Wednesday, 28 December 2016


An unlikely pairing at first glance. Imagine a Christmas cracker riddle: 'What links the cult of celebrity, Kim Kardashian, and the death of local communities?' Read on for an answer shaped by my most recent newspaper and journal trawling.

George Monbiot is my first key source. Writing in 'The Guardian' just before Christmas (21.12.2016), his piece is headlined: 'Celebrity is the smiling face of the corporate machine'. I think the case he advances is powerful and telling - and the statistics he uses are for me so alarming.

An attachment to celebrity has become the dominant value among little children in the US. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology reveals that an extraordinary shift appears to have taken place between 1997 and 2007 in the US. In 1997, the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) expressed by the shows most popular among nine-to 11 year olds were community feeling, followed by benevolence. Fame came 15th  out of the 16 values tested. Watch American films now on daytime TV here in the UK and you'll get a flavour of what that means - the 'feel-good' triumph of decency over adversity with the shared values of families in small town communities in the end winning out. Mythic tales but in their own way ennobling and with a long pedigree taking in James Stewart's portrayal of courage in adversity (with some angelic assistance) in Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946) and going, I suspect, right back to the very origin of the film medium. But by 2007, fame had shot to the no.1 position, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to 11th, benevolence to 12th.

Kim Kardashian - 'Reality' TV star 

Monbiot cites a paper in the International Journal of  Cultural Studies (IJCS) which found that among the people it surveyed in the UK those who follow celebrity gossip most closely are three times less likely than people interested in other forms of news to be involved  in local organisations and half as likely to volunteer.

A recent survey of 16-year-olds in the UK indicated that 54% of them intended to become celebrities.

As they say, at the end of the day, it's not rocket science. Follow the yellow-brick Ofsted-ed road to Uni and saddle yourself with a lifetime of debt - and for what material gain? Or become a celebrity.

Monbiot points out that after watching and listening to interviews with celebrities you can work out that the principal qualities now sought in a celebrity are 'vapidity, vacuity and physical beauty'. An

Sunday, 25 December 2016


Writing this on Christmas Eve, 2016, I can't quite believe it's been less than a week since I received an email from the States with the title 'Jago Stone'. Monday 19 December was the date of this my first communication from Jessica Raber.

My name is Jessica Raber and I'm an artist in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Merlin Porter told me you are putting together a book on Jago Stone and I wanted to offer any assistance I could provide ..."

For new readers, Merlin Porter is Jago Stone's youngest son. Merlin is also an artist and lives in Oxford. Read through my collection of blogs on Jago Stone for more about Merlin and pictures of his work. Google him to find his own website. Jessica had discovered Merlin in her own online search for more information about Jago a few years ago. Google Jessica Raber for her website.

"... My family was stationed at Upper Heyford during the 1980s and my parents commissioned a number of works from him (five that I'm aware of). I believe they all date from between 1984 and 1986 ... "

Jessica's parents live in Missouri and she is, as I write, with them to celebrate Christmas together. She has sent me pictures of these five commissions in the course of the last day or two.
Jessica has two watercolours in her possession - quite tiny, about 2.5 inches square, and dated 1986. They are unlike any other paintings of Jago that I've seen so far. Her parents have in their home a Jago Stone painting of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Kings Sutton, in Northamptonshire.

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Kings Sutton - watercolour by Jago Stone, dated 1986 

They also have an extraordinary Jago work that Jessica's mom requested depicting a "typical English village". And they have the picture painted by Jago of their home in Bicester, in Oxfordshire. Jessica tells the story as her email continues:  

"I was rather young at the time so my memories of Jago are rather hazy, but I'm sure my parents

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Just over a week ago, I posted the first part of the story of Jago's American Connection and I introduced Becky Bender from South Dakota and John Michael Adamski from Washington State as my new primary sources in my cyberspace research into the life and works of Jago Stone. Yesterday evening, a third primary source introduced herself by email from across the Atlantic - but more of that in Part 3. It can be very exciting, can't it, this shrinking of boundaries and experience of the world as a global village.

