Everything A Titan Of Culture Is Enjoying Right Now
Everything A Titan Of Culture Is Enjoying Right Now

Everything A Titan Of Culture Is Enjoying Right Now


As director of Somerset House, Jonathan Reekie is a man to listen to about culture. From exhibitions and films to books and an upcoming festival, here’s what he’s currently excited about…
Photography Somerset House


As ever, there are so many great exhibitions in the capital – with some exciting stuff opening in the coming weeks. I’d encourage everyone to catch Mat Collishaw’s beautiful exhibition, Petrichor, at Kew Gardens before it closes in April. It’s a fascinating display that explores the relationship between art and nature. Over the next month I’ll be visiting Yoko Ono at Tate Modern and The Time is Always Now at the National Portrait Gallery, which explores the Black figure and its representation in modern artwork. On my home patch, in the Somerset House Courtyard, Zheng Bo’s installation, Bamboo as Method, explores the link between creativity and ecology.


Later this month I’ll be seeing Danny Sapani as King Lear at the Almeida Theatre, one of my favourite local venues. It’s a special place because it brings great theatre to such an intimate setting. I’ve also booked to see the revival of Complicité’s classic Mnemonic, which opens at the National in June.

Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono


I wish I had the headspace to read more. I’ve recently finished Paul Kingsnorth’s epic and unforgettable Buckmaster trilogy, which begins in 1066 and ends 1,000 years into the future. From one speculative future to a very different one, I’m now reading Courttia Newland’s A River Called Time, which conjures up a London where slavery and colonialism never existed, but power, privilege and social inequality are extreme. A fascinating read.


I’ve got a stack I need to get through. On the pile is Why Rebel? by Jay Griffiths, a manifesto for rebellion; Sarah Lucas’s Bunny Book, a catalogue of her iconic bunny series; and Creative Leadership: Born from Design by Rama Gheerawo, which is about designing new forms of leadership.

King Lear
King Lear


Poor Things starring Emma Stone was both dazzling and disturbing. I also recently watched Percival Everett’s American Fiction, which was laugh-out-loud funny, with satire that brilliantly skewered the publishing industry. And on Netflix I recently enjoyed North of the Sun, a film about two crazy people who spend a year surfing in the Arctic – perfect if you like series about adrenaline junkies.


I love finding new music of all kinds. This month I was introduced to the haunting saxophone music of Sami/Norwegian composer Mette Henriette and the very bizarre Scottish bagpipes of American jazz musician Rufus Harley, which I discovered on Burns Night while serving haggis to some friends. Both surprising and enjoyable discoveries.

*Creative Leadership: Born from Design* by Rama Gheerawo; *Why Rebel* by Jay Griffiths
Creative Leadership: Born from Design by Rama Gheerawo; Why Rebel by Jay Griffiths


I like to switch off and relax with a good drama. Most recently, I enjoyed the second series of Vigil. I’m also watching Trigger Point with Vicky McClure and trying not to binge it, so I have some TV to look forward to every week – but they make it very difficult with those suspenseful endings.


Café Oto is my favourite local music venue, where I always expect the unexpected. One highlight was singer Lore Lixenberg mashing up Conlon Nancarrow’s piano studies – something that I was convinced wouldn’t work, and I was very wrong. I also saw Lauren Kinsella, Darragh Morgan, Tim Parkinson there as part of the ‘Strange Seas’ programme – I’d highly recommend seeking them out if they’re ever on a music bill near you.

Poor Things
Poor Things


I’m currently listening to Jon Ronson’s second series of Things Fell Apart, an essential listen to understand the origin of the culture wars. We’re also working on a podcast for Somerset House called The Process. It’s all about the importance of failure in creativity.


I’m going up to Factory International in Manchester for Fete of Britain, a four-day celebration of collaboration and imagination in the face of the great challenges of our time, from the cost of living crisis to the climate catastrophe. It’s programmed by Hard Art, a new movement that’s been regularly meeting up in Brian Eno’s studio over the last year or so.



Somerset House Studios has 70 artists in residence, so I’m lucky to always be surrounded by great talent and vivacious new ideas. Dr Libby Heaney has just opened a VR and physical installation called Heartbreak and Magic, a title that perfectly captures the viewer’s experience. Three visual artists, enorê, Leila Dear and Ufuoma Essi, will have an exhibition in March, following the completion of an 18-month residency. I can’t wait to see how they’ve approached their research through the different media they work across.

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