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Culture vulture

Jane Davidson loves second-hand books and soulful songs

Favourite reading

At the moment I'm reading The Asquiths by Colin Clifford (John Murray).

Herbert Asquith was prime minister before Lloyd George, and he had a famous wife who gossiped all the time and said things she shouldn't. I read six or seven books a week: music, biographies, Scottish history, almost anything except science.


I couldn't wait for the second and third volumes of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to come out, and I hugely enjoyed the National Theatre's adaptation. If you go to the theatre quite a lot, as I do, it can be hard to get excited. But that was amazing, uplifting, utterly fantastic.

Bookshop browsing

I'm going to the Hay- on-Wye literary festival next month. There are at least 20 second-hand bookshops in the town and you find things you read years ago and never thought you'd see again. When I was seven or eight I read Alison Uttley's A Traveller in Time; it was a wee paperback and I lost it. I found another copy in a second-hand bookshop in Wigton, and a tattered edition of Andrew Birkin's play J M Barrie and the Lost Boys. I was so happy to get my hands on them.

Favourite music

I mostly listen to singers. Kirsty MacColl was a clever songwriter and Eddi Reader has a lovely album of Robbie Burns songs. I find Pavarotti a bit shrill: I prefer Giacomo Argagall, who might have been as famous as Pavarotti but suffers from stage fright so he records rather than performs live. And there's Jussi Bjorling, a Swedish tenor from the 1940s (pictured). His recordings are so soulful: serene even when they're sad.

Treat in store

Our first opera for children, The Minotaur, composed by Julian Evans, who has done lots of work for me in schools. It's been about 10 years in the making; it's my baby and I'm really excited about it.

Jane Davidson is head of education at Scottish Opera. She was talking to Karen Gold. The Minotaur opens on May 14 at Glasgow's Theatre Royal, then tours to Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. For details of this and schools' tour: The National Theatre revives His Dark Materials later this year: www.national theatre. The 2004 Hay Festival runs from May 25 to June 6:

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