The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
As might be expected, opinion is still divided when it comes to the thorny issue of whether the Turner Prize judges got this year's winner right or wrong.
Elizabeth Price's The Woolworths Choir Of 1979, a video installation originally exhibited at The Baltic in Gateshead, was rightly cited by some as the only gem in this year's exhibition.
Thankfully the judges agreed but their choice could be seen as a means of getting out of a tight fix as two of the other three contenders, fantasist Paul Noble with his drawings of a fictional city and Spartacus Chetwynd, with her performance art of urban magic ritual, were once both favourites for the prize.
Price's work, using archive and documentary testimonies, is about the fatal fire at a Woolworths store in Manchester that killed 10 people in 1979. The fact that it is based on an event affecting real people suggests that it is time for artists to recognise the significance of social studies and lived experience in their work instead of expecting society to listen to the tiresome rhetoric of the individual.
Price's large-scale triptych pulls together seemingly disparate connections between the religious and profane, female pop iconography and the incendiary materials, stacked high in Woolworths just before the lethal 1979 fire.
It is a compelling experience, produced with a refined structural technique in the edit and a superb sense of timing. The content of the work recognises and refers to places of community like the church or a department store as, one way or the other, dangerous places for people.
Price's victory comes as something of a relief because it contrasts with Noble's infantile fantasies which come across as a 6th-form schoolboy's drawings, firmly stuck to the page from whence they came.
And her work derives its content from solid, research-based practice, rather than the creed of dead magic and superstition - meant presumably as a meaningful comment on the economy - that lead prankster Chetwynd tried to hoodwink the jury with.
If Chetwynd or Noble had won the Turner Prize would have imploded because, like the other also-ran Luke Fowler, their work substitutes the drama of nothing for the rigours of engaging the grey matter.