Coales' Notes: A bulldog has its day: This week at Wormwood Arts Centre, Gordon Coales is unperturbed by the dismembered body of a dog

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY: Another season of Prom Concerts is on the way. I always find this an occasion for reflection - an enormous organisational operation, a continuing and of course uncredited triumph for hundreds of arts administrators.

Obviously I have been somewhat distracted during these last few weeks. But now that Rowena and I seem to have temporarily stopped communicating, I find myself asking some rather central questions, of a professional nature. How high can one aim? Where (as an arts administrator) can one hope to leave a mark? And (more immediately) is there a remote chance that the artist- in-residence can been persuaded to produce an exhibition?

TUESDAY: Cathy popped in with a copy of The Sun, and pointed out a report on an exhibition in Scarborough. It gave me a bit of a fright. Apparently an artist has taken the body of a dog, cut it up into nine pieces, and suspended them on dog-leads from the gallery ceiling - with the inevitable row ensuing, local Council in emergency session deciding whether to ban it, etc.

I am personally pretty well immune to this sort of outrage. But what it indicates, yet again, is the extraordinary selfishness of artists. For here is the whole community of arts administrators, painstakingly trying to establish a good relationship with the public and the local authorities, all in the cause of the arts - and then an artist simply crashes in and wrecks it. It is how I do not want to end up: as the mug who slaves away on the admin, and every two years has to come out on to the steps and say to the world's press 'Yes, yes, some people may find this nauseating, but we defend the artist's freedom to cut up a dog to the hilt.'

I showed the article to Fiona, and asked her how she would respond to this sort of situation, bearing in mind that we were talking, not about London, but the regions where things were different. She said 'Well exactly. I mean when did you last see an article in The Sun about contemporary art, happening anywhere? Clever old Scarborough.' This I am afraid is the attitude of a lot of younger arts administrators. Publicity at an price.

I asked, a propos, was there any news yet on Alan's residency show. She told me things were 'really moving'. I asked how. She replied: 'Not giving away any secrets, I think we're talking video.' She explained that Alan had been watching a great deal of television recently - 'A quite incredible amount, he's really immersing himself - almost all day'. And something, she was certain, was going to emerge from that, 'very soon'.

I said: 'But no dead dogs, you're quite sure about that?'

She said: 'Oh no, he's not really into the natural world.'

WEDNESDAY: I have been reflecting more on the Proms, and in particular on its Director, John Drummond. He will, I am certain, go down in history as one of the great Arts Administrators - if that history is ever written, which is perhaps unlikely, because of the essentially self-effacing nature of the profession.

I have met Drummond only once, about ten years ago. I was introduced to him among a group of musicians in a very noisy and crowded crush bar at Covent Garden. I do not think we exchanged more than a couple of words. But I remember the occasion clearly. There was a large man in the group, I presume a composer of some kind, who was holding forth in a rather dominating manner. Drummond himself, a slight, bearded figure, remained more or less silent throughout, simply nodding occasionally. And yet this is the man who was to go on to become Director of the Edinburgh Festival, the Controller of Radio 3, Director of the Proms and now Director of the European Festival of Arts.

Thinking about this, I was inspired to ring Drummond up, and simply congratulate him. I managed to track down a number, but reached an answer- phone. There were no words, simply a silence and then the tone. I did not feel able to leave a message. But that of course is the sort of man he is - fundamentally retiring, a man reluctant to speak out on his own behalf except when it is absolutely necessary - yet someone who, all the while, is working away quietly and patiently to make the Arts possible.

I would very much like Drummond to visit the Centre. But it seems possible that a man of his temperament would be unwilling to make public appearances of this kind. Alternatively, one might try to arrange an event - John Drummond: A Celebration in Words and Music, or maybe a sort of conversational one-man show (Alan Howard is John Drummond)? It would be an occasion that celebrated not only the career of John Drummond, but by implication the work of arts administrators as a whole.

THURSDAY: Last night I had a dream about John Drummond. It was very vivid. I thought this might be the opportunity to try and re-establish communication with Rowena. I rang her up and told her the dream. She said: 'I see. So who is he?'

It is nothing short of tragic.

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