Conduit for Culture: March 2020

Words: Florence Robson

From an absorbing legal thriller to an audio exploration of Britain’s colonial past, these are the books, albums, films, podcasts and exhibitions we can’t wait to check out this month.

The Book: The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

March brings us the much-anticipated final part to Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Wolf Hall trilogy, the gripping portrait of Thomas Cromwell, wily and mercurial minister to Henry VIII. While the Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2013) charted Cromwell’s rise through the ranks of the Tudor court, The Mirror & the Light follows his battle to survive as his fortunes begin to turn. Described by the Independent as a ‘masterpiece of historical fiction’, it seems that Mantel fans won’t be disappointed.

The cover for The Mirror & the Light

Bonus recommendation: The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

Costa Rican diplomat Christiana Figueres is internationally recognised as one of the world’s foremost voices on climate change, having acted as Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change from 2010-2016. Together with Global Optimism co-founder – and fellow Conduit member – Tom Rivett-Carnac, she has channelled this knowledge and experience into The Future We Choose, a ‘cautionary but optimistic’ book that examines two contrasting scenarios for our planet and lays out what governments, corporations and individuals must do to fend off disaster.

The Album: We Are Sent Here by History, Shabaka & the Ancestors

In news that has the jazz world jumping for joy, British-Barbadian saxophonist and clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings is reuniting with his band, The Ancestors, for a new album titled We Are Sent Here by History. Conceptualised as an hour-long sonic poem that meditates on the challenges of our modern world, the album draws on the improvisational musical style of the African diaspora for an exploratory, groove-led sound.

Shabaka Hutchings and The Ancestors

Bonus Recommendation: Psychodrama, Dave

Fresh from his explosive Brits performance of single Black, in which he called the Prime Minister a racist, criticised tabloid coverage of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and paid tribute to London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt, Dave has quickly become one of the British music industry’s freshest and most urgent voices. His debut record, Psychodrama (2019), won the Mastercard Album of the Year at the Brits this year, as well as the 2019 Mercury Prize. If you’ve not yet listened, now’s the time.

The Film: Dark Waters

Adopted from a 2016 New York Times article, this absorbing thriller is based on the true story of corporate lawyer Rob Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo) and his lengthy environmental case against the DuPont chemical conglomerate. Having built up a respectable career representing large corporates, Bilott switched sides after a farmer from West Virginia opens his eyes to a contaminated water supply in the area near DuPont’s plant. The resulting legal fight against the company lasted over a decade. A David and Goliath tale of the capitalism, corruption and accountability, Dark Waters is a must-watch.

The poster for Dark Waters

Bonus Recommendation: Guardians of Life

Produced by Mobilize Earth and starring Joaquin Phoenix fresh from his awards season triumph for his role in Joker, this emotional short film has been created to raise awareness and funds for Amazon Watch and Extinction Rebellion.

The Podcast: We Need to Talk About the British Empire

Journalist, broadcaster and author Afua Hirsch has built her reputation on being unafraid to tackle challenging questions around Britain’s relationship with race and identity (including earlier this year at The Conduit). Now she’s delving into the complicated inheritance of the British Empire in a new podcast, speaking to six leading cultural figures to discover hidden stories, unpick our colonialist legacy and shine a light on a period of history we tend to avoid.

The artwork for We Need to Talk about the British Empire

Bonus Recommendation: The Daily – ‘The Weinstein Jury Believed the Women’

At our book club this month we’ll be discussing She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the story of their ground-breaking investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse for the New York Times. To prepare, we’re listening to this episode of The Daily, where Kantor and Twohey reflect on Weinstein’s Manhattan trial and the significance of the verdict.

The Exhibition: Andy Warhol, Tate Modern

The son of immigrants who became an American icon, Andy Warhol changed the face of modern art with his bold and radical works. This upcoming major retrospective is the first Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern for almost 20 years; as well as some of his most recognisable images, it will feature works never seen before in the UK, including paintings of 25 African American and Latinx drag queens and trans women from his little-known Ladies and Gentlemen series. Don’t miss the chance to explore this superstar artist through a distinctly personal lens.

One of Warhol’s most iconic paintings

Bonus Recommendation: Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, V&A Museum

This sumptuous exhibition transports you into the magical worlds dreamed up by photographer Tim Walker via pictures, films, sets and installations. As well as his iconic editorial shoots and portraits, it features ten new series of photographs inspired by specific objects within the V&A’s extensive collections. An escapist, mesmerising experience, it closes on 22nd March so catch it while you can.