Shirley Dent: development editor

Shirley Dent is the communications director of the Institute of Ideas. Shirley writes and comments widely on arts and literature, including a regular blog at Guardian Arts Unlimited. Shirley researched the editorial and bibliographic history of William Blake’s works for her PhD, and co-authored a book on the subject with Jason Whittaker, Radical Blake: afterlife and influence from 1827. In 2007 she contributed to two essay collections on Blake: Women Read William Blake: Opposition is True Friendship and Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture.

Shirley has been involved in the Battle of Ideas debates on the arts since the festival’s launch in 2005, including debates on poetry and dance. In 2008 Shirley is directing the Time Out Battle Satellite programme.

March 2007

Children of Adam

Marriott loses sight of the thing that really unites poetry and classical dance. In a word, form. Instead he plumbs for a degraded notion of both poetry and dance as a sopping wet melodrama of emotion - it’s the ‘let-it-all-hang-out-and-feel-my-pain’ school of art.

January 2007

Masterclasses with the Royal Ballet

What the Dowell/Acosta masterclass shows is how one master conveys to another the essence of something they know inside out, but which will also be different in the hands (and legs!) of another principal. This isn’t about marching to the drum-beat discipline of technique, but about the fluidity of translating a tradition.


Citizen Swan

The illusion of ‘fairy-like’ weightlessness is one that is only achieved by the strongest, best-trained and talented dancers and they rightfully command the stage when displaying their skill. As Darcey Bussell put it in the BBC film The Magic of Swan Lake, ‘everything we work for is in this ballet’.

June 2006

Dance: Russell Maliphant & Sylvie Guillem - PUSH

Maliphant is at his most cerebral when he is at his most physical and visceral. In Sylvie Guillem he has found a dancer who is perfectly attuned to the intellectual and physical challenge of his choreography.

Save the planet, don’t see the world?

What the debate showed is that for many people who see themselves as politically radical, often thinking of themselves as anti-capitalist and on the side of making a better, more equal world, the idea of social justice has become fatally uncoupled from the idea of progress.

February 2006

A Devilish Exercise: conjuring Marlowe at the Rose

It is undoubtedly a neat idea: entangle Marlowe’s works around the story of Faustus. But you need to be able to live up to the imagination of Marlowe and fill the space of the Rose to pull it off, and Into the Breach were simply not up to the job.

February 2004

Always the Sun - (Man Booker Prize 2004, Longlist)

Surprisingly, it is Cross’ valiant effort to write decently about men doing - or failing to do - the right thing that both touches most and disappoints most.

February 2003

Oryx and Crake - (Man Booker Prize 2003)

Reading Margaret Atwood as an adult is like reading CS Lewis as a child. For me, there is something addictive in their style of writing, their command of narrative, and in the detail of the worlds they bring to life.

December 2002

Interview: Simon Critchley

Although I sympathise with your celebration of humanity’s ability to overcome the worst, through laughter, this wormhole of escapism, I am deeply suspicious of any theory that concludes ‘our wretchedness is our greatness’. Can you really defend this statement?


Culture Wars was included in creativetourists’ Top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs 2009.