Conduit for Culture: August 2020

Words: Florence Robson

An insight into the future of democracy, an immersive sonic experience and a book that will inspire you to take action: here are some of the cultural offerings getting us excited this August.

The Films

Boys State

Would the world be in safer hands if teenagers ran governments? Boys State, a Sundance-winning documentary created by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, is attempting to find out. The film spotlights the Texan chapter of an annual leadership contest, where a group of 17-year-old boys come together to learn about politics and, ultimately, compete in a two-party election to become ‘governor’. A riveting and enlightening watch.

Athlete A

Athlete A doesn’t make for an easy watch – but nor should it. This Netflix documentary tells the story of how Larry Nassar, ex-doctor for the women’s programme of USA gymnastics, was finally revealed as having abused the girls and young women in his care for over twenty years. The stories of the survivors are at the core of the film, not only showcasing their bravery but also how Nassar is part of a larger, corrupt system.

The TV Shows

I May Destroy You

If you’re yet to experience Michaela Coel’s work, you have something remarkable in store. After making her name with cult show Chewing Gum, based on her one-woman play, Chewing Gum Dreams, Coel took the TV world by storm as the showrunner, director, writer and star of I May Destroy You. Inspired by her own sexual assault, I May Destroy You follows writer Arabella (Coel) and her friends as they attempt to make names for themselves in creative fields, dealing with issues including consent and racism in the process. It’s already been touted as the TV show of the year – and we’re inclined to agree.

Mrs America

This stylish show is the (loosely factual) story of the 1970s women’s liberation movement and particularly the equal rights amendment (ERA), a proposed change to the American constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women. Cate Blanchett plays conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly (a now Emmy-nominated performance), while other famous faces pop up in the form of Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). Despite criticism from the real life Steinem, who disliked what she saw as the show’s women versus women narrative, it’s a compelling drama that also functions as an urgent call to arms to the next wave of changemakers.

The Books

Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change by Sir Ronald Cohen

A philanthropist and venture capitalist (and Conduit member), Sir Ronald Cohen has been described as ‘the father of social investment’. Now a Sunday Times bestselling author, his new book, Impact, sets out a path to ‘a new world where inequality is shrinking, where natural resources are regenerated, and people can benefit from shared prosperity’. A must-read for anyone looking to do good while doing well.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

One of the summer’s literary smash hits, The Vanishing Half follows two estranged twin sisters living very different lives – including adopting different racial identities. Spanning the 1950s to the 1990s, and travelling from the Deep South to California, this ambitious story movingly explores fundamental questions around identity, race and class.

The Productions

Blindness at Donmar Warehouse

What does theatre look like in a socially-distanced world? It’s a question that the Donmar Warehouse team have answered brilliantly with Blindness, a new sound installation adapted from Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago’s novel of the same title by award-winning playwright Simon Stephens. Juliet Stephenson lends her voice to the Storyteller/Doctor’s Wife in this timely and gripping story of ‘an unimaginable global pandemic’.

#OperaHarmony

While the coronavirus pandemic has led to many extreme challenges, there are some glimmers of light – one being the many creative projects emerging online. #OperaHarmony is one such project; the initiative of director Ella Marchment, #OperaHarmony brings together over 100 artists from across the opera discipline to write, stage, record and produce new operas, now available to stream for free.

The Podcasts

The Michelle Obama Podcast

Already making headlines, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s podcast is the must-listen audio release of this month – and perhaps of the year. The podcast kicks off with an intimate conversation between Michelle and her husband Barack Obama, with the former president sharing his thoughts on what our responsibilities are to our own communities at these challenging times. With a thoughtful, emotionally open tone and high production values, the podcast stands out amongst a sea of celeb-led releases.

Have you heard George’s podcast?

After his member AMA on our Community Forum, we’re revisiting the brilliant and acclaimed podcast by George Mpanga, aka George the Poet. Combining poetry, fiction, history, music and more, the podcast is an form-breaking experience with a clear goal: to empower the next generation of BAME kids.