Coales' Notes: A case of beer and scuffles

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TUESDAY - The proofs for the festival programme have arrived. It looks fine. There is a blank page in the middle - headed 'The People Project' - awaiting the details of Alan's plans.

What gives this added urgency is that, this morning, Iz told me cheerfully that she had informed the Leisure Committee of 'you and your assistant's deliberate obstruction' of her Community Feedback Initiatives. I said it was more a question of co-ordination. She said, 'You are simply terrified of the creativity of ordinary people - which I find sad.' She added that members of the community would be coming into the Centre over the next few days. We were to 'keep right away from them'.

Fiona is taking the news of Alan and Di as well as can be expected. She said again, she just found Alan's emotional shiftlessness utterly incredible (an exaggeration surely). I admitted I wasn't too happy about the business myself, what with our now having to accept sponsorship from Schlacht Beer, and knowing - from Ars Longa days - what a force Di could be when she got her hands on something. Fiona said she didn't want to know anything about her. I said, she was going to find out soon enough. Well, I suppose it's all worth it, to put the kibosh on Iz.

Later Fiona told me she had in her possession a very unpleasant - 'almost inhuman' - photograph of Alan, taken in Germany. She suggested we might use it in the programme.

WEDNESDAY - Di and Alan breezed into the Centre this afternoon. She immediately got some of our student helpers to bring up several boxes of Schlacht stickers to my office. 'Right, I want these on everything.' She began leafing through the programme proofs. 'God, this is pretty low profile, isn't it?' She looked around her. 'Now, we need a space for Alan.'

Fiona and Alan simply stood there saying absolutely nothing. I suggested that, before anything else, we should perhaps explain to Alan the nature of his artistic challenge. Fiona gestured him towards the door, and they went out.

Di said to me: 'Old flame, right?' I said, something like that. She nodded: 'Of course, Alan's much more directionalised now.' I said I hoped so, we were depending on him to rescue us from a community initiative that was getting out of hand. Di was just saying, 'Don't worry - he'll handle it,' when there was a terrific noise from the end of the corridor.

We found Fiona and Alan in confrontation with Iz. Iz had a hand on Alan's shoulder, and was telling him: 'It's OK. Just ignore her. We're all creative. Take it slowly. Try and express your idea in your own words.' Fiona was just shouting intermittently: 'Arsehole] Arsehole]' Iz turned to me angrily and said: 'I asked you both to leave the public alone.'

Di intervened and extracted Alan from the situation. Iz stalked off, saying the Leisure Committee wanted to hear a statement from me. Fiona told us later that Alan was very confused. She thought he needed help.

THURSDAY - Meeting with the Leisure Committee. It all went very well. The Chairman invited 'our Cultural Officer' to put her case. Iz smiled, and then gave us a little talk about her work with 'the real people who this festival is for', and about the danger of 'a perhaps unconscious tendency towards cultural elitism' prevailing in certain quarters. The Chairman turned

to me.

I said I wanted to pay a heartfelt tribute to the enormously valuable exploratory work Iz had done with the people of the city, which would most certainly not be going to waste. But we were lucky enough to have a very experienced community project artist working with the festival. I mentioned Alan's name. (Fortunately no one seemed to remember it.) I hoped she and Alan would be able to pool their skills. And I added that the exciting thing was that we had been able to obtain sponsorship from Schlacht for this project.

I handed over to Di, who made a very plausible speech about Schlacht's commitment to partnership between business, the community and the arts. I think it was the prospect of copious distribution of beer that helped turn the mood of the meeting. Iz conceded with reasonably good grace - said she looked forward to working with Alan.

Di said afterwards, if I could just arrange to keep Fiona away from him, then everything would be perfect.

FRIDAY - There is now a bottle on the forecourt of the Centre. It is 25ft high and about 6ft wide, and it has a huge label on it saying 'SCHLACHT. Official Festival Sponsor'.

We all turned out this afternoon to look at it being put up. Fiona remarked to me that it was 'just a massive prick', which she thought was appropriate. The Chairman of the Leisure Committee was warmly expressing his approval. He turned to Di: 'This one's an empty, I take it?' Di was taking photographs of Alan standing in front of the monstrous thing.

Then Iz came over. She said: 'Ready, Alan?' Alan said: 'Right. Off to . . . meet the people then.' They both got into Iz's car and drove away. I noticed Fiona and Di watching them very closely.

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