Illustrations by Ben Beechener
To introduce you to the new Culture Team for the Easter vacation and Trinity term, we’ve decided to take up the mantle from last year’s team and explore our culture favourites in the style of Desert Island Discs. Rather than solely focusing on music, we’ve all chosen eight or so cultural picks that would give us comfort if we were stranded on a desert island.
We look forward to commissioning and editing articles from across the Oxford community!
GRACIE BOLT – Senior Culture Editor
With so many great things to choose from, my desert island picks are always changing. So, I’m just going to focus on what I’m loving at the moment…
Yes I did just write an article on it but no this isn’t a plug – I really enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and actually think it would work really well as a desert island read as it would make me appreciate the wildlife around me in spite of the solitude.
I don’t think it’s possible to feel sad listening to Odyssey or Alabama Shakes, so I’d love to bring anything by either of them along. I’ve also been listening to ‘Slippery People’ by Talking Heads on repeat at the moment and think it would work great as a musical accompaniment to my island experience.
Speaking of Talking Heads, I loved 12 Feet From Stardom when I watched it recently. A documentary which focuses on the backing singers whose voices have dominated the hits for decades, this film could be watched again and again on a desert island.
Two very different shows, but ones that I’ve been enjoying equally, are Below Deck and Unforgotten. One makes me want to give everything up and go work on a yacht in the Bahamas, and the other is a refreshing take on crime drama with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. Watch both and decide which is which!
Theatre and Performance
I’d have to take Spoon River, a recently released student radio play, along with me to the island. And no, this isn’t because it’s the only performance I’ve seen in a year, nor is it because I know the directors… It’s a lovely play which seamlessly and ingeniously adapts to present-day restrictions.
I’ve been loving the vibrant prints of Henri Matisse for their transportive summery vibe (though I’m not sure I’d need them on a desert island for the very reason I’m enjoying them now).
KATHARINE SPURRIER – Literature Editor
Range and size are key when thinking about books to take. I think I would need Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It is one of my favourites and has enough pages on love, angst and envy to fill any beach-reading afternoon. To supplement this with some nostalgia I would also take C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia which have the added bonus of there being seven of them. If I haven’t already exceeded my baggage allowance, I’d pop in the poetic By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart which I think might actually make me use my brain.
Desert islands, you would assume, are dreary places and I’d want some music to try and liven things up a little. Hands down my first and forever choice would be Taylor Swift and if I can’t take her entire discography (which would have something for any occasion) I am going to have to hope that before I get marooned, she releases a greatest hits album because I don’t think I could choose otherwise. In a second choice I can be more precise: Milo Greene’s self-titled debut album would provide all the vibes needed to keep me going.
Completely necessary, since I am not taking the book, is the 2005 Pride and Prejudice as the combination of Keira Knightley and a desert island will provide serious Pirates of the Caribbean energy. The film has the added bonus of having one of the most beautiful, but underappreciated, scores, so when I’m finished with my Taylor Swift, I can just move onto that. An equally great, if somewhat different, soundtrack is found in Baby Driver, so I might have to take that too.
I don’t know if my trip would be complete without Fleabag. I would go insane without the provision of something that would maintain some remembrance of sarcasm.
Theatre and Performance
If I could take the whole cast with me, I would take the only musical you will ever need: The Lion King.
EMILY BROUGHTON – Blueprint Editor
I would have to bring my favourite book (the one that actually made me love literature) which is Jane Austen’s Emma. I have read the novel so many times and know the characters so well that it would feel like bringing friends with me to the desert island. To keep my spirits lifted I would also bring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Finally, I’ve been meaning to read the Odyssey for years and I feel like reading it on a lonely island away from home would be especially ironic; I couldn’t miss that opportunity.
I’ve always been a fan of classic rock music so I think I would bring Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits (the theme track for my childhood). If I had to pick a single song, I would choose ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ by The Wombats which makes me smile every time I listen to it. Other than that, I would listen to anything by Kaleo or The Black Keys; they aren’t the cheeriest bands in the world but they have fantastic guitarists that you have to admire.
My taste in cinema is quite varied, but to keep me entertained I think I would bring the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are so many at this point that I would stay busy for a long while. I would also have to bring Sleepy Hollow, or any Tim Burton movie really, and stare at the gorgeous gothic shots.
The best show that I can think of that would bring me joy and provide escapism for long nights on the island is Doctor Who. This show has everything from Victorian ghosts to killer aliens with glorified plungers for weapons. Maybe the Tardis would even materialise and rescue me.
Theatre and Performance
It is incredibly cliché for a literature student to pick Shakespeare but that won’t stop me. I watched a version of Much Ado About Nothing with Catherine Tate and David Tennant years ago and it still has a profound effect on me.
LIZZIE KNOWLES – Film and TV Editor
I’m currently reading The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, so I would have to bring that; I need to know what happens next! My favourite book always seems to be whatever I read most recently anyway….
It’d have to be Taylor Swift’s entire discography, if that’s allowed? Then I could have music for every mood; from feeling sad about being stranded, to having an island party. I would analyse the lyrics to keep me occupied. What more could I need?
I love The Devil Wears Prada but the busy city life might make me a bit sad in light of the island situation. So, while Groundhog Day might also hit close to home for someone doing the same thing every day on a desert island, I’d like to think the promise of change would get me through.
I’d love to take something long-running so it would take a while to run out of episodes! Like Parks and Recreation for the laughs and Death in Paradise because of the familiar formula (and island theme of course). In reality, though, I’d take a gameshow, probably Only Connect. The amazing contestants would keep me entertained and maybe I’d eventually get some questions right.
Theatre and Performance
I’m a massive musical theatre fan, and I think being stranded on a desert island would require something upbeat and hopeful. Hairspray would definitely provide that for me, and maybe Wicked as well. I think the catchy music and colourful sets would brighten up my days.
LOVEDAY PRIDE – Visual Arts Editor
Maybe, to keep my brain ticking, I would bring The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing. I am fascinated by the world of mushrooms and what they can do, so this a must if you want to see how much our world is so intertwined with theirs.
Despite being asked this question multiple times by family and friends, I am still undecided. For now, as summer is fast approaching and I am presuming this desert island to be hot, I have to say Manu Chao’s album Clandestino; this definitely reminds me of warm summer days and pure happiness. For when I need to consume myself in a reverie, it has got to be Spring I, from The Four Seasons, recomposed by Max Richter.
I would love to say that I could be kept entertained solely by the apple strudel scene in Inglorious Basterds, or by the surprising journey of a 14-year-old girl in True Grit (2010), but for something to keep me in good spirits, I would have to go with the 2015 adaptation of Cinderella starring the glorious Lily James. To this day, I think it promotes the most important message (that would also keep me going in my time of solitude), ‘to have courage and be kind’.
Maybe Madmen, Toast of London, or perhaps the bingeworthy Below Deck…
Theatre and Performance
Without a shadow of a doubt, I would be taking Les Misérables to the desert island with me. After watching it multiple times, having the soundtrack on repeat on long car journeys, and starring in a school production, I have fond memories and a lot of singing along to do with this one.
I think I would need something fun, something colourful and maybe even a bit kitsch at times, but most certainly something abstract that I can’t identify easily. For this reason, I would take any (if not many) of Charline Von Heyl’s paintings.
If you want to get involved in Culture at The Blue this term, join ‘The Oxford Blue Culture Writers’ group on Facebook or message / email any of us with you ideas.