Cover Stories: Andrew Motion; Tara Palmer-Tomkinson; Community-based reading project

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The Independent Culture

*Poet Laureate Andrew Motion pulled no punches (and spoke for countless writers) when he called Gary McKeone's departure from the Arts Council "intensely stupid, wasteful and just plain wrong" at the farewell bash for the literature director - and his colleagues Jill Bellamy and Abigail Campbell - this week. Motion saluted McKeone - the casualty, along with his counterparts in other art forms, of yet another opaque strategic makeover - as "the only begetter of so much that has been brightest and best in literature over the past decade". As for the ex-director himself, he warned that the Council's search for a uniform corporate identity has meant an "inevitable slide into spin". McKeone called for more more vision, and less process, in the way our money is spent: "It's high time that the Arts Council stopped tinkering with the window and started paying full and proper attention to the view."

*Although many celebrity titles already look like turkeys, Little, Brown has splashed out a six-figure sum on "a humorous guide to life" by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson after a lively auction by agent Gordon Wise. The opus is provisionally titled So Over It (And Actually Looking Pretty Damn Gorgeous) and will include "practical advice" on such crucial topics as how to blag a lift on a private jet and pull a convincing sickie. It was Little, Brown that had its fingers burnt to a crisp with Anthea Turner early on in the celebrity game. Naturally, TPT won't be writing the book herself - her Sunday Times column was ghosted by Wendy Holden, and this time out it's Sun columnist and TV pundit Sharon Marshall.

*One of the most ambitious literary events to mark next year's bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire will link four cities whose histories are inextricably linked with the traffic and its end - Bristol, Liverpool, Hull and Glasgow. In a community-based reading project backed by the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Small Island Read will see 50,000 copies of Andrea Levy's multi-award-winning Small Island distributed free via local libraries. Levy's novel will be used to explore the legacy of slavery, while Benjamin Zephaniah's Refugee Boy and Mary Hoffman's Amazing Grace will be available for younger readers. Background material will support the books. Levy, whose parents arrived on the Windrush, says that she has always aimed to show Afro-Caribbean immigration as part of the continuum of British history.