Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend

Three people standing side by side

A rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Matt d’Ancona

Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.

With uncanny serendipity, Line Of Duty returns on Sunday 21 March (BBC One, 9pm). Since its launch in 2012, the drama has grown from a plucky BBC Two series to a BBC One blockbuster that routinely captures an audience of 13 million. 

Though not the first series to showcase police corruption (at the show’s heart is the anti-corruption unit, AC-12), Line Of Duty came along at a time when trust in institutions, accountability and the misconduct of the powerful were all becoming issues of huge political and social importance.

The show takes one of the oldest questions in human affairs – Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will watch the watchmen?) – and puts it to work in a fully modern setting. In the week that the position of the Met Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, has been challenged and the new police powers proposed in Priti Patel’s latest legislation have dominated the headlines, this question is closer to the bone than ever.

If you haven’t seen the first five seasons, they are all available on iPlayer, and – if you want a quick refresher course – there are recaps here.

Following last week’s celebration of 1990s retro culture – do come along to the next Creative Sensemaker Live on Monday 29 March at 6.30pm, at which we’ll be asking whether life was simply better in that brash and wonderful decade.

Here are this week’s recommendations.

A man speaking at a rally


Judas And The Black Messiah (VOD)
Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield have both received Oscar nominations for their performances in Shaka King’s magnificent movie about the Black Panthers, and rightly so. Hinging on the true-life relationship between Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), chairman of the movement’s Illinois chapter, and FBI informant, William O’Neal (Stanfield), it’s the first Best Picture nomination with all Black producers (Shaka King, Charles D King, and Ryan Coogler). Raw, gripping and rippling with tragedy, it’s unmissable.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché (VOD)
A fine documentary about Poly Styrene – aka Marianne Elliott-Said – the lead singer of the 1970s punk band X-Ray Spex. Directed by her daughter Celeste Bell and Paul Sng, it is partly an exploration of parenthood, and what it means to be the child of an icon; Bell is fearless in her account of her mother’s bouts of mental illness, the price she paid herself and the strength both women mustered to achieve full reconciliation.

Two books on a lilac background
An album cover with a man on


Chopin: Scherzi & Ballades by Abdel Rahman El Bacha
The Franco-Lebanese pianist and composer is renowned as a virtuoso interpreter of Chopin. The four scherzi were composed between 1833 and 1843 and are better-known for their unsettling power and energy. Chopin’s four ballades, meanwhile, composed around the same time, have a lyrical romanticism, based upon, but not constrained by, the sonata form. These performances by Abdel Rahman El Bacha are simply dazzling.
Wild West by Central Cee
This debut studio mixtape by ‘Cench’ has roots in drill but broad horizons (check out the unexpected use of guitar and brass). Like many artists, the Shepherd’s Bush rapper has made impressive use of lockdown to evolve and explore different genres, and already has two top 20 singles to his name. 
….and finally
The road map for the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions has 17 May pencilled in as the provisional date when theatres may start to reopen. But this is subject to the latest aggregated data, infection rates, and the continued success of the vaccine roll-out, and nothing can be taken for granted. 

So three cheers for Stellar Theatre, the new digital company set up by Karen Paul and Peggy Vance, which offers bespoke performances of new plays on Zoom, followed by informal discussion.

Stellar already has a terrific line-up of actors and plays – and, even out of lockdown, would be an innovative idea, worthy of your attention. 

That’s all for now – take care of yourselves, and each other.

Best wishes,

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner
Tortoise Media

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