A gathering global financial storm, a historic presidential campaign in the US - and some unpleasantness on Radio 2.
These were just a few of the events which unfolded in the background while the interviews for "Private Views" - the first book to be produced by the New Culture Forum - were underway.
The aim of these conversations was to produce a picture of the issues, trends and preoccupations that currently shape our culture - from the effects of multiculturalism in arts policy to the cult of celebrity; from the existence of a cultural and political class to the question of bias at the BBC; and from the difficulties of talking about immigration to the prospects for freedom of expression itself in the face of radical Islam.
The one thing that unites the interviewees, from the novelist Lionel Shriver to the critic Cosmo Landesman, from the playwright Richard Bean to the designer Vivienne Westwood is that all of them are creators or practitioners in their particular field. And all of them, in their different ways, offer valuable insights into the cultural state we're in.