

Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by J.T. Colgan is published by BBC Books on the 5th July.

"it went to her Cruel Intentions co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar"

TV This Observer interview with actress Selma Blair's a feast, especially this paragraph which is brimming with trivia for fans of the old WB programming of the 90s:
"We joke about how things could have been different if she had not suffered early rejections, such as not getting the lead in Buffy the Vampire Slayer [it went to her Cruel Intentions co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar] or Joey Potter in Dawson's Creek. "There was me, Katie Holmes and Marla Sokoloff up for it," Blair explains, "and Katie got it, which was absolutely right – she was perfection. But I could be living in a castle right now, with Tom Cruise as my husband." Would she like that? "I would, because I have such a crush on him! Not as big a crush as I have on Bill Nighy. But I wish someone would jump on a couch for me…"
Selma Blair as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer?  This was presumably while they were making the pilot episode with the wrong Willow.  That's, well, that's, well, I'm not quite sure what that is.

use to the "print" version

Books  Not much to this other than the news that the dotEPUB extension in Chrome/Firefox saves web pages in eBook format and either ePub or the Kindle friendly Mobi formats.

It's not perfect.  It doesn't seem to like images and the formatting of the eBook does depend on how well the page is coded.

Plus you're advised to use to the "print" version of pages if available otherwise you'll have a document filled with comments "underneath".

But yes, that's a pleasant surprise.

Fact Liverpool’s new show The Humble Market: Trade Secrets

Art My afternoon, or at least the second half of it, was spent at the press preview for Fact Liverpool’s new show The Humble Market: Trade Secrets, a collaboration with Abandon Normal Devices, Derry City of Culture and We Play Expo, created by contemporary theatre company Zecora Ura - a collaboration between the artists Persis-Jade Maravala, Alatair Eilbeck, Jorge Lopes Ramos and James Bailey and part of the London 2012 Festival.

If that opening paragraph seems long on exposition but strangely low on detail, it’s because like last September’s AND collaboration ZEE, it’s best experienced with as few preconceptions as possible so if you are planning to attend stop reading now. Or at least the end of this paragraph. Trust me, you’ll thank me. All I’ll say is that like ZEE, it’s an exciting, psychologically profound adventure during which we’re forced to question our entire state of being, what makes us who we are. Now, stop!

this year's Africa Oye festival at Sefton Park in Liverpool has been cancelled

Liverpool Life Awful news. As the post title indicates, this year's Africa Oye festival at Sefton Park in Liverpool has been cancelled. We've watched the stage somewhat being erected during the day but while I was out doing something other than watching a stage being erected, it was quickly removed again as the rain descended and now the field looks like this:

A condition not at all conducive to having a major music festival.  Seven Streets has a statement.  On my way home, I met some people connected to the festival on the edge of the field and they suggested we all keep an eye on the Africa Oye website for news of a potential move to an indoor venue.

The Oxford Paragraphs:
Robert Louise Stevenson
Treasure Island

Books Never having been a fan of the pirate genre I entered communication with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, one of its pillars, with some trepidation especially since as the author’s biographer Claire Harmon notes like his Jekyl and Hyde, it’s so well known that it hardly requires being read at all, “Long John Silver is more real to most people than any historical buccaneer.” I’d like to offer a narrative of rediscovering the genre, but young Jim Hawkins is such a greedy, repellent narrator and the various pirates so difficult to understand and the story points so subtly telegraphed, I was less thrilled than appalled. That Silver and Gunn are the most entertaining figures it does go without saying, but as Harmon hints because their old bones have been resurrected so many times since, the original now seems prosaic and slothful. But such things are not Stevenson’s fault, of course.

Tate Liverpool’s new major summer exhibition Turner Monet Twombly: Later Paintings

JMW Turner, The Parting of Hero and Leander, exh1937, Tate, 2011

Art I saw Andrew Graham-Dixon this morning. The Culture Show frontman was leaning on the fencing at the Albert Dock in Liverpool gently chatting with a colleague/friend/who can guess and reader, I was star struck. Others are impressed when they see footballers, musicians and actors in the wild, but for me it’s arts presenters it seems (see also Mark Lawson), especially ones who’s programmes (BBC Four’s Art of here there and everywhere) have probably taught me large sections of what I know of the subject. As a rule, I don’t tend approach people I admire, it tends to be quite embarrassing, and I didn’t this time, because also apart from anything else the man was working.

