Pure gold: Will Gompertz reviews the pick of your online picks ★★★★★

Will Gompertz
Arts editor
@WillGompertzBBCon Twitter


This week I'm picking the pick of your picks. That is, the recommendations you generously made in response to my review last week, in which I suggested five great pieces of content free to see or hear online, and then asked for yours.

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Your correspondence covered a lot of bases, from Stevie Wonder's 1960s drum solos on YouTube (astonishing) to Channel 4's terrific adaptation of Anthony Powell's novel A Dance to The Music of Time, itself a post-war masterpiece.

And then there was the weird stuff, which fell into two categories: the weirdly weird and the wonderfully weird.

In the latter grouping is Hooting Yard On The Air, a radio programme broadcast on the magnificent Resonance FM from 2004 until 2019, written and hosted by the late Frank Key, a man who sat somewhere between Edward Lear and Ivor Cutler in the pantheon of Great British Storytelling Eccentrics.

There are hundreds of episodes to choose from, all of which have the same vital ingredient: Frank Key, a man of whom I'd never heard until being tipped off last week on Twitter by Simon Rae (thanks Simon).

Hooting Yard is just the antidote we need at a time like this, a magical world of the imagination full of nonsense tales recounted by a man who took the same approach to words as my dog does to mud: he wallowed in them.

image copyrightFrank Key
image captionThe banner for the writer Frank Key's long-running series Hooting Yard On The Air, on Resonance FM, where he created a parallel version of Britain

There are rambling fables about wolves and Petula Clark and unsubstantiated bizarre events; some are accompanied by live knitting, all are delivered in our blathering host's gummy-mouthed baritone voice. If you like Alan Moore, you'll love Frank Key.

And if you love Frank Key, the chances are you'll be hooked on the early movies of the pioneering French filmmaker Georges Méliès, which are freely available to watch at the Internet Archive.

Ease yourself in with his classic short A Trip to the Moon (1902), in which he stars as the hair-brained visionary Professor Barbenfouillis, an academic who is determined to be the first man on the Moon.

Honestly, it's better than the majority of movies made today - and boasts one of the most famous shots in cinema history, which you'll undoubtedly recognise as soon as it appears. The soundtrack is good, too.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIn Georges Méliès's 1902 masterpiece, A Trip to the Moon, a rocket memorably crashes into the Man in the Moon
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGeorges Méliès first worked as a theatrical showman with performances around magic and illusion, before making films using innovative techniques

Prof Barbenfouillis wasn't the only character with a mighty big hairdo put forward as a recommendation.

The softly spoken Bob Ross was suggested as the go-to art teacher for our new stay-at-home culture. He seems like a lovely guy, a gentle soul who swapped military life for painting.

In the 1980s & '90s he made a series of tutorial programmes, which are now a big hit on YouTube.

He's a good teacher, but I'm not so sure about his art.

I'd be tempted to go to the opposite end of the hair spectrum and check out the tutorials produced by the Museum of Modern Art, most of which are given by the smooth-headed, smooth-talking Corey D'Augustine.

You wanna paint like Yayoi Kusama? Corey will show you how.

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFor those of you who long to paint like the Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama -- may be turn to Corey D'Augustine for a little help

I know I shouldn't use the C-word because it's horrible, but I'm going to just this once: coronavirus.

Specifically, what will be the artistic response to this nasty, nasty bug?

We've seen Chris Martin lead the way with at-home gigs, and heard about the National Theatre making some of its biggest hits available for free online (don't miss One Man, Two Guvnors this Thursday with a stand-out performance by James Corden).

image copyrightNational Theatre
image captionThe National Theatre will be streaming some of its most popular productions, starting with One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden

But the best is probably yet to come.

Or, maybe, it is just beginning…

A comedian named Tania Edwards started tweeting The Corona Diaries on 16 March, which began like this:

"My God everything's been cancelled. Even two shows that were confirmed this morning were off by this afternoon. I spent loads of cash in anticipation of a great March. Now I'm broke in incredible knickers."

She told her followers the diaries would mostly be about her getting drunk and taking her temperature.

Four days later she started coughing.

I'll leave you to pick up her story from this point, but sense there is something very promising emerging from this witty woman, a sort of Bridget Jones meets a global pandemic.

If I were a publisher I'd sign her up sharpish.

I imagine there are loads of other talented people doing excellent work.

Have you come across anything? If so, I'd love to know (tweet me).

But for now, I'll leave you with the final tip: check out Chester Zoo on Facebook. It's producing daily streams hosted by its keepers featuring the animals they look after.

image copyrightChester Zoo
image captionYou can watch Sarah, the team manager of giraffes, as she cares for Chester Zoo's critically endangered Rothschild giraffes

It's absolutely fabulous.

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