Huge congratulations to Njambi McGrath, who this week took the title of Evening Standard New Act of the Year. With previous finalists including Stewart Lee, Harry Hill, Lee Mack and Russell Brand, Njambi may have big boots to fill, but I doubt this will bother her. Fearlessly blending politics and comedy, just as she does in her fiction, Njambi is one to watch on both the circuit and the shelves.
How brilliant to see Jessica Hepburn’s brainchild Fertility Fest named by the Evening Standard as one of London’s best arts festivals of 2019. Running from 23 April to 18 May, Fertility Fest includes performances, exhibitions and talks with artists and experts, all aimed at busting taboos around the subject of fertility, and the world premiere of a new production based on Julia Leigh’s memoir Avalanche.
At the tail end of 2018, James Woolf mentioned a brilliant idea he’d had for a blog. In January that idea officially came to fruition in the form of Seven Writers Seven Novels, a blog which follows the journeys of seven fantastic and very different writers as they make their way towards publication. Not only is it a brilliant resource for aspiring writers, it’s also an incredible forum in which authors can be open and compare their own experiences of a process and industry that can often seem shrouded in myth. Hats off to all involved!
Well it certainly felt as though Christmas had come early this morning, opening up the OFM Christmas edition to see that Joe Trivelli’s Modern Italian Cook and Anja Dunk’s Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings have taken the top two spots in the magazine’s books of the year list. Hugely deserved congratulations to Joe and Anja and everyone involved in the production of two truly brilliant books.
Peter Leggatt’s provocative and challenging debut novel, Doll, has been shortlisted for the Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 2018, judged by agent Madeleine Milburn and author Fiona Mitchell (The Maid’s Room). ‘Your writing is outstanding and we loved the detail and mastery of your language,’ were among the comments made - couldn’t agree more.
That’s right, it’s that time of year when the reviewers round up their top choices for the year, and when it comes to gift-buying, cookery comes high on the list. So it was wonderful to see Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings up on Bee Wilson’s Sunday Times list for this year - an honour indeed coming from a highly thoughtful and respected food writer.
And even if your gift recipient’s bookshelves are heaving too much to take any more, polymath Anja Dunk has got you covered in the art department, with her limited edition lino cuts flying off the shelves at Honey & Co - even more so since being featured in the Observer Food Monthly’s gift guide.
With the centenary of the Armistice having taken place on Sunday, there has been much to reflect on in relation to conflicts both past and present over the last few days. Offering an alternative to the more common narrative, Glenn Skwerer’s piece in the US edition of the Spectator set out a fascinating examination of the galvanising effect of that historic moment on the young Adolf Hitler, and the resultant devastation it brought about.
Having steadily established herself as one of the country’s foremost cookery writers, Diana Henry’s endorsements and recommendations are not to be sniffed at, so it was a great joy to see not just one but two books making the cut for her Telegraph roundup of autumn’s 20 best new titles. Warm and hugely deserved congratulations to both Anja Dunk and Joe Trivelli for this early recognition of their brilliant work!
Coming soon to Ealing’s own Questors Theatre is Njambi McGrath’s one-woman show, ‘African in New York’, as premiered at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Playing for one-night only, the show has been described as ‘The most unique show at the Edinburgh Festival’ (The List) , and Njambi as ‘Sharp, edgy…an excellent comedian’. A confessional comedian, Njambi’s performance work takes as its inspiration many of the events and observations of her written work, to be published in her forthcoming memoir Through the Leopard’s Gaze.
Glenn Skwerer, author of The Tristan Chord, always knew he had a tricky book on his hands - as John Boyne wrote in last week’s Guardian: ‘How does one write about Adolf Hitler without descending into cliche or caricature?’ Well, to judge from the reviews so far he has succeeded extraordinarily. ‘A remarkable first novel,’ writes Hugh Macdonald in the Herald; an ‘intelligent and engrossing account of Hitler’s youth in early 20th century Austria’, according to Alexander Larman in the Observer; and ‘fascinating…never less than engaging…a vivid depiction of incipient madness’, according to Boyne himself.
Rewarding words indeed for a book that took a long time to find a confident publisher.
