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Bristol , United Kingdom
My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, will be published early in 2022 by Indigo Dreams. I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy. https://theleapingword.com

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Vanity of Small Differences: Grayson Perry at Bristol City Museum

And so to Bristol City Museum to see (another) Grayson Perry exhibition, The Vanity of Small Differences.

The set of six tapestries explores one of his favourite topics, class, through the story of working class lad, Tim Rakewell, who leaves his working class Sunderland home, goes to university, marries a middle class girl whose father mocks his accent, makes shedloads of money developing apps, buys a stately home, and dies crashing his Ferrari while showing off to his new trophy wife. The exhibition is augmented by the original 'Rake's Progress' print series by William Hogarth and David Hockney, as well as some 18th century ceramics from the museum's collection, for added context.  


The Adoration of the Cage-Fighters





The Agony in the Car Park


The Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close





The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal


The Upper Class at Bay (or an endangered species)


#Lamentation

















Like many people, class makes me uncomfortable. The daughter of working class Tories, I was sent to a direct grant girls' school, which my parents felt would give me a 'good' education. I encountered a degree of prejudice there, from some members of staff and the parents of pupils (although not so much from the pupils themselves). I never fitted in, but then I found I didn't fit in at home any more either. I emerged from my schooling a socialist, much to the dismay of my parents.


Here's one of those mothers. 













And I know this well-appointed room too because I had breakfast in it one sunny morning 40-odd years ago. The father of the family asked me if I wanted margarine or butter on my toast, and I didn't know what the right answer was. We had margarine at home, though, so I guessed butter would probably be the more acceptable response. W
rong!

'Oh well, if you want to die of coronary arterial disease, that's your look-out,' he said, shoving the butter dish in my direction. 

I looked up 'coronary arterial disease' later.  


So I don't like to think of book-lined rooms as being a sign of membership of the middle classes. 


Or these lovely Penguin mugs. (We've got two.)


Or William Morris - for god's sake, he was a founding father of socialism.


Or even protest itself. 

 Does it matter? Is this all vanity, as the name of the exhibition suggests? 


Sometimes art imitates life. During a pause in the rolling film feature before it restarted, a woman came through the open door and rushed towards me. 

'It's the poet, Debbie Harvey! I've heard so much about you, I've always wanted to meet you!'

I clocked the Debbie - not my writing name. But I'd never seen her before in my life. Or had I? I'm rubbish at faces, and even worse at faces out of context. 


Then relief. My oldest friend was right behind her. 

We hugged and kissed and laughed at our chance meeting. The opening titles started to play. Instantly a woman behind us said, very loudly, 'Would you please go outside if you want to talk. Some of us came in to watch.'

And there we were, right back in school in our handknitted cardigans, not knowing what lasagne or salami was and bemused by peers whose homes were so warm they could wear t-shirts in January. I don't think you ever really leave where you start out. 




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