Once upon a time, in the land of book publishing, a set of retailers ruled with great power: the supermarket was king, shaping British novel-buying tastes and making authors’ careers. By 2009, one-in-five books was being sold in supermarkets – often at a hefty discount that was tempting to consumers.
The catchy, folk-tinged numbers from “Treason the Musical” have been streamed online over a million times, in 96 countries. Its fans — known as “Plotters” — have been listening to an EP, an acoustic record and a live album of the songs, as well as sharing their own performances on TikTok. But until this fall, there hadn’t even been a full-scale production of the show.
“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in her 1928 novel Orlando, about a young nobleman who lives for several centuries, changing sex along the way.
A confession: the thought of an 84-year-old writing a play about sex robots did not necessarily fill me with optimism. But in his 89th play, Alan Ayckbourn proves you don’t need to be a digital native to write about AI.
Last summer, I was at a festival with about 25 friends. We all camp together, something of an annual tradition, our numbers swelling year on year. Some of these people are among my oldest, closest friends; some are very new ones, whom I might see only once or twice a year; and some have gone from being the latter to the former. Looking around one morning when we blearily, cheerfully gathered for a communal breakfast, I was struck by a realisation: in this large group of people, everyone was child-free.
Part way through her latest history-making set – Billie Eilish is the youngest star to headline Reading and Leeds festivals – the 21-year-old asks the crowd if they saw her here four years ago. In 2019, festival bosses had to move Eilish from the Radio 1 stage to the main stage – a sign of the nosebleed-inducing upwards trajectory she was on.