Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


The Diary: The Godfather; How The Light Gets In; dream think speak; Venice Biennale; Samantha Womack

More respect is due

The Corleone family just keeps growing. The latest addition to the clan is a prequel novel, to be published by William Heinemann in July 2012. The Family Corleone will be set in Depression-era New York and will follow the young Vito Corleone's rise to power. Since The Godfather author Mario Puzo died in 1999, his estate has approved two literary sequels, both by Mark Winegardner. This time, Ed Falco, Professor of English at Virginia Tech, has been hired to write the hit, based on Puzo's unproduced screenplay for The Godfather IV. "The novel is largely set as Prohibition is coming to an end. I explore some issues that haven't been explored. Neither of the movies really explain much about Luca Brasi, about why he's so loyal to Vito and so feared by others," says Falco on his university website. "There's one big surprise, but I can't tell." There's also a beefed-up role for Carmela "Mama" Corleone. Perhaps Falco is taking after the Mob and looking out for family. His niece is Edie Falco, who won three Emmys as small-screen moll Carmela Soprano. She would be perfect casting should Francis Ford Coppola decide to film the prequel. But who would take on the mantle of Marlon Brando as the young Don? Might we soon see Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp duelling over the rights?

Festival trouble

The debates haven't even started but HowTheLightGetsIn is already riling the crowds. Ukip and the English Defence League are threatening to march on the philosophy festival, which kicks off in Hay on 26 May, to protest against appearance in two debates of Anjem Choudary. The controversial Islamist and advocate of Sharia Law is slated to appear in "When Women Rule the World" and a debate about terror as a tool of war. Local Ukip candidate, Christine Williams, has called for his invitation to be withdrawn. "This man, who praises terrorists and calls for the murder of British servicemen, should not be given a spotlight. His views are vile and he is a disgrace." In response the Festival Director Hilary Lawson said, "We do not endorse the views of any of our speakers. We have not given Anjem Choudary a platform to present his views unchallenged... And we encourage those who regard his views as beyond the pale to come and express their opinion and make their case." With or without placards.

Still thinking big

Their mesmerising Before I Sleep, a site-specific Cherry Orchard set over four floors of a disused department store was the highlight of last year's Brighton Festival. Now dreamthinkspeak are preparing for a London show. In the Beginning Was the End will open at Somerset House in November and is inspired by the apocalypse and Leonardo da Vinci's A Cloudburst of Material Possessions, "a drawing that depicts a bank of clouds out of which a multitude of material objects are falling". Their last residency in the building was Don't Look Back, a spooky promenade around its forgotten stairwells and corridors, in 2004. Meanwhile, if you missed it in Brighton, Before I Sleep is moving into an unoccupied office block in Amsterdam next month for the Holland Festival.

Sinking feeling

A month ago, I wrote about the Benetton family's plans to show graffiti artists in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi during the Venice Biennale. Now the project has been postponed, while Rem Koolhaas' renovation of the 16th-century building into a culture/ shopping centre is completed. "This is a very large historic building and has been unoccupied for many years," said a Benetton spokesman. "Due to its condition, we were unable to finish the modifications necessary to ensure the safety of the crowds." Perhaps they discovered that it's sinking.

EastEnders star returns to acting

Samantha Womack is gearing up to play the female lead in South Pacific at London's Barbican this summer, her first major role since leaving EastEnders. The actress resigned from the soap in January over a harrowing storyline, which saw her character lose her baby to cot death, stating that she "couldn't stop crying" during filming and "felt ill" playing the part. It's to be hoped she's developed a stronger stomach since then. As Nellie Forbush, she'll have tackle heartbreak, war, death and racism – singing and dancing the whole way through.