Here comes summer: The cultural events of the season

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From Glyndebourne to Gorillaz and Picasso to Pygmalion, there's something to suit every cultural taste in the coming months. Alice Jones presents an essential guide to the hottest tickets

APRIL

16 Dance: Mark Morris Dance Group, London Coliseum

The so-called "Mozart of modern dance" is in the UK with L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, set to Handel and inspired by John Milton and William Blake. To 17 April; then Birmingham Hippodrome, 22-24 April

20 Theatre: Women Beware Women, National Theatre, London

Thomas Middleton's thrilling tragedy of lies, lust and treachery in the Florentine court. Marianne Elliott directs Harriet Walter as the wicked widow Livia. To 8 June in rep

21 Film: It's a Wonderful Afterlife

Billed as My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Shaun of the Dead, or an arranged-marriage romp with added ghosts, Gurinder Chadha's latest kicks off cinema's silly season with style. Sally Hawkins stars.

21 Theatre: Bingo, Chichester Festival Theatre

A sure sign that summer is on its way, the season at Chichester opens with Patrick Stewart playing an ageing Shakespeare in Edward Bond's 1973 play. To 22 May

23 Film: Centurion

Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and the Bond girl Olga Kurylenko star in this gory sword-and-sandals epic about the travails of the Roman Ninth Legion. Neil Marshall, of Dog Soldiers fame, directs.

23/24 Pop: LCD Soundsystem, Brixton Academy, London

They're back! Three years on from Sound of Silver, the adored dance-electro stars release their third album, This Is Happening, on 17 May and play several UK gigs before Wireless Festival in Hyde Park on 3 July. Touring to 2 May

23 Theatre: Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe, London

The Rogues and Kings season kicks off with the most roguish king of all, played by Elliot Cowan. Lucy Bailey – whose gruesome, blood-soaked Titus made people faint at the Globe in 2006 – directs. To 27 June in rep

27 Opera: Aida, Royal Opera House, London

As unpredictable as ever, David McVicar dispenses with the dusty pyramids of old for his striking new production. To 16 May in rep

28 Art: The Concise Dictionary of Dress, Blythe House, London

This sounds like a fun Springtime day out. The ever-exciting Artangel bring together a psychoanalyst and a costume curator for a journey through the ideas of dress and desire, housed in the nooks and crannies, and on the roof, of the V&A's vast repository for furniture, ceramics, fashion and fine art. To 27 June (Artangel.org.uk)

29/30 Pop: Gorillaz, Roundhouse, London

Blur won the prize for gigs of the year in 2009, and now Damon Albarn's mighty Gorillaz, playing their first London dates since 2001, look set to steal 2010's crown. Promising songs from across the Gorillaz back catalogue, films, animation and assistance from De La Soul, Mos Def and Shaun Ryder, this is the hottest of hot tickets.

30 Theatre: Hightide Festival, Halesworth

A weekend of new writing by the sea. The theatre festival, patrons of which include David Hare and Bill Nighy, has the premiere of Moscow Live, Serge Cartwright's play about his time in a Russian newsroom; Adam Brace's Midnight Your Time, in a mystery location; a talk about Guantanamo from Clive Stafford Smith; and cult films. To 3 May (Hightide.org.uk)

MAY

1 Festival: Brighton Festival

There's plenty to grab the imagination in the Brian Eno-curated programme this year. Not least dreamthinkspeak's Before I Sleep; a site-specific promenade version of The Cherry Orchard in an abandoned department store; a new musical from Simon Stephens, who wrote Punk Rock; music ranging from Afrobeat to Philip Glass; and talks with Martin Amis and Antonia Fraser. Don't miss the lively comedy and theatre programme on the Fringe, too. To 23 May (Brightonfestival.org)

1 Festival: Camden Crawl

A bank holiday weekend treat with music from I Blame Coco, New Young Pony Club, Chew Lips, We Are Scientists and Speech Debelle, comedy from Robin Ince, Pappy's, Isy Suttie and Jack Whitehall, and a Rough Trade pop quiz, thronging the pubs, streets and canalsides of NW1. (Thecamdencrawl.com)

7 Film: Four Lions

Chris Morris, the mercilessly satirical creator of The Day Today and Brass Eye, turns his eye on a group of hapless jihadists with, to judge from the trailer, hilarious results.

