Culture

Meet The Culture Team: Desert Island Picks (Part 2)

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!

CAROL JONES – Theatre / Blueprint Editor

DPhil Music, St Catherine’s College, Second Year

Books

I’m terrible at making decisions, as you’ll see here, but it would have to be a tie between Rejected Princesses, a book series exploring forgotten women from around the world, and Letters of Note, a collection of letters from known and unknown figures in history. Both books can inspire you on one page and break your heart on the next, even more so when you remember that everything you are reading is true. 

Music

You can’t ask a musician this! It has to be a tie between The Best of Sam Cooke or Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. Both are CDs I grew up listening to in the car on the way to school and have remained staples for all sorts of occasions. You can never go wrong with the classics.

Films

RBG and Knock Down The House are both hugely motivational whenever I’m having a phase of self doubt. Both films show the importance of having role models, RBG through quiet, logical determination and Knock Down The House through the evolution of grassroots activists to political figures. If ever you wanted to believe change was possible, these films show it.

TV

Parks and Recreation is definitely my happy place. We all need a little bit of positivity in our lives, especially if we’re stuck on a desert island! Having said that, I may start to miss human contact and messiness, and Below Deck has buckets of human messiness.

Theatre and Performance

One of the last shows I saw before lockdown was Waitress, but well before then, I’d fallen head over heels with the soundtrack. It combines creative staging and a heartfelt story with a witty and smart score. An out and out winner!

Visual Arts

Van Gough has always intrigued me, and not just because of the colouring books! To be able to see how his works are created and still be able to find various interpretations is fascinating. The numerous adaptations of his work are also interesting to see, especially the fabulous hand-painted animation film Loving Vincent.

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RIANA MODI – Film and TV / Theatre Editor

Jesus College, Classics, Second Year

Books

This would be a tough decision for me, but I would definitely have to bring Judith Kerr’s Out of the Hitler Time trilogy, which I have reread many, many times and which I’m sure would bring me comfort with their uncomplicated writing and emotional depth. As a Classicist, I’d like Homer’s Odyssey,  which aside from being very suitable for a strange desert island, would be good to dip in and out of with its epic scale. If it’s allowed, I would also love some poetry, probably in the form of The Poetry Pharmacy, so I could have something to suit whatever mood I should be in.

Music

I’d love the magical sounds of Simon and Garfunkel – in particular, the recording of their ‘Concert in Central Park’, which was the first version of most of their songs that I heard as a child, and which has the most amazing atmosphere to it; hopefully, the sound of the crowd would make me feel less lonely too. Something by the wonderful Tom Rosenthal (who I was lucky enough to interview last year!) would also be great to take – my favourite album of his is probably Bolu, which features good humour and comforting yet inspiring tunes – especially ‘Run for Those Hills, Babe’.

Films 

Firstly, a couple of cheat requests – I’d like Mamma Mia and Yesterday so I can take ABBA and The Beatles in disguise! They’re also wonderful films in their own right, and I’m sure I’d enjoy dancing to Mamma Mia and pretending I was on Donna’s Greek Island instead of on my own! I’d also take my most rewatched film, the rom-com About Time, which never fails to both make me cry and be uplifted. 

TV

Downton Abbey is probably my most rewatched TV series and would therefore be a top pick to take, mainly because I love it as a form of escapism and enjoy following all the different characters plot lines, though the many series should also keep me well occupied (it certainly did while I was revising for Prelims this term!). Τhe simple joy of Outnumbered  would also keep me very happy – the shining brilliance of its both scripted and unscripted moments never fails to make me laugh. More seriously, watching the televised film of King Charles III is something I will never forget, and I would love to take it with me to study it and wonder at it further.

Theatre and Performance

For a piece of well-produced, light-hearted theatre, I’d take The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve always wanted to spend more time unpicking the Icke and Macmillan production of 1984, which I saw in 2016 and was memorably horrified by (although it might give me nightmares on my desert island…). I’d also love to take the Bridge production of Julius Caesar, which I’m super annoyed I never got to see!

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GLORIA MOREY – Music Editor

Christ Church, Psychology and Linguistics, First Year

Books  

It almost seems comical how well suited The Old Man and The Sea would be, given the evident struggle of man vs nature. I found this book extremely uplifting, so it would be the perfect book for me to have on a desert island. 

Music  

My first choice would be A Different Kind of Human, Aurora’s third album: it contains a beautiful array of sounds, with each song capturing a different emotion. Secondly, Broken Machine by Nothing But Thieves. This choice may fall victim to recency bias, as I’ve only newly discovered it, but the album contains songs with some explosive rock instrumentals. The album touches upon subjects including religion, mental health and politics, so it would certainly keep my mind active. Finally, for something more upbeat and feel-good, ABBA’s ABBA Gold is an essential. 

Films

My favourite film is Amélie, and I think this would be a great form of escapism on a desert island. Whenever I watch it, I feel fully enveloped by Amélie’s thoughts, and the whole production of the film is very romantic and thoughtful.  

TV  

The series Grey’s Anatomy would be my immediate choice. Its episodes contain enough drama, comedic relief and heartbreak to ensure that I would always be entertained. Not only that, but the sheer volume of 17 seasons (as of now) would occupy me for a considerable length of time. I would also take Outnumbered; I’ve watched this many times, and it never fails to make me laugh. 

Theatre and Performance

Each time I have read the script of the play A Doll’s House, I have noticed something new about the cleverly crafted “perfect play” that Henrik Ibsen constructed. On a desert island, a performance (or written script) of this play would be ideal, as I could revisit it multiple times, each with a new perspective. 

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YUNDI LI – Blueprint Editor

Magdalen College, Music, Second Year

Books

Leonard Bernstein’s The Joy of Music would be a necessity if I were to be stranded on a desert island (especially considering how I already carry it with me everywhere I go), as a reminder of one of my biggest reasons to live, and because it would allow me to feel the company of my favourite conductor-pianist.

Music

I cannot imagine a world without the serenity, consolation and catharsis of Bach’s music, and so I would have to have Murray Perahia’s rendition of the Goldberg Variations, as well as Itzhak Perlman’s performance of the Violin Partita No. 2. I’d also bring along Secret Garden’s entire discography if I could, because their beautiful Celtic melodies are perfect for daydreaming and remind me of my mum, who first introduced me to their music. I imagine I’d be equally reliant on Wang Feng (a Chinese artist)’s album Life Asks For Nothing, one of the most remarkable albums I’ve heard to date, consisting of many poignant yet uplifting songs.

Films

I am a huge Disney nerd and frequently revisit the films I watched as a child. Monsters, Inc. has left a permanent imprint on my psyche and is my #1 comfort film. Finding Nemo also reduces me to tears every single time.

TV

The Haunting of Bly Manor is the first and only TV show to have left me speechless and unfathomably broken weeks after finishing it, so if I ever need to make myself feel something amidst mind-numbing desert life, it’ll come in handy. I also found Netflix’s Chef’s Table really inspiring, and it’s a sure-fire way of motivating me to improve my cooking skills whilst living a solitary lifestyle.

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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.

Gracie Bolt

Gracie Bolt is the Senior Culture Editor at The Oxford Blue. She studies French and English at Trinity College and is in her second year. When not in Oxford, she lives in North London.