Cover Stories: Arts Council England; Andrew Welham leaves Penguin; High-profile memoirs

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The Independent Culture

*Trying to make writers speak with one voice is often like herding cats. But Arts Council England has managed to create a rare show of unanimity by managing to lose Gary McKeone as Literature Director, after a decade of outstanding service. Now, widespread anger and dismay at the universally-admired McKeone's departure has come to a head with the protest resignation of poet and novelist Jackie Kay as the Arts Council's lead adviser for literature. Kay says that the current reorganisation, which has seen five out of six art-form directors leave, will result in a "worrying vacuum", and a loss of "knowledge, experience, depth and focus". For her, ACE's new strategy, so far unexplained to the wider tax-paying public, runs the risk of "creating an Arts Council without the arts". Fifteen years have passed since the death of Roald Dahl. Finally comes news of an authorised biography of the author who remains such a favourite with children. A first-time author, Donald Sturrock, has been chosen by the Dahl estate and granted access to private papers. Sturrock knew Dahl well, working with him on two television documentaries and adapting several of his books for the stage. Dahl himself wrote two volumes of memoirs, but they are regarded as "fanciful". Sturrock will uncover aspects of his life which remained hidden, while "re-interpreting his long and complex career".

*Surprising news from Penguin, which this week won praise from owners Pearson for its performance this year. Andrew Welham, the group's deputy MD, is leaving the company after 23 years because no suitable role can be found for him. He launched Penguin online and took it into audio publishing - great innovations in their day. The decision to leave is "absolutely mutual", he and John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin worldwide, being unable to agree on a suitable new role. How sad that someone as bright and able as Welham could not be accommodated in as big and important a publisher.

*In boardrooms across London, publishers are beginning to admit, sotto voce, that many of their high-profile investments are looking a little shaky. England having been kicked out of the World Cup, none of the football memoirs is performing, least of all Wayne Rooney's. Gary Barlow has scarcely made an impression, and let's not mention one David Blunkett, total sales of whose diaries have been estimated at fewer than one thousand copies.

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