Spirit of the Beehive, Radio 4, Friday
What's Eating the Museum? Radio 4, Monday
The Lebrecht Interview, Radio 3, Monday
Beautiful bees – once understood, never swatted
Sunday 04 September 2011
Political theorists love bees.
You name it, the bee colony demonstrates why such-and-such system is the best. The Spirit of the Beehive, composer and producer Nina Perry's musical contemplation of beekeeping, with Oli Langford (violin), brought together scientist and enthusiasts. It marvelled at the waggle dance, which indicates the direction of the next big pollen source. And it examined the benefits of altruism – why not share all information, when more pollen gathered benefits the whole colony? There is a rigorous policing system that discourages selfish behaviour, but its methods were not explained.
A youth from Hackney, east London, has had his once-troubled life turned round by a scheme that introduces inner-city youngsters to natural history, with hands-on encounters. Transfixed by a colony he helps to maintain, he explained: "Once you look at a bee, once you know what it's doing, you stop swatting and start standing still." Hard to resist constructing a political theory on that.
At the V&A, the Pitt Rivers in Cambridge and at Dover Castle, as in every historic collection of clothing or textiles, they are swatting like mad. The clothes moth that has done noticeably more household damage in the past few years has homed in on centuries-old garments and artefacts too. As What's Eating the Museum? discovered, once a moth has nibbled your quagga – that's an extinct zebra, a few specimens of which still exist in collections – the loss is permanent.
At Dover Castle, English Heritage pests expert Dee Lauder is alarmed to find crimson hangings in the King's Hall. The red dye is carmine, derived from crushed beetles, and as such, a meat feast for moth larvae. Conservators who do daily battle with clothes moths and other pests bemoan the loss of certain pesticides which, well, yes, were carcinogenic, but which knocked the bugs for six. At the same time, temperatures in museums have risen, largely for visitor comfort, so that pests bask and breed contentedly. It helps to slam historic garments in an industrial freezer, to kill the cycle.
On Saturday night, Edward Gardner will take to the rostrum of the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 36, the youngest conductor since the Proms' founder Henry Wood himself to conduct the Last Night of the Proms. In an unchallenging The Lebrecht Interview, he retraced his charmed rise through the echelons of British classical music – an Eton scholarship, Cambridge, the Royal College of Music, opera at Salzburg and Glyndebourne and as music director of English National Opera, and now principal guest conductor at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. His parents were in medicine, and there was no music in the family other than enthusiastic amateur appreciation. He has done some wonderful work, but you could not but wonder how many disadvantaged young people in the beekeeping scheme might not do as well, given those opportunities.
Chris Maume is away
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