In this blog, as promised in Part 1, I will share more news about Jago and his paintings that I have learned from messaging John Michael on Facebook. In Part 1, I explained that John Michael had shared with me seventeen pictures of paintings that Jago had painted and were now part of  his  father's art collection. Pictures of the painting of George Washington's ancestral home - Sulgrave Manor - featured in that blog.

Here in Part 2, are pictures of five other paintings that comprise the artwork revealed in these seventeen pictures. First, Jago's depiction of a view that has caught the imagination of so many tourists - the Cotswold village of Lower Slaughter.

'Lower Slaughter, the Cotswolds'  -   Jago Stone (1977)

And now another popular view, this time looking towards the bridge at Henley-on-Thames. John Michael explained that Jago painted one of these paintings when he was sharing a coach trip with

Monday, 12 December 2016


When my biography of the artist, Jago Stone (1928-88) is published in 2018, you'll be able to follow in detail the story of my online search for his life story. This blog - with its American focus - begins with the tale of an American lady - Rebecca Bender from Rapid City in South Dakota - who made her own online search for more detail about the life of Jago one afternoon last October. We google in a bid to add more meaning to our lives. Sometimes, it pays off - bigtime. Actually, what comes to mind is the image of striking gold - and that is wonderfully apt because Becky is the daughter of a Black Hills gold-mining operative from Lead, her late husband Don who died in 2009 was also the son of a gold miner from Lead, and her partner, Gene, has family roots that stretch back from Lead all the way across the Atlantic to the SW tip of the British Isles where this blog is being composed - to Cornwall. 

Becky and Don married in 1971. For four years - in the late 1970s and early 80s - Don was stationed at Upper Heyford, a USAF base in Oxfordshire, He and Becky lived in a detached bungalow in the village of Bloxham nearby. Their rented property had already been named 'Andsu' after the two children in their landlords' family. Becky, as a USAF officer's wife, became part of the officers' wives luncheon and function circuit that connected to others not just within Upper Heyford but also across at Lakenheath and Mildenhall in East Anglia (where we lived before moving to Cornwall). Two artists, Reg Siler and Jago Stone, and their paintings became a subject of conversation at these gatherings.

'Andsu' by Jago Stone - dated 1983

Last October, Becky was dusting the paintings that hang on a memory wall in her home. Several paintings by Reg Siler, the itinerant artist who painted the homes of Americans serving with the USAF in England (alas! - google is telling me nothing more about Reg Siler). And a picture of Becky and Don's home in Bloxham - 'Andsu' - painted by Jago Stone, the other itinerant artist. Becky and Don had met Jago.

So Becky decided to google Jago Stone's name, just as we had for the first time back in the late-

Saturday, 3 December 2016


An earlier blog - on Sunday 13 November - brought news of how the left-overs from a sale of Jago Stone paintings were discovered in an Oxford pub in 1972. In this blog I can go into more detail, having now sought and got permission to name the people I wrote about in that last Jago blog. I can also show the photographs of the other three Jago paintings that were the subject of this story and are now part of our home-gallery here in St Ives in Cornwall at the SW tip of the British Isles.

This attention to geographical location comes from my growing awareness of the American audience for the blogs that Louise and I produce. I now know where Dakota lies in relation to other US states and similarly where Seattle is in the state of Washington; these two locations are key to the American perspective in this fast-developing online detective story - the search for memories of Jago Stone, artist. Soon, I hope another blog will shed further light on the significance of these places in the Jago story - and bring you pictures of paintings of his that crossed the Atlantic to hang on the walls of a family home in the United States of America.

First, though, a sight of one of the other three Jago paintings connected with the 1972 Oxford discovery - 'Butter Cross, Witney, Oxon.', painted in 1971 shortly after he had moved on from the south Buckinghamshire area where Louise, my wife, and her parents, Ronald and Phyllis Watkins, had known him.

'Butter Cross, Witney, Oxon'. by Jago Stone (1971)

Jago, by the time of the 1972 Oxford  pub sale at The Chequers in the High (where this painting was later bought), had been free from prison for half a decade. His creative artistry had flourished and he