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We are recruiting! NOVEMBER 2015

Part-time Marketing and Publicity Assistant job available

Scala is recruiting a Marketing and Publicity Assistant to provide key support for our high-quality illustrated books published in collaboration with leading arts and heritage organisations.

This position is part-time: either 3 days per week (9.30am to 5.30pm) or 5 days per week (4 hours per day) and is based in our South London office.

The start date is as soon as possible in the New Year. The closing date for applications is 18 December 2015.

For the job specification, and to apply, please email:

The Seventy Fifth Anniversary of the Coventry Blitz NOVEMBER 2015

A Story of War and Reconciliation

On this day, seventy-five years ago, the light was flawless: bright and silver, picking out every nook and cranny of Coventry Cathedral. The sky was cloudless and empty. They called it a Bomber’s Moon, because a pilot could see every speck and flicker on the green flank of the West Midlands. 
Coventry was a tempting target – it was packed with metalworking factories that churned out cars, airplane engines and munitions, all essential for the war effort. On 14 November 1940, five hundred and fifteen bombers soared overhead in a deadly flock. The first bombers dropped high explosives, aiming to knock out the water supply, electricity network, telephones and gas mains so that the firefighters would struggle to reach the conflagration. Later planes started to drop incendiary bombs that fell like the breath of a dragon, aimed at burning the city to ash and rubble. 
At eight o’clock, Coventry Cathedral caught light. Firefighters scrambled to get to where they were needed as more than two hundred fires ate through the city; the telephone network was crippled; the water supply dangerously low. The high explosives had done their job well.  
The reek of smoke, the roiling red of fire, the shouts and screams of the inhabitants, the wail of air-raid sirens, the hard staccato rattle of anti-aircraft guns – it must have seemed like Hell on earth to the inhabitants of Coventry. 
It was 6.00 the following morning when the all clear sounded.
Much of the cathedral was reduced to a smoldering ruin. Miraculously the Gothic tower and spire of St Michael’s had survived, spiking proud and unconquered into the dawn sky. 
Provost Howard immediately declared that the cathedral would rise again: a resurrection, a phoenix, a symbol of hope snatched from the teeth of war. 
Jock Forbes, the cathedral stonemason (and one of the firefighting crew), bound two of the blackened oak beams into a cross. Another cross was made from three of the fifteenth-century nails that littered the scene. 
And so, under these two symbols of endurance, Coventry Cathedral rose. The ruins of St Michael’s were preserved, and a new cathedral was built alongside the old, opening in 1962. After the war, as the world sought to reconcile, Coventry was twinned with Dresden – which had also suffered tremendous damage in bombing raids. 
Seventy-five years later, and Coventry Cathedral stands as a universal symbol of reconciliation and peace. A 2013 poll put it as Britain’s third favourite landmark. Scala is in the course of reprinting our guidebook to the cathedral, a perfect companion for a visit to an illustrious, remarkable cathedral. The new edition celebrates the cathedral’s unique story of resurrection, and highlights the message of reconciliation that is at the centre of Coventry’s teaching today. 

Gulbenkian Ivories NOVEMBER 2015

Gothic Ivories, and the story of a collector

 The writing of a book on the Gulbenkian Ivories is nothing short of a fairy tale. 

We begin with the collector himself – the remarkable Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869–1955), an entrepreneur who made his fortune in oil extraction and trade. His love of collecting started in the souks of Constantinople, where he gathered up clusters of antique coins with boyish enthusiasm. In 1892 he married Nevarte Essayan, a renowned beauty from an Armenian noble family. Throughout his life he accrued a collection of rare quality and excellence – everything from Old Master and modernist pictures; sculpture and silver; to Islamic ceramics, rugs and textiles. The ivories are especially notable – mainly from France, exquisite examples of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century art, intricately carved and striking.  

The carvings possess the strange quality of ivory everywhere: hold one in your hand and it changes rapidly from cool satin to the warmth of human flesh, and remains warm for long after. Ivory and human skin both contain collagen – they hold many of the same properties, and so sculptures through the ages have used ivory to best portray the human figure. There is something of Pygmalion in the collection – the Greek sculptor who, according to legend, married his finest work. Gulbenkian’s adoration for the collection echoes through the room it is contained in; you can almost imagine him taking your arm, guiding you to his latest acquisition and explaining its origins with the rapturous tones of a man in love. 

It is no surprise that Gulbenkian was so enamoured by them. The twining, dancing figures reach for each other, drawing in the observer. A comb shows a couple twined in a passionate embrace, curlicues of ivory framing them; a snapshot from a romantic tale; a fantasy of all-conquering love and utopian bliss. In another work, Christ hangs suspended on a cross while angels weep in the background; there’s a haunting sense of religious contemplation about the diptych, the angular faces expressing infinite sorrow at the plight of the Christ. Onlookers crouch at the foot of the cross, hands held aloft in a silent, immortal plea for clemency.  

The ivories waited for the right author to study them. They needed in-depth, meticulous study; an author who was passionate about the collection. One day, in early 2011, Sarah Guérin sought to study two pieces as part of her PhD – and it was as if stars had aligned to deliver the perfect author at the perfect time. Enthusiastic, passionate and highly knowledgeable Sarah embarked on her role as the author of the first work on the Gulbenkian Ivories with a dedication that is to be admired.