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Susan Philipsz has won the Turner Prize for her work Lowlands, a recording of her singing three separate versions of a traditional Scottish folk song.

It is the first time a sound installation has even been shortlisted for the the prestigious modern art prize.

Fashion designer Miuccia Prada presented the Glasgow-born artist with the £25,000 prize at ceremony at Tate Britain in central London.

Philipsz was firm favourite to win the prize with bookmakers making her 4/11 to win.

She recorded three versions of the song Lowlands Away, which tells the tale of a man drowned at sea who returns to tell his lover of his death, for her installation which plays in an empty room in the gallery.

Curator Katherine Stout said it was a "very physical" work.

She said: "It plays upon the otherwise emptiness of the gallery."

Philipsz saw off competition from more traditional artists including Dexter Dalwood whose collection of politically-inspired paintings includes an imagining of the death of Dr David Kelly.

Angela de la Cruz and The Otolith Group were the other artists in the running for the award. They will receive £5,000 each for being shortlisted.

The Turner Prize, which was set up in 1984, is awarded to a British artist under the age of 50 and is "intended to promote public discussion of new developments in contemporary British art".

 

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The streets of London were thick with beggars and confidence tricksters in Victorian times. In the 1880s 300,000 Londoners were classified as poor. Many beggars made desperate efforts to lift themselves and their families out of their unrelenting poverty by taking on a trade, however small and insignificant. They were reluctant to apply for Outdoor Relief under the Poor Law. The match sellers, shoe blacks and flower girls, very often displaced from the countryside where life was yet more unendurable, were given short shrift by many of the great and wealthy. An 1888 tourist guidebook suggested the following evasive action be taken by travellers: 'To get rid of your beggar, when wearisome, take no notice of him at all. He will only follow you till you meet a more likely person, but no farther'.

Street traders faced suspicion from the public and persecution by the police on a daily basis. Their lives were a constant struggle to win food and shelter; many lived in cheap, crowded lodging houses in poor areas of the West End and the City, where they were preyed upon mercilessly by voracious landlords. There was, of course, no social relief, and families had to rely on their wits to keep body and soul together.

The Victorian social critic Henry Mayhew reported that the chimney sweeps were a tight-knit community, and that master sweepers often let rooms to families in the same trade. The climbing boys, often from the workhouse, earned 2d or 3d a day, but were sometimes given an extra 6d by grateful householders. They climbed easily up through wide flues using their elbows, but often found themselves stuck and near-suffocated in narrow nine-inch chimneys. For young children it must have been the most terrifying experience. George Smart's invention of the familiar set of hollow rods topped with a broad bristle brush encouraged an end to the cruelty, and an Act of Parliament finally made child sweeps illegal in 1875.

There were once 2,500 cabinet-making shops in London, many employing children. When powered sawmills and mechanical production methods brought ready-made furniture onto the market, many thousands of craftsmen lost their jobs, and had to scratch a living by going door to door mending furniture or re-caning chairs.

The gingerbread man with his laden tray was a welcome sight to children. His dark-coloured cake of flour, treacle and ground ginger was a favourite snack with Victorians at fairs and street events. The roughly-shaped pieces were measured into paper cones and topped with a blanched almond. The gingerbread was probably made by his wife or daughters.

Sporting their red uniforms, the bootblack boys were a familiar sight on the streets of London. The bootblack business grew into a highly organised philanthropic affair: the Ragged Schools, Saffron Hill, set up the first society, and nine others followed. Their aim was to educate orphan boys and to give them a good start in the world; by the 1880s the shoeblack societies had 400 boys on their books. Members of the Shoeblack Brigade were licensed to trade by the Metropolitan Police and carried on their business unhindered.

Small children loved to cluster round the hokey-pokey stall licking at the cheap ice cream. The hokey-pokey men were usually Italian immigrants (during the winter they often worked as hurdy-gurdy men). Every morning in summer they froze the ice cream they had mixed the night before, and went their rounds crying: 'Gelati, ecco un poco!' ('Ice cream, here's a little!') - hence the slang words for ice cream. The hokey-pokey man sold his ice cream in small glasses, 'licks', which he wiped clean when his customers had finished with them. Edible ice cream cones began to be used in the 1890s. A popular nonsense rhyme in Victorian times ran:

'Hokey-pokey, pokey hump!
Hokey-pokey, a penny a lump.
Hokey-pokey, find a cake;
Hokey-pokey, boil and bake.
Here's the stuff to make your jump;
Hokey-pokey, penny a lump.
Hokey-pokey, sweet and cold,
For a penny, new or old.'

In almost every Victorian city street you could find a child selling matches. Bryant & May's matches, such as their fusee 'Alpine Vesuvian' matches, popularly known as Brimstones, were popular products. This was hardly a desirable job, but a match seller was considerably better off than those poor Londoners who were involved in the manufacturing of matches: the yellow phosphorus used in the process caused a debilitating disease of the mouth known as 'phossy jaw'. Bryant & May employed 700 girls in their match factories. In 1888 these girls went on strike for better pay and conditions, but such a protest and threat to public order was rare amongst workers in Victorian Britain.

 

COMEDIAN and actor Bill Bailey will perform for a six-night run at Oxford’s New Theatre in the summer. Mr Bailey, who has starred in Black Books, Skins and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, will perform his new live show at the George Street theatre from Monday, August 10, to Saturday, August 15.

The show promises to include both new material and parts of his previous show and DVD Tinselworm.

Jamie Baskeyfield, general manager of the theatre, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Bill Bailey back to the New Theatre, and a six-night run is fantastic.

“Tickets are already going fast, and I’m sure we’ll sell out very soon."

The event coincides with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s seminal work On the Origin of the Species, and Mr Bailey is expected to provide his own comedic take on the world.

Last year, Mr Bailey appeared at a fundraising show for East Oxford hospice Helen & Douglas House, a star-studded comedy night at the New Theatre called Childish Things — which raised more than £45,000.

Tickets for his shows cost £25 and are available at the box office and online at newtheatreoxford.org.uk Oxford will be the second stop on Mr Bailey’s tour, following a mini-residency at the Lowry Centre, in Manchester, in June, and he will also spend a week at Bristol’s Hippodrome at the end of August.


Oxford times

 

 

Britain should invest in culture to help economic recovery, says an alliance of arts leaders including the National Theatre artistic director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, and Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.