The publication of Anja Dunk’s debut Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings has seen Anja taking the food world by storm. With back-to-back extracts in the Observer two weeks running (here and here), a Twitter recommendation from Nigella, and further extracts in Stella and others to come, it’s not going to be long until German cuisine becomes the new thing everyone is cooking…
Thursday last week saw the launch of Hair! Human Stories, an exhibition curated by Emma Tarlo which takes us on an intriguing journey into the world of hair. From intimate personal stories to unexpectedly global tales about hair’s circulation around the world, Hair! Human Stories explores our curious relationship to hair.
What do we feel about our hair?
How do we view it differently when cut from the head?
Encounter strange art works made from hair, see images of hair harvests and wig manufacture past and present, learn about hair’s recycling possibilities. This exhibition invites you to confront hair – the original human fibre.
See the Financial Times review here.
How wonderful to see Jessica Hepburn featured as Stylist magazine's Woman of the Week - a celebration of women who are making a difference to society. During a busy week building up to the launch of Fertility Fest on Tuesday 8th May, Jessica also appeared on the BBC Breakfast sofa to discuss the importance of having difficult conversations on the subject of fertility and parenthood.
London's first ever oyster festival, organised by Katy Davidson, took place this week. With participants including a number of high profile restaurants such Bentley's, Noble Rot and Wright Brothers, it's been a week of masterclasses and celebrations of one of the world's most ancient and nourishing foods, all kicking off with a Sunday Brunch appearance by Katy in which Sting pronounced her oyster ice cream absolutely delicious! Prepare to be converted...
Could there be a better collaboration than Alex Jackson cooking Diana Henry's food as part of a joint Grande Bouffe at Sardine, Alex's London restaurant? The menu from last night, celebrating Diana's latest book, How to Eat a Peach, featured such delights as Courgette, Ricotta and Pecorino Fritters, Roast Chicken with Lemon, and Loquat Tart - just about as springlike a menu as one could hope for, with some proper weather to boot!
Well, not exactly, but defying the dark, cold, drink-free theme of most January evenings, friends and fans of Fliss Chester turned out in force to celebrate publication day in the newly converted barn which will become the new shop face of Taurus, the wine company she and her husband run. With an apres-ski dress code, French fizz and fluffy white snowballs adorning the barn/chalet, it was the perfect launch for the clever, saucy fun that is Snowballs! and Fliss's trademark.
A real treat to see Katy Davidson presenting a segment on oysters for this weekend's Saturday Kitchen (iPlayer link here valid until 26/11/17), explaining why there are so many more reasons for eating oysters other than the fact that they taste great. Katy is currently busy organising the first London Oyster Week, which will take place in April 2018 - more to follow on that soon...
In an otherwise quiet August came the wonderful news that Emma Tarlo's Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair had been selected as the winner of this year's Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing. Writing with the news, chair Karen Richman stated that: 'The committee members were most impressed by your originality, innovative methods, experience-near approach, quality of writing, presentation and engagement with anthropological literature and theory... We found your book to be an exemplar of the best ethnographic writing and an important contribution to humanistic anthropology and the field in general.' Congratulations Emma!
Ever celebratory of its county's delights, the Yorkshire Post gave over its magazine front cover to Paul Robinson this weekend, with an interview plus review of Paul's hugely popular Fire and Dine event, which runs regularly at Swillington Organic Farm. Diners huddle round a beautifully laid wooden table, swaddled in blankets (not always necessary!), watching as carefully selected local ingredients are prepared and cooked in front of them over nothing more sophisticated than a carefully constructed fire. See the link for news of further events.
Red Trees, for which Leena Télen co-wrote the script, will be screened at this year's Cannes Marche du Film. In Red Trees, award-winning filmmaker Marina Willer retraces her father’s family journey as one of only twelve Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during World War II. Photographed by Academy Award® nominee César Charlone (City of God), the film travels from war-torn Eastern Europe to the colour and light of South America, and is told through the voice of Willer’s father Alfred (as narrated by Tim Pigott Smith), who witnessed bureaucratic nightmares, transportations and suicides but survived to build a post-war life as an architect in Brazil. As the world struggles with the current refugee crisis, Red Trees is a timely look at a family besieged by war who finds peace across an ocean.