7 Festival: All Tomorrow's Parties, Butlins, Minehead

Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, is among the leftfield curators for the holiday-camp festivals this year. His pitch-perfect choices so far include Iggy and the Stooges, The xx, Joanna Newsom and Spiritualized. (Atpfestival.com)

8 Comedy: Flight of the Conchords, Apollo, Manchester

It's business time as Bret and Jemaine bring their inimitable brand of comedy soft-rock to the UK for the first time in five years. The tour culminates at Wembley Arena – what would Murray say? Touring to 18 May (Flightoftheconchords.co.nz)

8 Art: Tatton Park Biennial

An enticing group of young artists – including Jamie Shovlin, Jem Finer and Ryan Gander – are let loose in the house and grounds of the Cheshire stately home. There is a collapsing tree house in the arboretum, a two- ton block of Arctic ice in a glasshouse, a kitchen full of feathers and giant lily pads on the mere. Plus, pay a visit to the world's smallest cinema on the lawn. To 26 September (Tattonparkbiennial.org)

11/12 Pop@ Joanna Newsom, Royal Festival Hall, London

Two rare shows from the Californian harpist and all-round indie heroine, playing songs from her new, triple album, Have One on Me.

11 Film: One Night in Turin

"Gazza cried, and football changed forever." James Erskine's film promises the inside story on England reaching the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup, just in time for South Africa.

13 Festival: Udderbelly, South Bank, London

The country's quirkiest venue – a travelling, giant, upturned purple cow – is also one of the finest for fringe theatre, comedy and dance. It returns to its riverside pasture with comedy from David O'Doherty and Sarah Millican, acrobatics from Controlled Falling Project, Frisky and Mannish's pop cabaret, upbeat dance in Brazil! Brazil! and an evening with The Wire's Clarke Peters. Get there early and have a summery drink in the beer garden. To 18 July (Underbelly.co.uk)

13 Festival: Concrete and Glass, Hoxton Square, London

An exciting addition to the scene when it debuted in 2008, the visual arts and music festival created by Flora Fairbairn, Paul Hitchman and Tom Baker of Eat Your Own Ears returns. Martin Creed plays a gig with fellow artist David Shrigley, and there are exhibitions curated by Hannah Barry and Guy Gormley at 20 Hoxton Square. To 28 May

14 Film: Robin Hood

The outlaw gets the "reboot" treatment in Ridley Scott's film, starring Russell Crowe. "He's a guy who's been on the road, as opposed to a guy walking around with a feather in his hat and wearing a little green skirt. I never liked that Robin Hood," says the director of his remake. Cate Blanchett plays Maid Marian.

14 Art: Tate Modern's 10th Birthday

The museum is holding a free festival to celebrate its first decade. No Soul for Sale will see 50 independent arts spaces from around the world thronging the Turbine Hall until midnight throughout the weekend. New York's White Columns will team up with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore on a poetry piece, super-cool Icelandic collective Kling & Bang will dangle an installation from the ceiling and London's Museum of Everything will take part. A global snapshot of contemporary art. To 16 May

18/19 Dance: Babel, Sadler's Wells, London

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's latest mystical work takes place on a set of five giant boxes, designed by Antony Gormley.

20 Opera: Billy Budd, Glyndebourne

He has the golden touch at the Donmar but how will the director Michael Grandage fare with his first opera? The season gets off to a mouthwatering start with his take on Britten's 1951 all-male classic, never before performed at Glyndebourne.