Like me he was attending the press event for Tate Liverpool’s new major summer exhibition Turner Monet Twombly: Later Paintings. Though unlike me he was also interviewing Alexi Sayle for television. We’re instead making to with this. The third and final venue of the show’s tour (having previously visited Stockholm and Stuttgart), it’s a bit of a departure for this Tate which usually concerns itself with contemporary art and only rarely ventures chronologically before the twentieth century. Which isn’t to say that either Turner or Monet have little affinity within modern art circles. Both benefited from the growth of expressionism in the 1960s, especially Turner who pushed the landscape form into abstract areas.

At which point I should confess on first viewing, the very first walk around the exhibition, I didn’t “get” “it”. Never much of a fan of Turner, a huge fan of Monet, but never having even heard of Twombly, when asked by a press friend directly afterwards what I thought, I made a sound which spelt out probably looks like “ih”. On first inspection this seemed like a very good Monet exhibition constantly interrupted by Turners and Twomblys. Because objectively it is a very good Monet exhibition since for the first time in ten years it collects together five of his water lily paintings in close proximity, two of which haven’t been in this country before. There’s also Rouen Cathedral, a couple of his Waterloo Bridges and Matinee sur la Seine.

Claude Monet, The Water-Lily Pond (Le Bassin aux nymphéas) 1917-1919, Oil on canvas, 1000 x 2000 mm, Courtesy Albertina, Vienna

Not the chronology of the forming of that opinion is as linear as that paragraph suggests. I did notice that in the first exhibition space on the ground floor Turner’s The Parting of Hero and Leander is displayed directly opposite Twombly’s painting of the same name and that the overall shape of the latter, with its huge sweeping smudges of pink and white paint are informed by the overall structure of the former, both evoked in Monet’s nearby series Untitled (Porto Ercole), the often deadly elemental cocktail of earth, fire, wind and water. But I still found myself lingering over the Monets, his ability to capture the misty morning atmosphere of places I can only dream of visiting in stark contrast to the paradoxically, it seemed to me, the formal chaos of Turner's more familiar locations.

It wasn't until later, during a tour from curator Jeremy Lewison that I realised that of course my beloved Monet is being interrupted by Turner and Twombly, this is an exhibition which imagines a centuries long conversation between the three painters demonstrating that artists, for different, often very personal reasons, continually return to the same themes and techniques. When Turner paints Peace – Buriel At Sea to commemorate his friend painter David Wilkie who died from typhoid on the voyage back from Egypt, when Monet completes a series of Venetian paintings begun before his wife’s death and when Twombly is inspired by the funerary boats in Cairo Museum, they’re all wrestling in their own way with grief.

At which point, my “ih” became an “ooh” and it was almost as though the background chatter seeping into the space from other floors was the paintings themselves whispering their own points of view, and quite often in agreement with each other. In the Fire and Water section (the exhibition is thematically separated into seven sections) (plus a little shop) (I like a little shop) we see in Parliament, Burst of Sunlight, Monet attempting to show how the golden light of the sun bouncing across the Thames is refracted by the morning mist. He’s reacting to Turner’s own similar attempts and later Twombly (who included a Monet exhibition catalogue amongst his prized possession) continues the experiment.

Cy Twombly, Untitled 1987 (2), © Cy Twombly

In selecting works from the later periods, the curators, as the exhibition’s mini-guide explains, are capturing the moment when “the outward battles have been won” (presumably in relation to stylistic concerns) “but the inward battles commence”. The themes which connect these works have a funerial aspect. Of the three, Monet’s the artist with the clearest recognition of his mortality, losing his sight later in life which led to a much coarser approach to painting, the question being whether this necessary roughness as a result of his condition or a set of choices reflecting that condition.  Similarly, is the simplicity of Twombly's massive day-glo red and Camino Real series a result of his age?

