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Five Good Things: what to see, read, visit and buy this October

Summer may be over, but the advent of autumn at least heralds a bounty of a cultural highlights – tomes to hunker down with and shows at which to while away rainy days. Take a leaf out of our book and reap the harvest

Five Good Things: what to see, read, visit and buy this October

Lorfords Contemporary x Haines ‘Hendal’ chair, available now

Some of you may remember Haines, the ultimate destination for surplus and repurposed wallpapers and fabrics (we’ve featured the company before, in our guide to regenerative redecorating). But DIY isn’t for everyone – especially when it comes to upholstery, which makes the launch of the company’s debut collaborative design with Lorfords Contemporary so exciting.

Petite and pretty, the ‘Hendal’ slipper chair has been conceived with sustainability at the top of the list of requirements. Each seat is handmade to order in the Cotswolds using FSC-certified beech and all-natural fillings, including hemp, coir and calico, and even the latex foam cushioning has been chosen with the planet in mind – made with organic materials, it’s fully biodegradable and recyclable. Meanwhile, the chair’s loose covers mean no zips (and less embodied carbon).

While the plan is for the ‘Hendal’ to soon be available in Haines’ range of salvaged fabrics, this chic chequered number is in fact a new creation by Pomily – a UK-based environmentally conscious company printing digitally to order on biodegradable linen- and cotton-blend base cloths. And another brilliant thing: the chair is just a sign of bigger, better things to come. The collaboration will be expanding later in the year, with an ever-growing range of designs using Haines’ trimmings, braids and tassels saved from ending up in landfill.

For details visit the Lorfords website.

Making History: the Ceramic Work of Simon Pettet’, Dennis Severs’ House, Folgate St, London E1, until 29 October

In 1983, Simon Pettet was 18 years old and an art student when, one night outside Heaven nightclub in Charing Cross, he met Dennis Severs. It was encounter that would shape the rest of his life.

Having moved in with Dennis to his house in Spitalfields, Simon found himself enraptured by the magic he encountered there and soon began work on an impressive body of ceramics – tulipieres and obelisks, playful profile pots and marriage plates, all riffing on 17th– and 18th-century blue-and-white-wares. These now form the subject of ‘Making History’, an exhibition staged in the house, which has been revived from an earlier run in the summer and is now on display again until 29 October.

Simon made all these exquisite, irreverent things in a blaze of brilliance that was cut tragically short by his death aged just 28, having been one of the first people in Britain to be diagnosed as being HIV-positive. There is an immediacy to his work that makes this show utterly compelling, rendered all the more so for their being displayed in the house in which he made them. Simon’s beloved yellow pushbike leans against a wall; the Smiths, his favourite band, play overhead. It is as though he has just walked out the room. His presence is keenly felt and, many years after his death, rightly celebrated.

Booking is imperative. For details, visit the Dennis Severs’ House website.

Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Cardiff, 10-15 October

For 16 years, the Iris Prize has been championing the very best of queer cinema, and its annual film festival, held in the Welsh capital, is as enchanting and exciting as you’d imagine. This year’s, running 10-15 October, looks set to be a barnstormer, showcasing 35 short films and 12 feature-length movies from across the world and with a stellar line-up of speakers.

All eyes will no doubt be on writer Russell T. Davies (he of It’s a Sin, Years and Years and Queer as Folk fame), who’ll be in conversation ahead of the return to our screens of Doctor Who. We’ll also be making a beeline for the talk with Euros Lyn, creator of Netflix’s Heartstopper (and son of Cardiff), who’ll be speaking on the subject of queer joy. Film highlights include Femme, a fierce and complex revenge drama starring Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George Mackay, and The Queen of my Dreams, the directorial debut of trailblazing queer South Asian Muslim writer Fawzia Mirza, which offers a remarkable journey through memory with beautiful shades of Bollywood.

If you can’t make it to Cardiff, fear not: until 31 October, all 10 of the international programmes, three Best British programmes, Best of Iris 2022 and Iris Production films will be available to view online.

For details, visit the Iris website.

Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris’, The Holburne Museum, Bath, 21 October-14 April

A mention of the artist Gwen John (1876-1939) rarely comes without one of the men in her life. While, of course, if it weren’t for her brother, Augustus (who insisted their friends exhibit her work), and her lover Auguste Rodin (for whom she modelled extensively), we might know precious little about her relatively short life and career, it remains irritating. Gwen’s work – quiet, intense, introspective – feels more than powerful enough to stand without handmaidens to its success.

Happily, then, the blokes are afforded simply an adequate amount of space in the Holburne Museum’s new show on the Welsh painter, Art and Life in London and Paris. Instead, Gwen remains the true focus of this career-spanning presentation, instead situating her in the context of place, rather than just people. Following John chronologically, from her training at the Slade in London to Paris, where she moved permanently in 1904, the show deftly builds a picture of an assertive, radical – and radically overlooked – artist that goes against historic assertions of her as reclusive eccentric.

For details and to book, visit the Holburne’s website.

Shown: Mère Poussepin, 1920 © The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Univeristy of Birmingham

Artists Remake the World: A Contemporary Art Manifesto’, by Vid Simoniti, published 24 October

What does art do? The is the question posed – and answered – by Vid Simoniti’s new book, Artists Remake the World. Taking the decades since the millennium as his focus, Simoniti, a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Liverpool, seeks to show the myriad ways in which art has been employed as a force for political and social change across the globe, helping us imagine brighter futures and communicating truths that perhaps mainstream media obscures.

It’s not a light read, exactly, but it sure is gripping. Simoniti’s critical stance is easy to get on board with, such is his elegant prose. He’s eye-opening on the subjects of climate change and immigration, for instance, using the work of the likes of Ai Weiwei, Hiro Steyerl or Olafur Eliasson, along with many more, to challenge our ways of thinking. Such big ideas may not work best as a late-summer page-turner but it has its place. In this complex world of upheaval, emergency and displacement, such a treatise on the power of art is a welcome one.

The book is on sale from 24 October. For details, visit Yale University Press’ website.

Shown: Ebony G. Patterson, of 72 Project, 2012

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