Laura Freeman

Laura Freeman

The pleasures of pebble-spotting

P-p-pick up a pebble. Feel its weight in your palm. Roll it over under your thumb. Any good? Not sure? Shuck it back on the shingle. Plenty of fish in the sea and more pebbles still on the shore. In The Pebbles on the Beach: A Spotter’s Guide, Clarence Ellis, pebble-spotter par excellence, opens with

Can we know an artist by their house?

Show me your downstairs loo and I will tell you who you are. Better yet, show me your kitchen, bedroom, billiard room and man cave. Can we know a man – or woman – by their house? The ‘footsteps’ approach to biography argues that to really understand a subject, a biographer must visit his childhood

Laura Freeman: Ways of Life

39 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, I’m joined by the writer and critic Laura Freeman to talk about her book Ways of Life: Jim Ede and the Kettle’s Yard Artists. Laura’s book is the portrait of one of those figures who, without ever quite taking the spotlight themselves, was nevertheless hugely influential in kindling the love

We’ve reached standing ovation saturation

‘And now the end is here / And so I face the final curtain…’ You said it, Frank. The lights dim, the curtain falls, exeunt all to rapturous applause. Too rapturous, if you ask me. The standing ovation, once the exception, is now the rule. Post-Covid, I got it. After months of empty theatres and

How to mend (almost) anything

‘Sides to middle’, that’s the cry. When your foot goes through the flat sheet in the night, there’s only one thing for it: scissors down the centre, then sew it edge to edge. Good as new – for as long as your stitches hold up. If you’ve paid for Egyptian cotton, you cannot cut your

Jonathan Miller, Cindy Yu and Laura Freeman

21 min listen

On this week’s episode, Jonathan Miller says that whoever wins France’s election on Sunday, the country is going to the dogs. (01:00) After, Cindy Yu says that China’s online censors are struggling to suppress critics of the Shanghai lockdown. (07:47) And, to finish, Laura Freeman reviews a Walt Disney exhibition at the Wallace Collection. (12:06)

Disney’s rococo roots

Extensive research went into the writing of this piece. First, I lay on the sofa watching Disney’s Cinderella. Then, Beauty and the Beast. Then, because I’m assiduous about these things, Frozen. The singalong version. I wish I could tell you that the sofa was a rococo number with ormolu mounts and a pink satin seat,

The politics of war crimes

42 min listen

In this week’s episode: Is Putin guilty of war crimes? For this week’s cover piece, The Spectator’s Editor Fraser Nelson looks at the risks and rewards of labelling Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers war criminals. He joins the podcast, followed by Michael Bryant, the author of A World History of War Crimes, who writes in

Laura Freeman

The cult of the extortionate ‘English’ kitchen

A house around the corner is on its fourth kitchen in a decade. Every two or three years, the house changes hands, the pristine kitchen comes out and a newer, pristiner kitchen goes in. They are always white, they are always shiny, and when I peer through the basement windows there is nothing in the

The art of the Christmas card

It’s the thin end of the wedge, the slippery slope, the beginning of the end of a civilised Christmas. It is the first week of December and I still haven’t started my cards. My friend Charlotte was at it in October. She signed up for a lino-cutting class, cut holly boughs and robin redbreasts and

Why do we kiss under mistletoe?

Give us a snog. Pucker up at the Christmas party. Kiss me quick at the Nativity play. Will you be snogging this season? Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work, Pensions and Office Passion, has spoken. ‘I don’t think there should be much snogging under the mistletoe.’ she told Robert Peston on ITV. Sajid Javid,

The art of seizing the moment in photographic portraiture

A Tatler photographer once told me that the secret to taking a good photo was the three Ts: tum, tits, teeth. Suck it in, push ’em out, show your pearly whites. Leaving aside David LaChapelle’s portrait of Pamela Anderson, there’s a shortage of Ts in Phillip Prodger’s Face Time. This looks likea coffee-table book but

The joy of a cluttered museum

On a clear day, from the balcony of Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle, you can see the McVitie’s factory. If the wind were in the right direction, I like to think you’d smell digestives on the breeze. Originally, it was the factory of Carr’s, bakers of table water biscuits since 1831. Carr’s

The daring young man who gave his name to the leotard

Jules Léotard was blessed in his name. It might have been quite different had he been called, say, Jules Droupé. As it was, his family name was lithe, elongated, taut. It was a name with stretch. Léotard was born in Toulouse in 1838, the son of a gymnastics teacher. The young Jules might have become

The National Trust has lost the language of architecture

Press officers, breathe easy. This is not another column attacking the National Trust. Actually, I tell a lie. It is. But my complaint isn’t bullying or slavery or LGBTQ+ery or even chocolate Easter eggery. It is more single and specific: the National Trust does not speak architecture. Or if it does, it’s keeping shtum. Since

Laura Freeman

Glorious: Bernardo Bellotto at the National Gallery reviewed

What is the National Gallery playing at? Why, in this summer of stop-start tropical storms, is the NG making visitors — visitors with prebooked, time-slotted tickets, mind — queue outside and in the rain? Why are its cloakrooms still closed and umbrellas forbidden? My husband had to stash his behind a balustrade on Orange Street.

Rich and strange: Eileen Agar at Whitechapel Gallery reviewed

Heads turn, strangers gawp, matrons tut or look in envy. A man doffs his bowler hat knowing when he is outdone. The model walking imperturbably along a London street is Eileen Agar, her headwear the ‘Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse’, encrusted with crustaceans, spangled with starfish. If the Little Mermaid,in her leggy period, had been

The art of politics: what ministers hang on their walls

On the walls of the Chancellor’s office hangs a print of Eric Ravilious’s lithograph ‘Working Controls while Submerged’ (1941). Two engineers in blue overalls heave the levers of a submarine. A third slumps asleep on a bench. An image, perhaps, of the ship of state, several hundred feet underwater, but by no means sunk yet.

Broken Trust: the crisis at the heart of the National Trust

33 min listen

On this week’s podcast, we start with Charles Moore’s cover story on the failings of the National Trust. Why is the Trust getting involved in culture wars, and can it be fixed? Lara speaks to Charles, a Spectator columnist and former editor of the magazine, and Simon Jenkins, who was chair of the Trust between