But it has to be said, it’s Lewison’s talk which really helped to crystallise how these relationships work so I wonder if a visitor would be best not looking at the exhibition too closely at first and instead take the lift to the fourth floor and finding the small room in the middle of the exhibition space were the curator appears on video at one of the earlier vernues giving to camera what looks like a version of the same talk, about its inception as originally featuring Rothko until he noticed the closer connection between the current three, about his meeting with Twombly who explained that he owned letters from both the other artists which crystalised that connection and how the various themes developed and much more.

Only after that would I return to the ground floor and beginning with the Partings of Hero and Leander and work outwards. This is how I wished I’d approached the exhibition just as I wish I’d read this excellent piece by Michael Prodger from The Guardian which covers some of the same ground. But at least, though there isn’t much "least" about this, my appreciation of Turner has been irrevocably changed. I know now that he wasn’t some establishment figure, and that even in death, inscribing in his will that he wanted his unfinished works to be displayed with his finished paintings, he was directly confronting that establishment. As always happens when eavesdropping on the best conversation, I’ve learned something new.

Turner Monet Twombly: Later Paintings at Tate Liverpool opens on Friday and continues until 28th October.  £12 admission (concessions available).

The Sunday Seven.
Zoe Williams.

Zoe Williams is one of my favourite journalists and wrote the excellent 'Anti-natal' column for The Guardian during her pregnancy which has led to the book What Not to Expect When You're Expecting.

How did you become a writer?

I started off as an editorial assistant on the Evening Standard. These were the days when people thought you were fantastically clever if you knew how to save a word document and you could unblock a paperjam in the printer. If you could do all this and drink four pints at lunchtime, they thought you were a genius. I wheedled my way into writing about my drunk lifestyle, in a column called The Slut's Guide, but sincerely, my office skills were so advanced - not only could I save my own work, I also knew where the stationery was stored and what is meant by "Purchase Order" - that I think I should have aimed higher. I should have gone for leader writer or something. Anyway, for about ten years I wrote about being drunk. And then when I got pregnant, I had to find some other thing to write about (as a friend said when I announced it, "nobody's going to be cheering from the sidelines while a pregnant woman sinks her fifth glass of merlot"). Sorry, this sort of answers your next question, but I promise not to repeat myself.

Why did you write What Not to Expect When You're Expecting?

Well, good question, at the time that I wrote it, having been effectively pregnant for four years (give or take the months of breastfeeding in between), having put on and lost eight stone in four years (that's a totally irrelevant point, I just want people to stand back and go "wow. Eight stone. That's another whole adult"), I was totally assured of certain things: I thought there was a serious problem with the way pregnant women were addressed, the combination of incredible schmaltz (which I found alienating... I diidn't really feel anything for my children until they were out), paternalistic misinformation, a sort of nauseating maternal essentialism (where this moment of childbearing is taken as the true realisation of your femininity... which is a little reductive. And also patronising. And also not very sexy). Anyway, it seemed vital to me that I should rant about it at what I realise now is enormous length. In hindsight, I probably could have chilled out a bit.

What was the trickiest element to achieve?

I wanted it to be very conversational, memoirey, even - and it's not hard at all, creating something conversational, you just imagine yourself talking to a specific person, one who gets things but doesn't necessarily know everything you're about to say. But what was tricky, and what I think I ultimately failed at, was the gear change between the chattiness and the attempt at something more polemical, because I did, ahem, feel pretty polemical about a lot of things. But you know, you live and learn.

Of everything you've done what have you been most pleased with?

