ICA talks archived


I’ve linked to the British Library’s sound archive before but it was only recently that I had a browse through their collection of talks from the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. The public discussions cover the period 1981–1994, and while there’s a wide range of contributors the lion’s share of interviewees are writers. Most of the talks run from 60–90 minutes. The following is a selection from some of the contents:

JG Ballard and Matthew Hoffman in conversation, 1984. Ballard discussing his latest novel, Empire of the Sun.

Derek Jarman and Ken Campbell in conversation, 1984. Jarman discussing his autobiography, Dancing Ledge which was also published that year. (A revised edition appeared in 1991.) If Ken Campbell seems an unusual interviewer it should be recalled that he appeared in Jarman’s 1979 film, The Tempest.

Alan Moore and Charles Shaar Murray in conversation, 1987. Mr Moore caught in the year when the world at large became aware of comics in general and his work in particular.

Whose Fantasy? Hosted by Neil Gaiman (uncredited) with M. John Harrison, Terry Pratchett, Geoff Ryman & Diana Wynne Jones, 1988. One of a series of events examining British genre fiction. Neil Gaiman was the host of each discussion but is uncredited on the site for several of the talks. This one concerns fantasy and science fiction.

Whose Fantasy? Hosted by Neil Gaiman (uncredited) with Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Roz Kaveney & Garry Kilworth, 1988. The following day’s discussion was oriented more towards horror.

Laurie Anderson and Sarah Kent in conversation, 1990. Laurie Anderson’s latest album (and one of hers I like a great deal) Strange Angels is discussed.

Over the rainbow


Today is the 30th anniversary of the first appearance of the rainbow flag at a gay pride event. Gilbert Baker designed the flag which was used for the 1978 Gay Freedom Parade in—where else?—San Francisco and he talked to The Independent last week about its legacy.


Baker’s original design can be seen below, with the stripes signifying (from top to bottom) sexuality, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic, serenity and spirit. Subsequent changes dropped sexuality and magic to give us the more familiar arrangement seen in the photo above but it seems Baker would prefer everyone to revert to his original design. I tend to be ambivalent about rainbows, not only are they ubiquitous in other contexts—the spinning “Marble of Doom” on the left is a familiar sight to Mac users—but any spectrum arrangement presents problems for graphic designers. That aside, I wouldn’t mind seeing the original design returned to in order to distinguish it from the many other rainbow flags. But it may well be too late for that now, the six stripe flag is firmly embedded in gay culture. Garish it may be but it has the advantage of being highly visible, which is partly the point, of course. Flickr photos show how effective it is at standing out in a variety of surroundings.


I was hoping to find a credit for the gay pastiche of Joe Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima photo but details about its creator seem elusive. If anyone knows who the photographer was, please leave a comment. I’ve noticed recently that this photo in particular, one of many pastiches of that famous image, annoys a certain type of knuckle-dragging American who sees it as an insult to the soldiers of the Second World War. In which case one has to hope they haven’t seen this Terry Pratchett book jacket. Here in Britain we regard it as bad taste to take flags too seriously, hence the increasingly common appearance at UK gay events of pink Union flags like the one below. Flags are signs, not religious icons, and as such they’re always open to change and reinterpretation; the evolution and appropriation of Gilbert Baker’s flag is the perfect example of that.

Update: The Joe Rosenthal pastiche is by Ed Freeman.


Previously on { feuilleton }
The recurrent pose #2
Michael Petry’s flag