I am delighted to report – after months of secrecy - that the John Blanke Project is now in the National Portrait Gallery and on its web site. It appears in the Westminster Tournament Roll video in the Tudor Gallery on the third floor.
A slim down version of the innovative video Roll’s installation at the Walker Art Gallery Exhibition featuring the Roll’s highlights including John Blanke’s two appearances.
I have to thank Dr Charlotte Bolland for The Project’s mention in the Roll’s video and presence on the National Portrait Gallery's web site, as Dr Bolland has championed the Project since she first saw the complete collection when I showed it to the folks at the Walker. I had to have my picture with her and the Roll and also with Jan Marsh - John Blanke Project Historian who wrote about John Blanke's presence on the Roll as "an invaluable Tudor portrait".
I was there at the celebrity packed opening party - 21st June 2023 - of the £40M refurbishment of the National Portrait Gallery a simultaneously brilliant and humbling experience to see The John Blanke Project amongst the great Tudor Portraits. The Project’s installations at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool was great but that was a temporary exhibition, albeit with an impressive legacy. The National Portrait Gallery installation is permanent, there for the ages.
It was a brilliant evening went by in whirl of networking with old friends, renewing acquaintances, chatting with some lovely people and doorstepping celebrities!
The Black Book of The Garter (1534), also known as Liber Niger, is a medieval manuscript that is highly significant in the history of the Order of the Garter. Commissioned by King Henry VIII in the early 16th century, this illuminated manuscript contains the earliest surviving record of the statutes, rules, and regulations of the Order of the Garter, the most prestigious chivalric order in England.
The Black Book is named after its black velvet binding, which was adorned with a gold garter and the Tudor rose. The manuscript is written in Latin and features beautiful calligraphy and intricate illuminations that depict scenes from the life of St. George, the patron saint of the Order of the Garter.
Henry VIII was a passionate supporter of the Order of the Garter and took a strong personal interest in its affairs. He was determined to elevate the Order's status and promote its reputation as a bastion of chivalry and nobility. As such, he commissioned the Black Book to serve as a comprehensive record of the Order's history, statutes, and traditions.
The Black Book is divided into three main sections. The first section contains a detailed account of the foundation of the Order of the Garter and the legend of St. George. The second section outlines the Order's statutes, which cover everything from the admission of new members to the rules of conduct for knights and officers. The third section contains a list of all the knights who had been admitted to the Order up to the time of the manuscript's creation.
The Black Book is not only a valuable historical document but also a work of art. Its illuminations, created by the leading artists of the Tudor court, are a testament to the beauty and elegance of medieval bookmaking. Today, the Black Book is housed in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle and is considered one of the most important manuscripts in the history of the Order of the Garter.
Post inspired by Tudorpage on Face book
John Blanke appears in QI XL Series T: 13. Tubular
Sandi takes a look at tubes and tubas in a totally tubular show with Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe, Deborah Frances White and Alan Davies. ick here to edit.
For those who did not have the opportunity to visit The John Blanke Project at The Tudors: Passion, Power and Politics Exhibition Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery exhibition 21 May 2022--29 Aug 2022…or for those who would like to revisit it you now can thanks to an online 3D and VR rendition
If you can’t wait to see it right now in spectacular 3D you can go straight to The John Blanke Project here or to have a 3D or VR walk thru the whole glorious exhibition leading up to The John Blanke Project start here.
Detail from Linnet Kamala's John Blanke
Re-reading Onyeka’s seminal text (Onyeka (2013) Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England Their Presence Status and Origins) , keeping in mind what Prof Kaplan and Dr Cunningham wrote that John Blanke’s name was a cognomen or nickname and there was another John Blank (sic) in the Tudor Court record, respectively. I came across the following….
Having looked at over 250,000 entries, I have found only four references to a 'Blanke' and they are contained in the subsidy rolls*. All these Blankes are found in London parishes so it is possible because the name is so rare that they are connected to John Blanke. But they are unlikely to describe the 'blacke trumpeter,' because even if his race was not mentioned his occupation probably would have been as with "Guylham the King's mynstrell' who lived in Westminster on 3 November 1540, or 'Anthony ... Hailes "The Sergeant of the Trumpeters,' who lived at Saint Peter the Poor's Ward, London on 10 January 1564. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the entries with the name Blanke are from the areas of the Liberty of Tower Wharf, London, and date from November 1540, Saint Peter's Parishnear the Tower of London on 1 October 1543, and St Katherine's next to the Tower of London on 3 April 1549. The last 'John Blanke' may be the same person who is also referred to as being resident in St Katherine's Parish, Aldgate, London on 14 May 1559. Finally, a 'Johannes Blanke' appears in the subsidy rolls for Middlesex in the Ward of the Lane Beneath on 17 April 1550.
* records of taxation in England made between the 12th and 17th centuries
Onyeka (2013) Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England Their Presence Status and Origins.
Pg 211. ( See my review here)
Had a brilliant afternoon at Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s HQ - invitation to meet in person in the H&F Experience, Culture and Black History 365 Network. I’ve been presenting my Image of the Black talks to them online for the past two years, this was the first time I’d met them in person.
My talks were always well received. I had the greatest compliment I could ever have following one of my talks to them. In the chat field someone wrote "You make me stand taller Michael and I thank you for this and will savour this feeling" even now as I write this I remain humble and happy as there can be no greater compliment to any speaker than to make folk feel differently – connecting not just intellectually but emotionally. So, I always enjoying presenting to them they are always so receptive. To meet them in person was just as rewarding, if not even more so as they were all so enthusiastic about the things I care about, it became a ‘love-in’ for Black British History as we shared thoughts and ideas.