I ripped this idea off someone once... no, wait, she wasn't a journalist, she was an academic, who said "wouldn't it be interesting to...." and I thought, yes. It would. It's not like she would have done it herself if I hadn't. So anyway, the idea was to follow up people who'd been on the Jeremy Kyle show, and just see what had happened afterwards. How they felt they'd been treated by the show's producers, and how it had affected their lives. And I got some of the astonishing stories, both about what wankers these TV people are, how subtle but precise is the exploitation, and how it's generally not a great idea to open yourself up to public scrutiny, and what the ramifications might be. But also. the people I interviewed were, in the main, pretty upbeat about it, and all said things like, "well, yes, it was a bit cataclysmic and my family stopped talking to me/ I got arrested/ I got fired/ I got divorced/ my neighbours started crossing the road to avoid me, but I think it actually did me good in the end, for x reason..." I learnt a hell of a lot about human resilience, and heard five amazing stories.

You used to write a column for The Guardian called "Words that should be banned". Are there are new words you think should be banned? Why?

Almost everything the coalition government ever says, from "hard-working families" to "GP-led commissioning consortia" makes my blood boil. Seriously, every scrap of jargon has an agenda behind it, whether it's old-school Victorian moralising or just fogging public debate so that nobody knows what's going on.

Who’s your favourite columnist?

At the moment, I'm a huge fan of Aditya Chakraborty. Peter Oborne is great when he thunders, but can be contradictory, so you have to read him sporadically, not once a week, so that you can't remember what he said about the issue last time. Janice Turner has a really human voice, you can hear it in your ear almost. I always look forward to Caitlin Moran and Deborah Orr. John Crace is great. I like loads of columnists, actually. I like the first-person, I-just-trod-in-a-turd ones and I like the long-pedigree, Addison & Steele modelled political lambasters.

What stops you from feeling listless?

Triple espressos. The other day I drank so much coffee that my top lip went numb.

What Not To Expect When You're Expecting by Zoe Williams is out now from Guardian Books.

"bit of an A-List"

Audio Just posted on AudioGo's Facebook page is this list of readers for their new range of James Bond audiobooks. It's a bit of an A-List:
-Casino Royale read by Dan Stevens
-Live and Let Die read by Rory Kinnear
-Moonraker read by Bill Nighy
-Diamonds Are Forever read by Damian Lewis
-From Russia With Love read by Toby Stephens
-Dr No read by Hugh Quarshie
-Goldfinger read by Hugh Bonneville
-Thunderball read by Jason Isaacs
-The Spy Who Loved Me read by Rosamund Pike
-On Her Majesty's Secret Service read by David Tennant
-You Only Live Twice read by Martin Jarvis
-The Man With the Golden Gun read by Kenneth Branagh
Never mind who's in it from Doctor Who, who's in it from Die Another Day?  One woman, but what a woman.  Hello to Jason Isaacs.  For future instalments, can we please have Clive Owen, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Clare Corbett and David Morrisey?  Oh and Rufus Sewell?  He needs the work.

"challenging my abilities as an actor"

Film In this wide-ranging interview, Matthew Modine talks about all kinds of things, working with Kubrick, working with Oliver Reed, Bye Bye Love and generally comes across as an intelligent, self-deprecating type who understanding his place in the Broadway/Hollywood hierarchy. So much so that when he asked Chris Nolan about appearing The Dark Knight Rises:
"Actually, this time I contacted Chris myself and he said he was interested, so he said that I could put myself on tape if I wanted to and send it to him - and, of course, that was not about Christopher Nolan challenging my abilities as an actor, it was about me getting on an airplane and flying out to meet Christopher Nolan and look at what the opportunity was like to work with him on a film. You know, that’s what is really necessary sometimes - is to go and tell somebody that you want to work with them; so, that’s what I wanted and that’s what I did and that resulted in me getting to work with arguably one of the greatest directors making movies today on what I think is one of the greatest franchises in the business today."
There are probably a few actors who've been in the business as long as Modine, with his experience (Kubrick, Reed, Reiser) who would have baulked at a taped audition.  It's to his credit that he put the job first.  Hmm ...

