From red carpets to the Venice Biennale, Shaminder Nahal admires exceptionally talented women.
No one can take their eyes off Olivia Colman, fabulous in a black tuxedo and thick eyeliner. I’m at the Bafta Television Craft Awards with my colleague Ngozi Ubaka. I spot Sophie Willan, and can’t resist telling her what a fan I am of the RTS-award-winning Alma’s Not Normal. Gratifyingly, she says she loves Grayson’s Art Club.
I catch a word with Jack Thorne, and Ruth Madeley, so brilliant in the recent Then Barbara Met Alan. We discuss the exciting project she and I are working on together, which I can’t yet reveal.
Director Poppy Begum is nominated for Emerging Talent: Factual. Also with us are Emma Lysaght and James Newton, nominated for, respectively, Editing and Director for our film Grenfell: The Untold Story, also an RTS award nominee .
Accepting his Bafta, James pays tribute to the survivors, saying they still haven’t got justice. You can watch the film on All 4. Like me, you probably won’t be able to forget it. “There were two really, really long towers,” says Mehdi El-Wahabi, then aged about seven, in the documentary. Artist Constantine Gras had filmed him drawing a mural at Grenfell tower two years before the fire.
Mehdi was one of 17 children to die – a quarter of all the children who lived in Grenfell. On the Westway, on our way home in the cab, we pass the tower. I catch my breath.
“Shadows left over after your eye looks away” – these words, by the artist Jamian Juliano-Villani describing moments in film that inspire her, are on a card on the wall next to her paintings at the Venice Biennale.
I meet her there on a fleeting visit. I’m in a bar in a side street near the Arsenale with art curator Jagdip Jagpal and creative director Jesse Ringham. Jamian, the brilliant New York artist, arrives like a hurricane, in an oversized blazer, and shows us her hair extensions, unpicking them and draping them over the man sitting next to her.
I bump into her again the next night at the Canada party on an island where Detroit DJ Carl Craig is playing. An American artist asks me if I have any Adderall or coke. A Polish curator says his museum has turned into a refugee centre for Ukrainians who have fled across the border.
The Biennale is like an elite art Eurovision without the TV show. This year, the number of female artists represented feels genuinely groundbreaking. Simone Leigh is the first black woman to represent the US, and Sonia Boyce, the first black woman to represent the UK. Both win major prizes.
Leigh’s enormous sculptures of the female form are breathtaking. In the evening, at the Navy Officers’ Club, an artist is being interviewed live in the courtyard, two men holding microphones and vodka cocktails. “What do you think is the sexiest period in art history? I like Ancient Greece…” “That’s a very difficult question… I guess, if I had to pick, it would be New York in the 1970s.”
Might it be Birmingham? “I always have a great time in this city and suspect it may be the coolest place in the UK.” That’s a quote by Grayson Perry on the press release to announce the next Grayson’s Art Club exhibition, opening at the Midlands Arts Centre in December.
The exhibitions have been a huge success. The show at Manchester Art Gallery was one of the most popular of 2021, according to The Art Newspaper. Bristol City Museum and Manchester Art Gallery attracted 52,000 visitors by the end of March.
Neil Crombie of Swan Films sends me the first cut of Grayson’s Art Club: Queen’s Jubilee Special. Viewing this show is one of the highlights of my week – this episode includes Harry Hill’s tribute to the Queen featuring a surprising body part.
Thursday, the TX of Where Have All the Lesbians Gone? Friday, the launch of Richard Hammond’s Crazy Contraptions. Richard is on The One Show with a nerve-racking demo of a chain-reaction machine.
Meanwhile, at the Diva Awards, Channel 4 wins Broadcaster of the Year, with the brilliant Lesbians team in attendance. Later, I’m at a concert of new music by Mica Levi that feels like haunting, twisted church music. We await press for The Man with a Penis on His Arm.
Shaminder Nahal is Channel 4’s head of specialist factual.