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The Nailympics: Up to Scratch with Kit Hesketh-Harvey

Thursday 20 October 2011, 17:30

Kit Hesketh-Harvey Kit Hesketh-Harvey

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Ed's note: You can hear Up to Scratch at 11am on Friday 21 October on Radio 4 and shortly afterwards on the website - PM.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Kirsty Meakin

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and nail artist Kirsty Meakin

Look, I'm a bloke. I live in the country. I dig the potatoes for dinner. I fetch coal. I am no stranger to a big end. My fingernails (which I chew) are things without beauty, finesse, or a vividly imaginative makeover.

So it was with trepidation that I came up to London, to Olympia, and found myself in a parallel world of whose existence I had never dreamed.

The Nailympics (I am not making this up) is a three-day competitive event dedicated to the exploding industry that is nail art. What used to be a buff and a polish, or even a splodge of vermilion, is now a wonderland of perfect barrel-curves, of French Pink and White, of crystal-bedecked acrylic extensions and of fantastical 3D graphics that are pushing the boundaries of practicality, post-modern sculpture, and even taste.

Would I be able to carry off a Narnian landscape, an Egyptian tomb, or the Bay of Naples on my fingertips?

Kit Hesketh-Harvey and nail artist Kirsty Meakin

Kirsty Meakin works on Kit Hesketh-Harvey's nails

What is the anthropology of such adornment? Why are the sums involved now outstripping the money we spend on hair? Who are these people? And what will happen to England's Great Shining Hope for Nailympic glory, the girl from Stoke-on-Trent whose work is currently in the V and A, the great Kirsty Evita Meakin?

It was nail-biting stuff. I was agog, and so will you be.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey presents Up to Scratch at 11am on Friday 21 October on Radio 4

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