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Lucy Caldwell wins BBC national short story award for ‘masterful’ tale

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Lucy Caldwell

Lucy Caldwell wins BBC national short story award for ‘masterful’ tale

Lucy Caldwell has won the BBC national short story award for her “masterful” All the People Were Mean and Bad, in which the mother of a young child takes a transatlantic flight after the death of a relative.

Exploring parenthood, marriage, kindness and the glimpse of an alternative life, the story was praised by judges for its “masterful storytelling”, “deep truthfulness” and “deft precision”. It draws its title from the Noah’s Ark picture book that Caldwell’s protagonist is reading to her 21-month-old daughter as she flies back to London from Toronto after her cousin’s funeral.

“All the people, it says, were mean and bad. Except for Noah. Noah was good, and because he was good, God saved him,” reads the mother, who hates the story but needs to keep her toddler entertained for “the remaining seven hours and 36 minutes of this flight” – and does so with the help of the kind, insightful older man sitting next to her.

“I wanted to write about the distance between where we come from and where we end up; between who we think we are and who we turn out to be. Between what we dream, and what we do,” said Caldwell. When writing the story, her influences included Frank O’Hara’s poem Sleeping on the Wing, Walt Whitman’s journey-poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Adrian Tomine’s Translated from the Japanese.

Caldwell likes to explore “in-between spaces” such as planes, airports or cars, “spaces where time seems to stop, or is elsewhere for a while – places or spaces of exile, of not-belonging, of longing, places where different paths, different destinations, momentarily seem possible”.

All the People Were Mean and Bad is taken from the collection Intimacies, and marks the third time the Northern Irish writer, who is also the author of four novels as well as stage plays and radio dramas, has been shortlisted for the award, which is run with Cambridge University. It beat works by Rory Gleeson, Georgina Harding, Danny Rhodes and Richard Smyth to win the prize, which is worth £15,000.

“I discovered Lucy Caldwell as a short story writer a decade ago. Since then, between bouts of novel-writing, Lucy has turned out a series of spellbinding short story collections, and now been thrice shortlisted for the BBC NSSA,” said judge Di Speirs, books editor at BBC Audio. “I’m delighted that one of our consistently accomplished and increasingly mature story writers, who is always so generous in her curation of others in the field, is this year’s very deserved winner of the award, which was set up to celebrate those creating the very best short fiction in the UK.”

Chair of judges James Runcie said: “Caldwell’s story has a confidence, daring and authenticity that is wonderfully sustained. All five of the stories on our shortlist were excellent, but this totally assured and moving piece of storytelling commanded the award.”

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Arts

FG Renames National Arts Theatre

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The Federal Government says the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, which is under renovation, will be known as Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre, upon completion.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this on Tuesday in Madrid, Spain while signing an agreement on Nigeria’s hosting of the first Global Conference on Cultural Tourism and Creative Industry.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports the bilateral agreement was signed between Nigeria and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) at the organisation’s headquarters.

Mohammed disclosed that the global conference, which would hold from 14 to 17 November, would be the first event to be staged at the newly refurbished edifice.

“Nigeria will be hosting the event at the National Theatre in Lagos, which is currently being renovated at a cost of 100 million dollars under a partnership between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee/Central Bank of Nigeria.

“It is the first of such renovation of the iconic edifice in over four decades.

“In addition to the renovation, new hubs are being constructed, within the premises of the National Theatre, for fashion, information, technology, film and music.

“With that, the National Theatre is now known as the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre.

“In addition, the Lagos surface rail system, to serve the National Theatre, will be commissioned ahead of the Global Conference,’’ he said

Mohammed said the signing of the bilateral agreement signified Nigeria’s commitment to host the event.

He, therefore, directed that the contractors handling the reconstruction project must ensure its prompt delivery for the global event.

The minister added that in an effort to ensure that the complex is ready for hosting in November, he recently undertook an inspection tour of ongoing work there with stakeholders.

The stakeholders on the inspection tour, according to the minister, were Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu; the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare.

According to the minister, there was every indication that the venue would be ready early enough to host the global conference.

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The Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Mr Ademola Seriki, who said he is a member of the Board of Directors of the company handling the reconstruction project, said the edifice would be completed before the global event.

Seriki, who accompanied the Minister to the bilateral agreement signing ceremony, thanked the UNWTO for giving Nigeria the right to host the maiden global conference.

He said the conference would bring a huge reputation to the country and assert Nigeria’s lead in music, theatre and other areas of entertainment in Africa.

The Director-General, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation, Mr Folorunsho Coker, was in the entourage of the minister.