"another variety of bad tweet"

About Oh God:
"Possibly it’s the automatism, the compulsiveness, that’s depressing. Because another variety of bad tweet is the one that would actually be pretty good if the tweeter hadn’t taken it upon himself to shtick-ify his personality. Thus a funny person, alive to the wisdom of building your brand, calcifies into a humorist, or a clever person into a witticist. It can be very amusing, Dickensian, when a fictional avatar has a narrow, caricatured personality: the girl who says, exclusively, shit girls say, or the tween hobo or out-of-touch masculine blowhard who is always true to type. It’s a lot less funny when a real person, supposedly the many-sided hero of his own life, decides to say only one sort of thing, and say it all the time."
I am now leaving the internet. I'll see you in the park.  I'll stand on the edge of a pathway screaming stuff instead.

"a coastal installation encircling the UK"

Art I've been sent the details for Peace Camp, a national art installation.  It sounds remarkable.  Here's the long and short of it:
"Something extraordinary is happening this year as part of the London 2012 Festival. Inspired by the Olympic Truce, whose roots date back to Ancient Greece, renowned director Deborah Warner has been commissioned to create a coastal installation encircling the UK in collaboration with actor Fiona Shaw.

"Eight murmuring, glowing encampments will appear simultaneously at some of our most beautiful and remote coastal locations, from County Antrim to the tip of Cornwall, from the Isle of Lewis to the Sussex cliffs. Designed to be visited between dusk and dawn, Peace Camp is a poignant exploration of love poetry and a celebration of the extraordinary variety and beauty of our coastline.

"Alongside the live installations, the project will also paint an audible portrait of the nation with the creation of a virtual Peace Camp online. The people of the UK are invited to nominate and record their favourite love poems and submit their own messages, creating an online anthology that celebrates our languages, dialects and accents as well as our rich poetic tradition."
The closest spot to Liverpool is Anglesey in North Wales (you can book a place here) (other venues listed here) but there loads of ways to participate on the website. The installation runs from 19-22 July and runs from 9:30pm to 5:30am each evening.

the back catalogue of the Children's Film Foundation

Film One of the pleasures of being a child of the 80s was Friday Film Special special strand on BBC One presenting the back catalogue of the Children's Film Foundation. Since then they've gone largely unseen but now we have the excellent news that the BFI have snapped up the worldwide rights to the four hundred works, added them to the archive and are to begin dvd releases and screenings:
"The first DVD release, pencilled in for July 2012, will be The Children’s Film Foundation Collection: London Tales, containing three London-based adventures; The Salvage Gang (1958), Operation Third Form (1966) and Night Ferry (1976).

"To launch the DVD series, The Salvage Gang and Operation Third Form will be screened at BFI Southbank in July with Krish, director of The Salvage Gang and its leading actors Frazer Hines and Amanda Coxell, on hand to introduce the films."
A prospective future release has to be The Boy Who Turned Yellow, the final collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. I'd love to see an extra with their uber-aficionado Martin Scorcese telling us what he makes of that.

some of the outlying spin-off material

Books The Doctor Who Merchandise site has a page up about the third edition of AHistory which answers all the questions I posted earlier and a few more. The new edition covers about fourteen hundred stories (over a thousand more than ever appeared on television). Here's the run down of what's in store:
"this Third Edition covers all Doctor Who TV episodes through Series 6 starring Matt Smith; all New Series Adventures up through The Silent Stars Go By (#50); the Big Finish audio range up through Army of Death (#155); all Torchwood episodes, novels and comics up through Series 4 (Miracle Day); all The Sarah Jane Adventures episodes, audios and webcomics up through Series 5; the K9 TV show; all Telos novellas; the IDW and Doctor Who Magazine comics; and a cornucopia of other Doctor Who spin-off series (the Bernice Summerfield novels and audios, Dalek Empire, Iris Wildthyme, Faction Paradox and more)."
Which does mean we're going to get some kind of authoritative answer to the Doctor Who during Torchwood's Miracle Day shenanigans and creating few more problems for themselves by including some of the outlying spin-off material.  Will that include Time Hunter?  Kaldor City?  P.R.O.B.E.?  The Minister of Chance?  The Stranger?  Either way, this is going to be an excellent way to spend my birthday money.  If I get any.