By Sarah Wood
I heard the news that my friend Clare had died in China. She’s the first person I know whose death is caught up with this pandemic. I hate writing first person but the shock of the news was accompanied with the realisation that this is going to be a very sad time. Separation, illness, loss. We’re all going to have to manage this in isolation from one another.
Clare and I met working at a cinema in Cambridge. I can’t remember yet why or how we ever started talking about this but Clare loved Barbra Streisand and Barbra and this love became a running joke between us, and held like an invisible thread across time and space as she went like a pioneer into the world.
Cinema. Music. Jokes. These are the things that connect us. It’s made me think how lucky I am to have grown up with a force like Streisand on screen. Her voice that can make a widening landscape out of one held note and that landscape widening across her career, permitting into consciousness the notion that strength, humanity and humour could all work to redefine the shape of women after feminism.
This consciousness played out across my life. I love that when I was a very small child my grandfather, an austere man in every other way, would play Hello, Dolly! on repeat. Years later, in fact the very last time I saw him, he came towards me, descending from upstairs to downstairs on a stair lift, reprising Hello, Dolly! one more time. That’s show biz. That’s joy. That’s camp in all the right places.
Ten years old, and unsurprisingly I find my nearly adolescent self transfixed in front of a poster-size image of Streisand androgynous in a flat cap: an image of any gender, any sexuality, of freedom.
And by the time I’m a miserable overly romantic teenager I see myself watching Streisand and Redford in The Way We Were and knowing that love and political activism are the very things that make us alive.
For Culture Club this week I’m honouring cinema, the joy of cinema that often gets overlooked in cynical times. On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Hello, Dolly! The Way We Were. A Star is Born. What’s Up, Doc? Funny Girl. Yentl. Join with me and enter the vital restorative space Streisand’s performances can offer us in dark times. And raise a glass to cinema and to friendship.