20 Dance: Big Dance Bubble, Potters Field Park, London

Look out for a giant bubble landing in London's parks and outdoor spaces. Created by the German Art & Architecture collective Raumlabor-Berlin, it will house various arts events. The launch sees Sadler's Wells and Siobhan Davies collaborating with Fevered Sleep for a new dance piece. To September (Portavilion.com)

21 Art: Picasso: Peace and Freedom, Tate, Liverpool

A rare look at Picasso's post-Second World War career and the artist as political activist, Communist and, believe it or not, feminist. To 30 August

27 Theatre: All My Sons, Apollo Theatre, London

The closest thing the West End gets to a summer blockbuster – Zoë Wanamaker and David Suchet star in Arthur Miller's family drama. Howard Davies directs. To 11 September

27 Pop: Lady Gaga, Arena, Nottingham

Twenty-foot high monsters! Leotards! Burning pianos! Hairpieces! Really catchy tunes! The new queen of pop drops by casually for a few more dates on her world tour. To 4 June

28 Film: Sex and the City 2

Carrie and co return. Have you missed them? Details of the sequel are tougher than a dodo's egg to come by but the recently released trailer promises 1980s flashbacks, the return of Aiden, a trip to Morocco, deaths, births and lashings of fabulous fashion.

29-31 Pop: Dot to Dot Festival, Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester

Who says you need a field to hold a festival? Taking place in pubs and clubs across three cities over the bank holiday weekend, Dot to Dot has one of the best line-ups around, including Ellie Goulding, Field Music, Wild Beasts and Goldheart Assembly. (Dottodotfestival.co.uk)

JUNE

4 Theatre: Women, Power and Politics, Tricycle Theatre, London

June 2010 and has anything really changed? Twelve of our very best playwrights look at women's relationship with power down the ages. Rebecca Lenkiewicz takes on Elizabeth I, Lucy Kirkwood looks back to the Greenham Common protests and Bola Agbaje writes on current-day student politics. To 17 July

5 Theatre: Sorry!, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

The anarchic Footsbarn present an evening of burlesque and circus in a big top. In Sorry!, a funeral and a Gypsy wedding collide – with added horses. To 12 June; then Victoria Park, London, 19 June to 5 July (Footsbarn.com)

9 Art: Rude Britannia: British Comic Art, Tate Britain, London

From William Hogarth to, strangely, Angus Fairhurst, an overview of Britain's fine comic tradition. To 5 September

11 Classical: Aldeburgh Music Festival

Classical music and walks on the beach in Britten country: the 63rd festival includes recitals from Ian Bostridge, the world premiere of Elliott Carter's What Are Years?, conducted by Pierre Boulez, and a celebration of Peter Pears' centenary. To 27 June (Aldeburgh.co.uk)

11 Film: Greenberg

Ben Stiller gets serious as the unlikeable hero of Noah Baumbach's follow-up to Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale.

11 Pop: Meltdown, Southbank Centre, London

Richard Thompson has curated an engaging set of concerts, including Broken Bells' first live show, Seasick Steve, Elvis Costello and cricket pop from The Duckworth Lewis Method. There's also a tribute to Kate McGarrigle from her family and assorted members of the folk aristocracy, an evening of political songs and a screening of Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man set to Thompson's own score. To 21 June

12 Theatre: The Bridge Project, Old Vic, London

Sam Mendes' transatlantic theatre troupe – Stephen Dillane and Juliet Rylance are this season's stars – arrives back in London with The Tempest and As You Like It. To 21 August

12 Pop: Doves, Thetford Forest, Suffolk

Gigs don't get much more atmospheric than Doves in the shadow of the pine trees. Part of the Forestry Commission's series of concerts in spectacular woodland locations across the country. (Forestry.gov.uk)

15 Cabaret: Fitzrovia Radio Hour, Last Days of Decadence, London

Here's a spiffing idea: 1940s-inspired radio plays performed with live sound effects and cut-glass theatricality in a Shoreditch vintage paradise. This summer's tall tales include the daredevil adventure The Day They Stole the Eiffel Tower and a cricketing morality tale, A Bat from Hell. To 25 July; then at the Edinburgh Fringe (Fitzroviaradio.com)