In fact, it was the first time they as a group itself had met physically for almost three years so the atmosphere was very much like a reunion. They and executives from H&F council and management made me very welcome. It was great to share the John Blanke Project as well as selling some John Blanke Project merchandise. I was not the only presenter invited to the event Mervyn Wier was there with his book I Can’t Breath, as was Avril Nanton, with her book – Black London: History, Art & Culture in Over. 120 Places and Paul Wilson author of Rocking the Boat, while singer Tiwa King guitarist Charles Shittu provided the musical backdrop to the event.
John Blanke and Henry VIII are granted a chance to review their relationship and make their case to us, the audience, for how they wish to be remembered.
I was delighted to be invited to the Vault Theatre East Belfast to see Terra Nova Productions ‘prototype’ – more on that later - performance of The Trumpet & The King written and directed by Andrea Montgomery the Company’s Artistic Director.
The production creates its narrative landscape in a novel way, one in which an imagined relationship between John Blanke and Henry VIII moves freely from being equals at one moment to servant and king in another as they exchange memories from the years 1492 to 1511.
This is an intercultural play in which John and Henry have the opportunity to reflect on how their very different origins and status helped create the men they were – John born into Islamic Spain to be converted to Christianity, Henry the king’s second son finds himself marrying his dead elder brother’s wife and becoming king. Each reveal how they want to be remembered to the other and to the audience.
They delve back into their memories as they meet and embody a range of characters who were important to them including Henry VII, Katherine of Aragon and Wat Chandler – the jealous English trumpeter.
Henry is played by Sam Claridge; Sam plays the part very sympathetically moving effortlessly from the hurt, vulnerable teenager to the powerful man. John Blanke is played by Corey Mantague-Sholay; Corey brings an engaging wit and charm to the role creating a very likeable, intelligent sensitive character born in Islamic Spain coming to terms with life Christian England. The production’s lighting and music function like a narrator helping the audience re-imagine characters as well as scenes from the Spanish and the English courts.
Terra Nova has an intercultural mission. The Trumpet & The King, through the many twists and turns of its story, examines many of the contested cultural interfaces that exist today - Islam and Christianity, black and white ethnicity, immigrant and indigenous identity – in doing so perhaps helping us better understand and relate to one another.
I enjoyed they play for two reasons. First it was good play, well dramatised and acted; as was said by Glen McGivern on Twitter there was the right ‘mix of lightness and intensity’. Second, I believe it exemplified the John Blanke Project’s strapline – Imagine the Black Tudor trumpeter. This strapline was made manifest as The Trumpet & The Kingimagined how John and Henry might have related to each other. This is exactly what the Project is all about: what the poet John Agard called ‘filling in the blanks’, from the little we know from the court record, to help give a better understanding of John and his relationship to Henry.
I was particularly pleased to see John and Henry making music together as one of my imaginings is the two jamming together, albeit with John, the professional musician, obliged by circumstance to deferentially allow his amateur musician king to take centre stage. The play hinted at the challenge of this for an artist.
The Trumpet & The King was a very different play from the other John Blanke play I’ve seen – Ade Solanke’s The Court Must Have a Queen directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay in the Great Hall at Hampton Court , which I reviewed here. The Trumpet & The King centred on character development while the other was all about the plot, that difference was reflected in the staging. Because of its prototype status, The Trumpet & The King was modest, with few props and a cast of two, test performed in an unheated temporarily occupied building, in inner East Belfast. But this allowed us to focus on the characters as they revealed their personalities and relationship, while The Court Must Have a Queen was lavish – a costume drama - set in the wonderful Great Hall of Hampton Court with a much larger cast with a plot that was followed via the characters and their interactions.
Andrea Montgomery tells me that this prototyping is: ‘an essential part of making professional theatre truly intercultural, of power-sharing to engage her community in every step of the creative journey.’ The community have been involved since before the creation of the first draft of the piece, exploring themes and suggesting themes. Andrea invites community and audience participation in those developments thru workshops, readings and after show Q&As, several of which I was invited to take part in. I would argue in its current form, the script is complete, as it allows us to see John and Henry as distinct personalities and how their relationship develops over time. She says that piece will improve from the feedback: that prototyping allows the testing of set, light and sound as well as dialogue, but it seems to me that the process of open discussion is as important to her as the effect.
I am enthusiastic about this version; I look forward with even more enthusiasm to see The Trumpet & The King’s ‘premier’ version which is promised for March 2023.
I want to thank Andrea, Remi and Clinton as well as Sam & Corey for making my visit to Belfast and seeing the play such a memorable and brilliant experience.
Down Load The Trumpet & The King Guide....
Had an excellent John Blanke Live! at the Caribbean Social Forum Takeover of National Maritime Museum Greenwich yesterday 9th April. The Takeover was to celebrate black history and culture in Britain with the Caribbean Social Forum , they took over the museum for the whole day.
The turnout was extraordinary - the Museum was packed , perhaps 1,000 maybe more, you can have some sense of the crowd size from the video below , it was multi generational - mum dad the kids with grandma and grandad with a few great grand mas and dads - creating a wonderful happy atmosphere thru out the entire day.
There were talks I did one on John Blanke and The John Blanke Project , with performances: John Blanke played by Ricardo P. Lloyd and other historical Black characters (see below) answered questions on their character's part in Black British history.
John Blanke was part of Walking Images : Character Encounters across the Museum bringing Black British history to life.
John Blanke Meets His Public at the Takeover
Walking Images : Character Encounters
Visited the Plaque Over the Road At Trinity Leban
|The John Blanke Project Shop||