The Diary: Kate MccGwire; The King's Speech; Jo Shapcott; Man Booker Prize; London Music Masters

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The Independent Culture

Winging it

Some years ago, Kate MccGwire turned Charles Saatchi's head at her degree show at the Royal College of Art when she used a chicken wishbone as the basis for her installation Brood. The collector snapped it up to display in his Thameside gallery. Now, she has developed the bird theme, collecting bird feathers of all varieties – duck, pigeon, magpie, pheasant, crow – for works of art made from feathers. She receives the material from some 150 pigeon racers, farmers and gamekeepers. "Every time the pigeons moult, the racers send me envelopes filled with feathers," she says. Crow feathers are a different story. "They are killing song birds and damaging crops so farmers and gamekeepers shoot them and I get the feathers." I heard of her recent work (Writhe) when I received an invitation to her latest show, at Pertwee Anderson & Gold in London, which came with a mallard feather attached. The pièce de résistance will be Slick, a blue installation made entirely of magpie feathers: "It's a comment on magpies being regarded as thieves, the deviant species of the bird world," MccGwire says. The work features in a group show opening on 21 February. Hopefully, it won't ruffle any feathers.

Voices from the past

If you discern a fuzziness behind some of the sound effects in the film The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth as King George VI, your ears are not deceiving you: in an attempt at authenticity, five vintage royal microphones were unearthed to record the movie. The equipment, used by the Royal family and dating back to 1923, was retrieved from Abbey Road Studios' vaults and used for the speeches in the film. The score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, and recorded, mixed and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, too. The senior recording engineer, Peter Cobbin, reveals the story behind the recording: "I was thrilled when Alexandre Desplat called to ask if I could record his score for an upcoming film. What I knew, but couldn't let on then, was that many years ago, on a mission to seek out vintage Abbey Road recording equipment, I had noticed some microphones held at the EMI archives which had been used by the British Royal family. These microphones were made by EMI dating back to 1923, and were used by the Royal Family for speeches on significant occasions." Maybe the authenticity will lend weight to the film's Oscar campaign.

A perfect harmony of rhyme and reason

Jo Shapcott, the poet who last week won the Costa prize for her collection Of Mutability, conceived in the aftermath of a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003, says "one good thing" came out of the experience (other than the poetry collection). "I had a nice oncologist who was a great fan of poems," she says. The doctor invited her to be patron of an organisation called Medicine Unboxed, for medics who get together to explore language. She has since been invited to read poetry at their meetings. Reflecting on her diagnosis, the poet says that the statistics she was given helped to ground her while she was ill. "The more statistics and science they gave me, the more I liked it. I know everyone doesn't feel like that but it was those concrete numbers that I found exciting."

Flawed vision

Ion Trewin, the literary director of Man Booker Prizes, says it was his idea to send judges electronic submissions and e-Readers, though he is waiting for feedback. The Kindle and its like suit some tastes and not others, he says, relating a story that marks out the potential flaws in the idea: "I was on a train and I watched a man with an iPad. He was reading or watching his screen until the sun hit it when he had to move seats for a better picture – so it's not perfect yet."

Cash for concertos

The music charity London Music Masters, which provides music education in inner-city primary schools, is launching an innovative fundraising campaign inviting donors to buy a bar of music for a new composition. The composer Martin Suckling has been commissioned to write a violin concerto, and the charity is asking Facebook users to help with the process by offering donations from £5. The aim is to raise £4,250 by the end of March.