Wednesday, 18 July: At home to write a piece for the New Statesman. The article comes out on the 30th of July. They are doing an issue on “My London”, so I took the opportunity to talk about the importance of art, how I have engaged with it since I came to London when I was 17. London is the greatest city in the world for high culture. The article appears in this week’s magazine.
Thursday, 19 July: Cynthia typed out my piece and we discussed all the things we’re trying to do. It’s Cynthia’s job to keep in touch with everyone we’re working with on climate change and to set things up.
Friday, 20 July: Worked on Gold Label – we have already sent some of the final samples to Rosita. She needs to copy them and also in other fabrics, to prepare the sample collection and to do as much as possible before the August holiday. At this stage we make charts of all the permutations, so that we arrive at a scheme of all the collection. My job now is in choosing those final fabrics and how they are to be manipulated – we take the toile and re-work it so that it becomes one with the fabric. I have only just begun on the dresses and each one has a life of its own; we make it come alive.
I spent only about 4 hours on this as I had to go to the Wallace Collection which was being used by Chinese Harper’s Bazaar as a location to shoot some of our designs and they wanted me in the pictures. The cover will be my Family Tree.
Saturday, 21 July: Yoga. Reading. Can’t remember if I had a little sleep – I usually do on a Saturday; eating. Evening: Went to meet my friend Peter Olive at the National Theatre. I met Peter a few years ago when I gave a talk at Oxford University where he was studying Classics. I was really excited to meet such an interested, interesting person, He’s a musician and he teaches Latin and Greek. Peter writes:
Vivienne and I saw Sophocles’ Antigone, directed by Polly Findlay from a translation by Don Taylor. Revered as a masterpiece in antiquity, the spectacle and scale of Greek Tragedy were translated to London’s Olivier Theatre very thoughtfully indeed. I could have wept by the end: in 90 minutes, I had watched a man elected to power, make decisions which to him made sense, ignore sound advice and at every turn propel himself closer to his own ruin.
The play begins when the two sons of Oedipus who rule Thebes have quarrelled; the younger having fled returns with an invading army and the brothers kill each other in single combat. Their uncle Creon assumes power, proclaiming a death sentence for anyone who ‘honours’ the traitorous brother by burying his body: it is to be left to be eaten by vultures and dogs. Antigone, sister of the pair and Creon’s niece, decides to defy her uncle, burying her brother in spite of the decree. Spurning the guidance of even Haemon (his son, engaged to marry Antigone) Creon orders that her sentence be carried out, and learns – painfully and too late – that he has made a horrendous mistake.
I have seldom if ever seen such compelling performances. We loved Luke Newberry as Haemon, whose impassioned but fruitless attempt to make his father see sense was harrowing: agony to watch his frustration, fighting a losing battle with his tyrranical father. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith played a pitiful messenger, having to report the boys’ deaths he had witnessed offstage. Choking back tears yet with precision delivery, he articulated the atrocity of Haemon’s death to the boy’s mother, Eurydice. With economy of words and gesture, she made her exit, turning off the light behind her as the only suggestion of her imminent suicide.
The staging was a cabinet war room, with a chorus of Creon’s staff, chipping in with commentary across their desks. Subtleties of domestic life, like Haemon’s delivery of a packed lunch to his dad, or Eurydice arriving with Creon’s jacket in a dry-cleaning bag reminded us that for Creon, family life and political policy are inseparable concerns – as his own son, niece and wife become victims of his inflexible politics.
For everybody who did not go to this production of this play – you really missed something.(Ticket prices at the National Theatre vary but if you go to the box office in person, with a student id, 45 minutes before a show starts, you can get tickets for £10 if there are seats available). If you have missed it, you could do something really important; arrange for you and your friends to read the play together.
Soon after the play began – I hadn’t looked at the programme – Peter and I had been talking too much, catching up – I whispered to him, “Is this play by Sophocles?” I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been written today, now! The ringing economy of the language, efficient instrument of the unfolding drama, transfixed me with its power and beauty. My whole chemistry was focussed on the play like iron filings moving towards a magnet. There was no interval, thank God. I was held in a state of such intensity that I think it would have harmed me to be interrupted.
The skill of every actor was at full capacity, a tribute to human intelligence. And yes, we loved Haemon; Luke Newberry filled the role completely yet he was so idiosyncratic, individual, exposed. Popular recognition of this actor would put him in a league of his own – a “Superactor”. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith also had this openess to the emotions of the situation, his voice was the most beautiful medium for – I am going to say it even though it seems over the top – the most beautiful medium for the soul of a man. Indeed, I think a blind person would have benefitted as much as I did from this drama.
Once Creon assumed power he also assumed the law, “I am the law”. Unfortunately for him, one person chose to defy him: Antigone. She appealed to a superior law, “The Unwritten Law of Heaven”, which she said was also the law of common decency.
If only one person today could topple the stolen power of the puppets (Obama) who have taken power into their own hands! Antigone was buried alive but she hanged herself. The victims who are walled up in US jails (Some of them have been walled up in concrete solitary confinement for as long as 40 years, and think of Bradley Manning, think of Leonard Peltier.) challenge by their innocence those who have sequestered the law for their own criminal protection.
Sunday, 22 July: To work: Gold Label.
Monday, 23 July: Gold Label. Secret discussions for a stunt I hope to pull.
Tuesday, 24 July: Talk to Cynthia.
Afternoon: Meeting with Callum from Fenton Communications to discuss an idea for massively involving the public on decisions regarding climate change. Worked on two more knitwear pieces, mostly to do with sequences of coloured stripes: therapeutic – absorbing but easy.
Wednesday, 25 July: Spent most of the day with my PA, Tizer. She had a backlog of so many requests to do things or to attend events, so many charities these days who need patrons and help, so many things to ask me. I can only do one or two. Finished and communicated the striped knitwear. Yoga.
Thursday, 26 and 27th of July: Work on Gold Label.
Saturday, 28 of July: To a friend’s wedding in Gloucester
Sunday, 29 of July: Andreas and I go to see his family in the Tyrol for a week. We stay in a chalet, high on the mountain, belonging to Andreas’ brother who is a farmer. The chalet is 300 years old and is self-sufficient with no mod-cons. Electricity is solar. We will walk and read.
Back on August the 8th will keep in touch with the website