Monday, April 14, 2014
The Blue Window and the Blues
Tim Koch writes:
Sadly, I suppose we should be grateful that someone who uses the Boat Race to make some political or philosophical point does so in a way that does not actually interfere with the race or which risks having their head removed from their neck.
One definition of ‘privilege’ is ‘an opportunity to do something regarded as a special honour’. An example of this would to be accepted as a student by Oxford or Cambridge Universities. I understand this is based on merit and examinations. Another example would be to get a place in a Blue Boat. I believe this is done by open competition – apparently quite fierce. It is true that the boats do contain a disproportionate number of people with a private education but, if this is a bad thing, it is symptom, not a cause. Also, it is reflection of the fact that, for purely practical reasons, access to rowing in state schools (U.S.: public schools) is limited.
Assuming that the banner was displayed either by, or with the permission of, the owner of the property, the said person clearly lacks a sense of irony. He or she owns a building worth in excess of a million pounds. It may look a little ramshackle but it is an artist’s studio/residence with substantial provenance in a desirable and sought after riverside location. Neighbouring (though admittedly more substantial) properties have sold for four million pounds. Perhaps it could be argued that the protester was a ‘privileged person’?
Returning to more traditional HTBS ground, the building in question actually has a significance to rowing.
The ‘blue window’ is regarded as the halfway point of the Championship Course, Putney to Mortlake (or visa versa). For over fifty years, until his death in 1988, it was the studio and home of the British poet and surrealist painter Julian Trevelyan and his wife Mary Fedden, also a highly regarded artist. Trevelyan’s view of the inside of his studio looking out is on the Tate Gallery website. A painting showing his studio home and Chiswick Eyot is here. The River and Rowing Museum has displayed some of Trevelyan’s works though I am not sure that it should have anything to do with someone who depicts oars like this. According to the Daily Telegraph of 18 May 2013:
For the Trevelyans (Durham Wharf) was home and studio, and the centre of a lively social life – the high point of which was their annual Boat Race party. All sorts of friends and acquaintances were invited to this ‘beer and buns’ jamboree over the years. Dylan Thomas, Stanley Spencer, Cyril Connolly and A.P. Herbert all attended....
In 1938, the studio was the venue for a famous ‘send off’ party for novelist Christopher Isherwood and poet W. H. Auden before their unlikely trip to China to observe the Sino-Japanese War. Evening dress was ‘optional’ and Benjamin Britten performed some of his and Auden’s cabaret songs. Attendees included many ‘Bright Young Things’, E. M. Forster and, according The Sunday Times, ‘some of the ghosts of old Bloomsbury’. Trevelyan recalled that it ended in ‘a bit of a rough house’ when poet Brian Howard and ‘bohemian socialite’, The Honourable Eddie Gathorne-Hardy started a brawl. Luckily, no one had to be at work the next day.
It seems that in the past, the studio saw ‘privileged people’ on both sides of the blue window.