The National Theatre, an iconic centre for performing arts, was established to preserve, present and promote arts and culture in Nigeria.

The construction of the monument was completed in 1976 in preparation for the Festival of Arts and Culture hosted in 1977.

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Stolen Roman statue returned to France after 50 years

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Stolen Roman statue returned to France after 50 years

Art detective Arthur Brand traced the statue to the museum when a client was offered it by an Austrian collector.

“Fifty years after a theft it’s unheard of that something comes back – normally it’s been destroyed,” he told the BBC.

The 40cm-high (15.7in) statue was dug up on the site of the Gallo-Roman village of Vertillum in eastern France in 1894 and years later featured in a Paris exhibition of France’s finest art pieces.

Bacchus
IMAGE SOURCE, ARTHUR BRAND: The statue was stolen in December 1973

When Mr Brand handed the statue back to the Musée du Pays Châtillonnais this week, director Catherine Monnet said she realised how much more beautiful it was than the copy that had been put on display.

The Dutch art sleuth, who has built a reputation for tracking down stolen masterpieces around the world, said the museum was “flabbergasted” when he told them he had traced their missing statue.

He described how he had been contacted by a client who wanted to know more about the statue after he was offered it by an Austrian collector, who had bought it legally and in good faith.

There were no databases in 1973 but Mr Brand eventually found a reference to it in an archaeology magazine dating back to 1927, and French police then found their report from the time of the theft.

“I contacted the collector. He didn’t want to have a stolen piece in his collection so he wanted to give it back, but French law dictates that a small amount has to be paid for safekeeping.”

That small amount in relation to the statue’s value is still a considerable sum of money.

While half was paid by the local authority in Chatillon, the rest was provided by an auction house specialising in ancient art in the English port town of Harwich. “The piece belongs in the museum so it’s only right people can get together and make that happen,” said Aaron Hammond of Timeline Auctions.

According to Mr Brand, the museum director cried tears of joy when she saw the statue: “I thought she was going to drop it she was so nervous.”

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Thierry Mugler, iconic French fashion designer, dies aged 73

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Thierry Mugler, iconic French fashion designer, dies aged 73

Mugler’s daring collections came to define 1980s power dressing, while he later dressed Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

French designer Manfred Thierry Mugler, known for the powerful-shouldered, cinch-waisted silhouettes that reigned over fashion in the 1980s, died on Sunday at the age of 73 of “natural causes”, according to his agent.

A former ballet dancer, Mugler’s bold collections – presented at highly stylised, themed runway shows – were at the forefront of the structured, decadent style that came to be known as “power dressing”.

“He was timeless and ahead of his time,” supermodel Jerry Hall – the face of his bestselling Angel perfume – said of the designer in 2019. “He knew all about gender fluidity and his clothes reflected the heat and sexuality of the late 70s and early 80s,” she told the New York Times.

Though Mugler retired from the label that bore his name in 2002, he did not give up on making clothes. He was responsible for Beyoncé’s science fiction-inflected Sasha Fierce looks in the late 2000s. He also created costumes for Lady Gaga and Cardi B. In 2019, he created Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala look, a latex dress dripping in crystals.

“We are devastated to announce the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler on Sunday January 23rd 2022,” said a post on the designer’s official Facebook account.

Born in Strasbourg in December 1948, he arrived in Paris aged 20 and created his own label “Cafe de Paris” in 1973, a year before founding Thierry Mugler.

The LGBTQ community was a frequent source of talent and inspiration for the designer. Mugler cast trans models in his runway shows as early as the 1980s, and frequently collaborated with drag artists and club kids on and off the runway, including corsetmaker Mr Pearl.

By the late 1990s, the Mugler name was associated more with fragrance than fashion, thanks to his blockbuster perfume Angel. The rights to his name were acquired by cosmetics giant Clarins in 1997, and that fragrance and its offshoots, remain bestsellers.

In 2002, the fashion division of Mugler shut down but the brand was revived in 2010 under the creative direction of stylist Nicola Formichetti and later Casey Cadwallader.

Mugler’s use of corsetry and his exaggerated approach to the female body has drawn criticism, but the designer was no less extreme with his own physique. In 2019, the normally reclusive designer posed for a nude photoshoot with Interview Magazine and discussed his exhaustive body-building routine and cosmetic surgeries. “I think it’s important for people to be a complete realisation of themselves. I have always been fascinated by the human body, and I wanted to pay homage to what it can do,” he said.

In 2019, the designer was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, which debuted in Montreal before touring to Paris in 2021.

The designer had been due to announce new collaborations early this week, his agent Jean-Baptiste Rougeot told Agence France-Presse.

 

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