16 Film: Edinburgh Film Festival

Like Cannes without the beach, or the sun – but still a good place to catch the next big thing before it happens: last year it secured the UK premieres of Antichrist and The Hurt Locker. This year's opening gala celebrates Sylvain Chomet, the Oscar-winning creator of Belleville Rendez-vous, and features his new film, The Illusionist. To 27 June (Edfilmfest.org.uk)

17 Theatre: Alice, Sheffield Crucible

Posh is still making waves at the Royal Court, and now Laura Wade, Sheffield born and bred, unveils her modern-day, Northern version of Wonderland. To 24 July (Sheffieldtheatres.co.uk)

18 Opera: Idomeneo, Coliseum, London

Love her or hate her, Katie Mitchell has a way of directing talked-about productions. Following on from her sell-out Dido and Aeneas, she now turns to Mozart. Edward Gardner conducts. To 9 July

18 Festival: Winterwell

Another year, another boutique festival – but how many have Roald Dahl as their theme? Festival-goers are invited to bring their snozzcumbers and dress up as their favourite characters – from Oompa-Loompas to Twits – as Norman Jay, We Have Band and Animal Kingdom provide the tunes. To 21 June

19 Opera: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Bryn Terfel makes his role debut as the shoemaker and poet Hans Sachs in Wagner's six-hour epic. Richard Jones adds his flamboyant and witty touch as director. To 3 July in rep; then Birmingham Hippodrome, 6 & 10 July (Wno.org.uk)

19 Art: Ernesto Neto, Hayward Gallery, London

Big, stretchy, tactile, walk-through sculptures. The Brazilian artist reopens the gallery in style, with new installations on the roof terrace. To 5 September

19 Architecture: London Festival of Architecture

Events include Bankside Urban Forest – with a tour around the unseen reaches of Tate Modern, talks from Foster+Partners and Arup and a cookery school in Borough Market – a chance to look around the flats and gardens of the Barbican estate and a guided tour of BBC Broadcasting House. To 4 July (Lfa2010.org)

2 Opera: Manon, Royal Opera House, London

Anna Netrebko stars in a lavish production of Massenet's Parisian opera. Antonio Pappano conducts. To 10 July

23 Festival: Glastonbury, Worthy Farm, Pilton

Forty years on and it's still the one not to miss. 2010's Holy Trinity of headliners is U2, Muse and Stevie Wonder But will it rain? To 27 June

28 Film: Whatever Works

Larry David plays a grumpy physicist called Boris Yelnikoff in Woody Allen's latest New York movie. Evan Rachel Wood and Patricia Clarkson also star. Never mind the American critics' kvetching, we're going.

30 Pop: Kings of Leon, Hyde Park, London

Somewhere along the line last year, the Followill brothers became the biggest band in the world. Now they play a triumphant outdoor gig.

JULY

2 Film: Shrek Forever

After The fourth and final chapter in the animated fairytale. Princess Fiona, Donkey and Puss in Boots all come along for one final ride, too.

3 Pop: Rufus Wainwright, Kenwood House, London

A fine setting, and a rare solo UK outing, for the self-professed diva who will include songs from his latest album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu. (Picnicconcerts.com)

5 Architecture: Serpentine Pavilion, London

The French architect Jean Nouvel has been commissioned to make his UK debut with the 10th anniversary pavilion. Angular, bright, pillar-box red with a retractable roof, it will house French artist Christian Boltanski's Heartbeat, last seen at Paris's Grand Palais, a bar and some ping-pong tables, too.

7 Theatre: La Bête, Comedy Theatre, London

Mark Rylance follows Jerusalem with a turn as a street clown in David Hirson's Molière-inspired play about the battle between highbrow and lowbrow art. Joanna Lumley and David Hyde Pierce also star.

