Present imperfect reading

[Insert introduction here – cover sad, extraordinary times; apologies for lack of time and world enough etc; doubts; self-deprecating call to action; flirting with semi-colons and deconstruction…]


Trailer: Carnegie UK Trust have used what we know from our long history of research and practice development to set out a series of propositions, backed up by recommendations of practical things that could be done to improve wellbeing. The propositions are:

  • National wellbeing can be the goal
  • The relationship between the state and the citizen can be reset
  • The future can be local (as well as global)
  • Our relationship with work can be remodelled
  • We can build a new level of financial resilience
  • Technology can be for all.

Beyond Survival Practical Hope in Powerful Times  by Graham Leicester

Trailer: The thread weaving through these four essays is hope – practical hope. Raymond Williams tells us that our task is “to make hope possible rather than despair convincing”. But for me hope is always possible. The real challenge at this point is to make it convincing. Then it might attract the resources to match our ambitions and, just as ‘lockdown’ has proved a more or less global immediate response to the pandemic, hope might frame for everyone the invigorating spirit of the next phase – recovery and renewal.

The importance of a UK-wide recovery plan for the creative industries

Together, these pieces of research suggest that creative clusters outside of London should be a priority for policy support as the UK emerges from the crisis.​ This is consistent with arguments that devolved governments might be better placed to innovate during the recovery period

Understanding how our habits of cultural consumption changed during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown

Trailer: While consumption levels during lockdown increase for all, the class gap widens

A better future for work: the world after Covid-19

Trailer ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a familiar problem: The best-paying jobs are not necessarily the ones that contribute most to the common good, and some low-paying jobs have greater social value than their market value would suggest.’ (Professor Michael Sandel)

 A collective challenge: large scale redundancies 

Trailer: ‘Redundancy programmes are the start not the finish. Be mindful of the voice that says, ‘if we can just get through this…’ (This is one of a pair of really helpful and compassionate blogs by Susan Royce and Dawn Langley around redundancy: one focussing on employers, the other on employees. Crucially they emphasise – remind, for some people – the humans and the lives wrapped up in both those terms.)

Our COVID Future The Long Crisis Scenarios


The Wellbeing Trap: on arts, culture and education after Covid-19

Trailer: ‘In order to survive, work will be increasingly tailored to perceptions of what people and society ‘need’. And increasingly, the message is that people need wellbeing.’

Sharmaine Lovegrove in conversation Claire Doherty

One of a number of fascinating podcasts from the Culture Reset programme:

‘…it kind of takes 15 to 20 years for generations to tell the story because it takes 15 to 20 years for us to kind of heal from whatever atrocity has happened to us as human beings. And so the stories can’t come from the generation that are experiencing it. They can only come later.‘

Postcards from Malthusia

Trailer: ‘But unlike viruses, or governments, or trolls, poetry has the capacity to engage with both the real and the surreal, the strange and the alarming. It is a curative medium – not only will it not be socially isolated, it helps us thrive in our isolation; it associates freely through time and space and, albeit only in our minds, helps us do the same; crucially, it carries with it a highly efficacious vaccine for distress – ideas.’

Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson – who have previously brought poems together exploring surreal and horrifying electoral landscapes and effects, including ones collected in New Boots and Pantisocracies – to have published 100 poems since lockdown began, exploring the situation and moment in at least 100 different ways. It’s a great set, My own contribution is number 34, the result of a morning early in Proper Lockdown trying to hold it together by translating French poetry. People’s tendency to ‘clickthrough’ as I believe the go-getting hip young mediaslingers say, is easily over-estimated, so here it is so all you have to do is carry on reading. I believe the present to have got even more imperfect since I made this.

 The Present Imperfect

An improvisation on Yves Bonnefoy’s ‘L’imperfection est la cime’

A need to stop and stop and stop,

salvation only, cheap at any price.

Spoil the bare face rising from marble,

hammer any shape, any beauty.

We’d love a perfect thing, a wide-opened door,

but deny it as soon as we saw it, cut it dead.

The present imperfect is now our summit.