The Diary: London Symphony Orchestra; Poetry International festival; Morrissey; Harry Hill; Richard Curtis

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The Independent Culture

A string in the tale

It's all very well David Miliband quitting front-bench politics to spend more time with his family, but where does that leave the London Symphony Orchestra? Without one of their second violinists, that's where. Louise Shackelton, aka Mrs Miliband, is a professional violinist with the LSO but hasn't been spotted performing much recently. Naturally, she wasn't on stage for the opening concert of the season, conducted by Valery Gergiev, two weeks ago as it clashed with the fateful Labour Party conference in Manchester. Might she make it back for this Sunday's concert? "She is not playing at the moment," a spokesman at LSO tells me. Oh. At least when she does return to work, her husband might have a little more space in his diary to show his support. Are they expecting him any time soon? "From time to time David Miliband attends concerts of his choice." Jolly good – though he may want to avoid the Baghdad movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade on 15 December.

No rhyme or reason

Some things never change. When Ted Hughes founded the Poetry International festival in 1967, he had lofty visions of a global symposium of verse, "much more than a great cultural event", that might bring about geo-political, global unity. As is usually the case with arts administration, though, these elevated ideals soon ran aground on more prosaic concerns. In a letter to the poet Richard Murphy, Hughes grumbled. "The Poetry Festival has lost a lot of feathers. I was all set to cram London with geniuses, when [fellow poet] John Lehmann etc decided I ought to be restrained – evidently. So the festival could only be five foreigners, five Americans, five English. It was those five English I was trying to avoid." As the biennial festival of words prepares to return to the Southbank Centre at the end of the month, with poets from over 20 countries, such number-crunching days are, one hopes, past.

Johnny be miserable about Hill's tunes

Heaven knows they're a miserable lot. It's usually Morrissey who is accused of having no sense of humour, but now his partner in crime, Johnny Marr, has failed to see the funny side, apparently refusing to allow the comedian Harry Hill permission to record a Smiths parody. Chortle, the comedy website, reports that Hill had recorded a medley of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "Panic" in the style of George Formby for his new album, Funny Tunes. Now, less than a month before the release, the ukulele mash-up is to be dropped, though the CD listing on Amazon still has "Formby Sings Morrissey" at track 16. Forget all those first edition Franzens, anyone with an advance copy could be sitting on a goldmine. Or maybe not.

Copycat killings

There's been much bluster about Richard Curtis's atypically uncuddly video for the climate change campaign 10:10. The four-minute skit shows, shock horror!, schoolchildren being blown up as punishment for being lacklustre about loft insulation and energy-saving lightbulbs. No sooner did it air than it was withdrawn again, amid a storm of protest against its violent imagery. I'm more concerned that Curtis appears to have borrowed this imagery wholesale from another director. Curtis's exploding schoolchildren bear an uncanny resemblance to the red-headed teenagers who are blown up by land-mines, to gruesome, bloody, limb-strewing effect, in Romain Gavras's video for M.I.A's "Born Free". That video was, of course, banned by YouTube, which led to many more people seeking it out online than might originally have done so. Perhaps Curtis and co knew what they were doing all along.

Time to cut loose

Another day, another artist produces a work protesting against the cuts. We've had Mark Wallinger's chopped-up Fighting Temeraire, Yinka Shonibare's slashed African fabric and, this week, Cornelia Parker's amputated Angel of the North. My favourite, though, comes from comedian Josie Long, who this week delivered a cross-stitch sampler with the words "The Cuts Won't Work. Fight these Tory cuts!" to Ed Vaizey. Sweet.