SIMON TAIT'S DIARY Flagging up Jack

In 1797 Jack Crawford nailed his colours, the ship’s union flag, to the mast of HMS Venerable and helped win the Battle of Camperdown, ruining Napoleon’s planned invasion of Ireland. But what happened to the colours?

Crawford was a 22-year-old press-ganged keelman in Admiral Duncan’s flagship in the battle when the flagstaff was blown away. So that the loss should not be misintepreted by the fleet as a surrender, the sailor climbed the mainmast with the flag and nailed it to the top, an action which won him a silver medal from his home town of Sunderland and a pension from the king (use of this etching is thanks to the Sunderland Antiquarian Society). In 1890 a statue to Jack Crawford was unveiled in Sunderland by Duncan’s grandson, when the colours are believed to have been displayed -  but they have never been seen since. So a national appeal has gone out to find them in time for the start of the Tall Ships Race starting form Sunderland next July.


How to have a good time…

The painter Maggi Hambling first met the jazz singer/writer/critic George Melly in the 1970s at a garden party, lying in a path and having a very good time, thereby living up to his nickname. Their close friendship endured until his death ion 2007, and she painted him many times. The best was probably this one, Good Time George, which was first hung in the Walker Art Gallery in Melly’s birthplace of Liverpool in 2009 in an exhibition of 20 Maggies of George. It says everything about having a good time, and it gets gets a solo special place now, though, because she has given this gorgeous thing to the Walker. n


Canal colour

A rather dour emblem of the industrial revolution, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, will get to show its true colours as an art gallery and performance space, thanks to a £1m Arts Council grant from its People & Places programme. Part of the Cabal and River Trust’s Arts of the Waterways programme, for three years the stretch through Pennine Lancashire will host a series of commissioned arts projects as Super Slow Way, with support from local authorities along the way, reflecting the communities that have settled along the canal in the last 200 years. The image is of this year's Burnley Canal Festival.


Life boat

The main annual RIBA prize, the Stirling Prize, gets the headlines (it's Hasting Pier this time in case you missed it), but there's another RIBA award just as interesting, the Stephen Lawrence Prize. It’s been won for 2017 by this construction, TheHouseboat, designed by Rebecca Granger and Mole Architects’ Meredith Bowls. Isn’t it terrific, who wouldn’t want to live in that? The prize was first awarded in 1998 in the name of the murdered teenager whose ambition was to be an architect, and the prize is to encourage new, experimental talent. Designed to be a seaside retreat for architect clients, TheHouseboat has a 1930s feel about it, and is fitted out with second hand salvaged ship lounge joinery.


Big band sound

This is not only the weirdest upright joanna you ever saw, it’s the earliest known keyboard instrument, a clavicytherium - sounds moralise a prehistoric sea monster - dating from about 1480. It’s one of the 20,000 historic instruments brought together from 200 different collections around the UK by the Royal College of Music for the new website Compiled in partnership with the Horniman Museum, the Royal Academy of Music, Edinburgh University and Google, with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council, the site has instruments owned by Charles II, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria and composers such as Elgar and Chopin, as well as ancient Egyptian bone clappers in the form of human hands and an extremely rare narwhal-horn flute. Some have never been exhibited before, some go back 5,000 years, and you can even hear what 400 of them sound like.

Rabbie’s festival

This is Calum Colvin’s Burnsomania, created to announce Burns Unbroke. Yes, Burns Night, for 200 years and more an excuse for Scotsfolk to get out the Scotch to kill the taste of the traditional haggis, is going to get art in the form of a new contemporary arts festival, and the first one will be launched next Burns Night, January 25. Supported by Creative Scotland, the Scottish Winter Festivals Fund and the Isle of Arran Distillers it will feature 30 visual artists and four newly commissioned works, as well spoken word performances and music. Oh, and the name comes from a Burns epigram.


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