Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture
IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that all our subsidised national companies get on like a house on fire. So when the English National Ballet announce their programme for the year shortly, I expect the Royal Ballet will pat them on the back for including The Rite Of Spring. The choreography is by the late Kenneth MacMillan, the Royal Ballet's own muse. But the ENB persuaded his widow, Deborah MacMillan, to allow them to put it on. The ENB approached the independent-minded Lady MacMillan in the fraught, dying days of Mary Allen's regime at the Royal Opera House when management minds were very much on other things. The episode curiously does not appear in Mary Allen's published diaries. No doubt this is because she and everyone at the Royal Ballet were perfectly happy with this outcome. And the members of the English National Ballet who told me about it this week were beaming only because the weather was unseasonably warm.

NAOMI CAMPBELL'S experience as a writer/model has not deterred Amanda Foreman, this week's winner of the Whitbread biography prize. The historian and author of the biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, can be seen in the new edition of Tatler, posing naked, her modesty, and that of the Whitbread Prize, kept intact by a pile of her prize-winning books. No doubt some literary fuddy-duddies will fail to see the postmodernist connection between historical biography and nude modelling. When a national paper used the picture to mark the announcement of her victory this week, Ms Foreman herself seemed embarrassed, protesting that she had spent five years cooped up in libraries researching her book, "and I thought why not have some fun. I would be truly horrified if the message that people got from my photo was that I was doing it for the publicity". Who would think such a thing? OK, so somehow the national papers were alerted to the photograph. Georgiana, a society icon and fashion trendsetter would have been proud of her.

CHRIS SMITH is clearly trying to civilise the press corps. He held his annual drinks party for hacks on Thursday at the National Gallery. Still, the scintillating conversation notwithstanding, the temptation to wander off into another room and view Renoirs and Gaugins completely alone proved too strong. And who should I encounter in the eery silence but the Gallery's director Neil MacGregor (below). "I often come up here in the evenings to look at the paintings when it's quiet," he said. "They turn the lights on for me, and it's a wonderful time to study them." Quite refreshing too that the director of the National Gallery spends his spare evenings looking at the collection, when there are so many other distractions, like keeping a diary or posing nude for Tatler.