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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: No, all CAN'T have prizes... even in the woke world of art

Last week, the winner of the annual Turner Prize was announced. Correction: make that ‘winners’ – because the shortlist of four artists requested they share the £40,000 prize rather than have one of them crowned the ultimate victor.

Earlier in the year, writer Olivia Laing, the winner of the James Tait Black literary prize, similarly declared that she wished to share her prize money with her fellow nominees, although she didn’t go so far as to suggest that they should be proclaimed equal winners.

And in October there was great controversy when Booker Prize judges ‘explicitly flouted’ the rules and shared the prestigious award between Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo.

Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo are pictured together after being announced as the joint-winners for the 2019 Turner Prize

Clearly, we are living in a time when competitions aren’t what they used to be. Entering is one thing but actually accepting the prize appears to be something else.

We all know it’s not meant to be the winning but playing the game that counts. But try telling that to any small child and you’ll quickly discover that most of us aren’t hard-wired to genuinely feel that way. We want to win, otherwise why take part?

At my junior school, we used to receive a pencil on speech day if we didn’t nab any other prize, just so that we didn’t go home with nothing. But even then we knew that this wasn’t on a par with hearing your name called out as winner of the best poem or the longest jump. It was a prize of sorts, but not a real one like the others.

Competitions are hugely important because they bring awareness and prestige to the finalists and usually acclaim to the winner.

If there is a financial prize, especially for people working in the arts who often earn very little for years, this can be life-changing and help fund future achievements. If accepting the money becomes somehow seen as not the done thing, it might discourage much-needed sponsors from offering it in the first place.

The wish to share is honourable (not, I hasten to add, in the sense of Prince Andrew’s ‘honourable’). But it would be a terrible shame if winners were no longer allowed to be rightly proud of their achievements – or even regarded as greedy for not wanting so share their hard-won bounty or title.

Mystery of the vanishing partners

This Election is The Case Of The Disappearing Partner. Where’s Carrie Symonds? Or Laura Alvarez (Mrs Corbyn)? Or Duncan Hames (Mr Jo Swinson, if you weren’t sure)? Missing in action, all of them. In General Elections, we tend to vote for the parties not the individuals, but in this Election, more than ever, it’s not that simple. The personalities are central. Who is going to share the pillow talk in Downing Street is obviously of great interest.

Disappearing partner: In the midst of the general election, it appears Carrie Symonds has disappeared from the spotlight

While Mrs Corbyn, Laura Alvarez, watched her husband deliver a speech at a media event in London on October 31, she has seemingly disappeared similarly to Carrie. Personalities are crucial in this election after all

Clearly, party strategists have decided that partners are best kept out of the spotlight, but I feel a bit short-changed not to have caught a glimpse of any of them.

What do the spin doctors know that we don’t?

Help! Age has stolen my dainty ears

I’m prepared for various parts of my body to be affected by signs of ageing, but the one I hadn’t been ready for was my ears. The other day, while having my hair cut, I discovered they seem to have grown – no longer delicate shell-likes, more a pair of conches. 

George Northwood, the man responsible for Alexa Chung’s immaculately tonged bob, was wielding the scissors and told me people’s ears, like their noses, get more pronounced with age. Maybe he’s right. But I guess Alexa’s too young to compare notes with.

The mastermind behind Alexa Chung's bob, George Northwood, has revealed people's ears get more pronounced with age. Here the model and fashion designer is seen wearing a lilac lace dress at the #BoF500 gala during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020, on September 30

Mr Northwood is photographed at the Browns East launch party on October 31, 2017

No messing with the Day-glo Darth Vader

First Lady Melania Trump made a striking appearance as an Acid House Darth Vader during her visit to London last week in her yellow Valentino cape, below. She certainly looked robust and ready to stand up to anyone – unlike her thin-skinned, snowflake husband, who fled the UK after being joked about by fellow Nato country leaders.

Melania Trump made sure to turn heads as she joined President Trump in greeting the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall ahead of the NATO summit in an outfit resembling an Acid House Darth Vader, on December 3

Treat yourself – to a Christmas monster

I always buy a huge Christmas tree. This year, I was thinking about going smaller until I realised that the child filmed urging the Duchess of Cambridge to choose a bigger tree during a farm visit spoke for us all. When it comes to Christmas trees, size matters. There is something mean-spirited about holding back, and I reckon it’s worth installing the largest tree you can fit in – even if it means the family are squeezed up.

Listening’s back in style, after 600 years

Audiobook sales have risen by 43 per cent

Sales of audiobooks have increased 43 per cent annually while ebooks are on the wane and printed book sales are almost static.

It was, of course, Johannes Gutenberg – the Steve Jobs of his day – who started the trend for physical books by inventing a printing press with moveable type back in the 1440s. 

This was a medieval media revolution, changing the way we received information from the spoken word to print. 

How extraordinary that all these years later, we are now returning to the days of listening rather than reading.

Feeling great... in greenwashed Dior

Every business is looking to spin their activities so that they appear to be on the side of the environmental angels – a practice known as greenwashing.

It’s especially common among those at the high end. Even global auction houses are now portraying their sales as the ultimate in recycling – although ‘pre-loved’ is a slightly more aspirational term when we’re talking about Old Masters going under the hammer.

Meanwhile, in the fashion industry it has long been common for editors and celebrities to borrow glamorous clothes from designers for catwalk shows and award ceremonies.

This allows the lucky wearers to appear in the latest collections for free rather than splashing out on something new that probably wouldn’t get worn very often.

Even better, thanks to green-washing, what was once a simple perk can be now be claimed as doing your bit to save the planet.

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