7 Opera: La Traviata, Royal Opera House, London

Angela Gheorghiu stars as the tragic heroine in a revival of Richard Eyre's production. Four performances only. To 17 July in rep

8 Pop: Summer Series, Somerset House, London

The line-up for the courtyard concerts includes Noah and the Whale, The xx, Florence + the Machine, Gil Scott-Heron and Corinne Bailey Rae. To 18 July (Somersethouse.org.uk)

9 Theatre: Pygmalion, Chichester Festival Theatre

Rupert Everett returns to the stage to star as Henry Higgins. To 27 August in rep (Cft.org.uk)

8 Film: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Here comes the third in the vampire romance series, starring Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

13 Opera: The Duchess of Malfi, Royal Albert Basin, London

The mystery event of the summer. Punchdrunk team up with English National Opera to stage an immersive, operatic version of Webster's revenge play over three floors of an empty office block in the East End.

15 Festival: Latitude, Henham Park, Southwold

The most enticing festival line-up so far for the gentle Suffolk weekender, with Florence + the Machine, Vampire Weekend, Belle and Sebastian, Laura Marling and Grizzly Bear. To 18 July (Latitudefestival.co.uk)

15 Film: Inception

For Batman fans who can't wait for his follow-up to The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan directs Leonardo DiCaprio as a hustler who reads people's minds by entering their dreams.

17 Classical: Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

The programme is set to be announced on Thursday but with 100 concerts to choose from, there's sure to be something for everyone. (Bbc.co.uk/ proms)

18 Comedy: David O'Doherty, Open Air Theatre, London

The winner of the 2008 if.comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe and self-proclaimed "Ryanair James Bond" brings his "David O'Doh-Party" to Regent's Park.

19 Dance: The Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Opera House, London

The Bolshoi Ballet arrives back in London with Yuri Grigorovich's epic Spartacus, pairing Ivan Vasiliev and Svetlana Zakharova. Also on the programme are Giselle, Don Quixote and a triple bill of Paquita, Petrushka and Alexei Ratmansky's Russian Seasons. To 8 August

23 Film: Toy Story 3

Fifteen years after the original changed the landscape of film-making, the Toy Story series returns in 3D, with cameos from Barbie and Ken.

23 Festival: Womad

Gil Scott-Heron, Salif Keita, Staff Benda Bilili and Horace Andy are among the big names on the bill. To 25 July (Womad.org)

29 Art: Martin Creed and Richard Wright, Edinburgh Art Festival

Two Turner Prize winners have been given free rein over the city's stairs. Martin Creed brings a new piece of public art to the capital with his Scotsman Steps, while Richard Wright will create a new mural for twin stairwells at the Dean Gallery. To 5 September (Edinburghartfestival. com)

29 Film: Film 4 Summer Screen, Somerset House, London

Cinema beneath the stars. Films confirmed so far include Cabaret, Kubrick's Paths of Glory and a Vampire Night double bill of Let the Right One In and The Lost Boys. To 8 August (Somersethouse.org.uk)

30 Film: The A Team & The Karate Kid

Twenty and thirtysomethings, prepare for a weekend of nostalgia as two 1980s remakes hit the multiplexes. Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper star in the "gritty" big-screen transfer of The A Team while Jackie Chan teaches Jaden Smith (son of Will) to wax on, wax off.

AUGUST

2 Theatre: Earthquakes in London National Theatre, London

Mike Bartlett follows up Cock with a rollercoasting, time-travelling urban drama. Rupert Goold directs the Headlong co-production.

5 Theatre: Into the Woods, Open Air Theatre, London

Timothy Sheader directs Stephen Sondheim's dark fairytale in leafy Regent's Park. To 11 September (Openairtheatre.org)

6 Festival: Edinburgh Fringe

The programme is yet to be announced but if you're a theatre and comedy fan, there's nowhere else to be in August. To 30 August (Edfringe.com)

13 Film: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney's latest bid for the summer-holiday audience stars Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer Balthazar Blake in a live-action take on Mickey Mouse's Fantasia.

