The Diary: Jeremy Hunt on Surrealism; photographing Chernobyl; Tate Gallery; Shelina Janmohamed; Haiti fundraising

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The Independent Culture

In the Hunt for answer to Surrealism

A debate between the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw MP, and his Tory Shadow, Jeremy Hunt MP at the RSA in central London took a peculiar turn when, amid the serious-minded discussions on free museum entry, concerns over future cuts in arts funding, and the Conservative policy to encourage museums and galleries to create endowment funds and a culture of philanthropy, Hunt confessed that he hadn't really got the hang of a recent exhibition on Surrealism at Tate Modern. The pair had come together to speak about 'The Future of the Arts' but Hunt appeared to go off-piste, saying: "I struggled [to understand some of the gallery's artwork]. It was quite hard work. Tate Modern got people to try to explain Surrealism, Dali and Bacon to me." The work, which his comments appear to relate to, are on Level 3 of Tate Modern in the display entitled 'Poetry and Dream, Surrealism and Beyond'. Bradshaw spoke about dancing so enthusiastically at last year's Big Chill music festival he had to have a knee operation to mend the damage.

A curious reaction

Hana Vojácková, the Czech artist who last year crept into the exclusion zone of the infamous Chernobyl site (an area which is not accessible to the public) to illicitly document the wasteland where the nuclear accident occurred in 1986, tells me it was actually not half as sinister as she had imagined it to be. In its immediate aftermath, its residents had 40 minutes to pack their worldly belongings and leave the Ukrainian city. Now, she says, it's actually rather peaceful. "It was really beautiful, like a calm city, falling asleep."

Food for thought

The Tate Gallery's research machine leaves no statistical stone unturned. To mark Tate Modern's tenth anniversary in May, it has amassed figures on how much has been eaten and drunk there. "Over the last ten years," the research states, "365,000 homemade scones have been baked (and) over six million cups of tea and coffee have been served." What's more, the "most popular dish in the Tate Modern Restaurant remains deep-fried Cornish haddock with chips, tartare sauce and mushy peas."

Insider's guide that lifts the veil

Shelina Janmohamed, who not long ago published her memoir, 'Love in a Headscarf', a comedic insight into life as a Muslim woman says such has been the response to her book that it has spawned a second, 'What Muslim Women Want', which is an insider's guide to Muslim women, "to what we want, and how we plan to get it. The war over Muslim women has never been so intense. France wants to ban the veil (again); Saudi Arabia wants to enforce it. The US wants to 'save' Afghan women, but has given away their rights and started talking to the Taliban. Muslim women are paradoxically a 'threat' to far right nationalist parties, but also they are oppressed and must be liberated." Yet, she says, there is one noticeable absence in this discussion – Muslim women.

New charity single for Haiti appeal

The Haiti earthquake disaster may be slipping off the radar, as far as the mainstream British media is concerned, but it is good to know that fundraising for the victims is still going strong in some quarters. More than 200 professional singers turned up at The Beatles' former music hub – Abbey Road studios in north London – to record the charity single "Somebody Please", out for release on 27 April 2010. Beverley Trotman, the gospel singer and 'X-Factor' finalist, right, will feature on the track.