arts and design

On my radar: Peter Blake’s cultural highlights

Born in Dartford, Kent, in 1932, Peter Blake studied at the Royal College of Art and went on to become a prominent figure in the British pop art movement. His colourful, pop culture-inspired collages have graced countless album covers, including the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, two albums by the Who and the cover of the Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas? He also designed the 2012 Brit award statuette. A new exhibition spanning his seven-decade career, Peter Blake: Time Traveller, is at Waddington Custot, London W1, from 18 June to 13 August.

1. Film

My Octopus Teacher (Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed, 2020)

Craig Foster and friend in My Octopus Teacher.
Craig Foster and friend in My Octopus Teacher. Photograph: Netflix

We watched this beautiful little film last night. It’s about a man who loves swimming underwater, and spots an octopus and forms a relationship with it over a year or so. I liked that you didn’t know, obviously, what was about to happen with the octopus, so you went through all the dangers and terrible things that happen to it, watching it through the man’s eyes. Just the idea of almost having an octopus for a pet, or as a friend was so beautiful. There’s a scene when the octopus climbs on to his chest that was very powerful.

2. Restaurant

Sam’s Riverside, Hammersmith

Sam’s Riverside, Hammersmith.
Sam’s Riverside, Hammersmith. Photograph: Andrew Burton

This was the only restaurant we actually managed to get out to in that little lull last year when lockdown ended for a short period. Sam [Harrison] used to work with Rick Stein, and he had a restaurant [Sam’s Brasserie] near us in Chiswick. We went to Sam’s Riverside a couple of times last year and I enjoyed it a lot; I think I had mussels both times, which were very good. The food there is pretty much in the style of the River Cafe, which in fact is probably my favourite restaurant.

3. Book

David Hockney and Martin Gayford: Spring Cannot Be Cancelled (2021)

David Hockney and his dog, Ruby, in his Normandy studio, May 2020.
David Hockney and his dog, Ruby, in his Normandy studio, May 2020. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima

David Hockney recently brought out this book with Martin Gayford. It’s about him going to the north of France, and repeating that exercise he did a couple of years ago of visually recording the arrival of spring [in east Yorkshire in 2011]. He bought a house in Normandy, and this is a really nice account of him moving to France, interspersed with Martin Gayford telling the story as well. Also as a matter of interest, I’m halfway through Ali Smith’s quartet of the seasons. My daughter Rose recommended that to me: I’ve read Autumn and I’m halfway through Winter.

4. TV

Pretend It’s a City (Martin Scorsese, 2021)

Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz in Pretend It’s a City.
Sparring partners… Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz in Pretend It’s a City. Photograph: Netflix

A general list: I love the wrestling, I like Match of the Day, I like American Pickers and I like Tipping Point. But I’m going to pick this, which featured Fran Lebowitz talking to Martin Scorsese about her thoughts on New York – it was a very good thing. He would ask her something and she would talk, generally, in opposition to what he’d said. You would expect her to say something, and she’d usually come up with something totally different. She has a particular kind of wit that I like: very New York, very Jewish.

5. Radio

Robert Elms, BBC Radio London

Robert Elms.
Robert Elms. Photograph: Peter Hogan/Alamy

I listen to Robert Elms in the morning, then Jazz FM for the rest of the day, as a background to my work. I like Robert Elms’s style, and I’m interested in the things he’s interested in – he loves modism and clothes and music – although obviously I’m a couple of decades older than him so I go further back. Sometimes, if he wants someone to call in about London in the 40s and 50s, I’ll call in and we’ll have a discussion.

6. Music

Brian Wilson: Gettin’ in Over My Head (2004)

Brian Wilson at Royal Festival Hall, London, 2004.
Brian Wilson at Royal Festival Hall, London, 2004. Photograph: Tim Whitby/WireImage

I’m not very much up on contemporary music – I think it’s one of those things that leaves you behind, that you can only absorb to a certain point. But I consistently like Brian Wilson. I loved the Beach Boys in the 60s, and he carried on, bringing out some great solo albums. This is a very beautiful series of songs: it’s nostalgic and sentimental, and I play it every so often. He writes with the influence of composers like Gershwin: it’s great pop music in the tradition of the Great American Songbook.


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