13 Festival: Edinburgh International Festival

Highlights of this year's globe-trotting programme include Opera de Lyon's Porgy and Bess, the UK premiere of Brett Dean's opera Bliss based on Peter Carey's sardonic novel, flamenco from Paco Peña, an Early Music recital from Magdalena Kozena and visits from New York's theatrical wunderkinds, Elevator Repair Service with their take on Hemingway. To 5 September (Eif.co.uk)

13 Festival: Vintage at Goodwood

A stylish addition to the festival scene, this weekend created by Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway and Lord March brings together music, fashion and art. Stages are programmed by decade, from 1940s tea-dance to 1980s warehouse, with music from The Noisettes, Gaggle and Rox, among others. Elsewhere, Lily Allen will launch her clothes range and there are catwalk shows and vintage markets for rummaging. (Vintageatgoodwood.com)

14 Theatre: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe

Christopher Luscombe's production is revived for a warming end to the season. To 2 October

20 Film: The Expendables

What do you get if you cross Sylvester Stallone with Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger? Creaking joints, yes, but also late summer's big-hitter, as the gang of action veterans band together.

27 Film: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead, hits Hollywood with a comic-book adaptation starring geek du jour Michael Cera.

Additional reporting by Emily Jupp and Miranda Kiek

Al fresco feasts: How to have fun at a festival

Picnics are no picnic. If you're not contending with the vicissitudes of English weather there will be flies, dog dirt or hectoring pigeons. But for those brave enough to wish to combine al fresco music or theatre with al fresco food, here are a few suggestions.

A number of arts events will spare you the trouble of preparing a picnic. The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park offers a four-course picnic plus wine at £22.50 per person. At the same price, English Heritage Picnic Concerts have linked up with Carluccio's to produce an Italian-style hamper.

While English Heritage's picnics specify a two-person minimum, Glyndebourne is willing to cater for one. Rather heart-warmingly, the lone concert-goer can share his or her picnic rug with another solo attendee. It's a sort-of match.com for the caviar-consuming classes. Glyndebourne hampers are predictably opulent, containing a tablecloth, glasses, china and cutlery. Too posh to clear up the remnants of your lobster salad and smoked salmon? Porters will be on hand to do it for you.

Picnickers who prefer to bring their own foil-wrapped marmite sandwiches and sit on macs or plastic bags and consider a leaky flask of milky coffee the height of luxury will enjoy BBC Proms in the Park. The Proms retains its original democratic vision and is unlikely to be horrified by plebeian tastes.

If it's all about the view, The Minack Theatre in Cornwall is another top place for a picnic. Appetites heightened by sea air, picnickers can enjoy their sandwiches while looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Miranda Kiek

How to have fun at a festival

It might sound obvious, but pack well. It is very annoying to arrive well-equipped with wellington boots, a mac, and hoody for the chilly evenings, only to find that the sun is blazing and you're without sunglasses, sun cream or a hat. Arrive onsite early, both to secure a pitch that suits either your need for proximity to the stages, or the family-friendly, quieter camping areas further afield, and to make the most of the early entertainment on offer, usually bands and films to warm up the weekend. Another tip is to pitch your tent on higher ground to avoid the muddy results of inevitable rainfall. For the iPhone owners, a useful application to download is the "Tent Finder" – its flashlight might prove a godsend in guiding you back to your canvas shelter. It might also be sensible to arrange a meeting point for you and your festival companions because mobile phone signals are notoriously unreliable onsite.

Music is your priority, so source a programme early on to start planning which bands to see. Be warned that stages at the larger festivals tend to be nicely spread out – at Glastonbury, it takes 45 minutes to cross from the John Peel Stage to the Shangri La area. Smaller platforms such as the comedy or literary tents fill up very quickly, so when there is a big name star appearing, be sure to be there early to avoid disappointment. Unlike when watching a band, if you're not in the tent, you won't hear a thing.

Keep a look out for surprise impromptu sets taking place across the site. Latitude is known for its surprise guests and improvised gigs in the woods – a piano is strategically positioned for passers by to play, while at the intimate End of the Road festival in Dorset, impromptu acoustic sets take place in magical clearings in the forest, and at Green Man, in the Brecon Beacons, you can find theatrical shows taking place among the trees. But above all, rather than plotting a strict timetable, be flexible enough to give yourself the opportunity to stumble across bands that you might never have heard of. It's then that the festival experience really begins.

Elisa Bray

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    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment