Coales' Notes: Going south: Gordon Coales burns his bridges before they're burnt for him

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY: One can't help thinking back. I have been with the Wormwood Centre ever since it opened 20 years ago. Great hopes then. We actually got Dame Ethel Wormwood herself over for the opening - once the friend of Shaw and Huxley, the great exponent of free dance and free love, the author of Rhythmic Knowledge - but by that stage completely gaga. I had to shepherd the old lady around, and throughout the whole evening she believed she was visiting a Moscow youth club. What an amazing occasion it was. Sad to see it all now passing away so quickly into oblivion.

Today I received my offer from Ars Longa. It is a six-month contract only, as Project Coordinator, and involves something of a cut in salary. I phoned Silver, and said I didn't think I could really sign until I had formally resigned to my Leisure Committee. I also remarked that Project Co-ordinator sounded a bit vague. He said, laughing: 'What would you like, Freelance Consultant? Gordon Coales Productions Ltd?' I laughed too. I said I'd see him next week then. I'll have to start spreading the news.

TUESDAY: Bob rang today, embarrassed. He said he had had an offer from a drama oufit in Gibraltar and was in a dreadful dilemma about whether to take it. I asked if he was really serious. He was slightly offended: 'Actually, I believe that theatre is finally starting to move in Gib, so it's quite a good time to be out there.' I said go ahead then, because frankly there was very little chance of the Centre re-opening. And I admitted I had plans of my own. He said he thought Juliet was on to something too. But none of us, it seems, dares tell Fiona.

WEDNESDAY: Looking for London base, I rang up poor old Archie Ogg, who lost his own Arts Centre the year before last, to see if he still kept up his flat in the Barbican. He said he did, and would be delighted if I made use of it. One bedroom was currently occupied by a musician called Gunner - 'terribly witty, you'll like him, he's German' - but the other was free. I should ring Gunner about keys. Hm.

THURSDAY: So I have now spoken to Fiona. Very strange. We discussed Bob and Juliet. She thought it was very sad, a question of trust. I then made my own confession. I was expecting the most terrible scene, but she simply said: 'Oh I see. And that's sad too. But we all have to move on. Good luck then.' I asked if she was thinking of moving herself. She thought she'd be staying around for a while. I said we must all get together some time, and have the most blazing post-mortem on the Wormwood Centre and all its works. She said: 'Oh yes. For sure, for sure.'

People just don't seem to be able to say goodbye anymore.

But it strikes me that my options are still open, and that a statesmanlike resignation may just force the Leisure Committee at last to their senses.

FRIDAY: An astonishing meeting with the Leisure Committee. They looked grim. But I told them, before we discussed anything, I myself had something to say. It was with great regret that I said this, but this situation of suspended animation had become intolerable - and so, after 20 years as Director of the Wormwood Centre, I now I felt unable to continue and was therefore tendering etc.

There was a long exchange of glances, and finally the chairman said: 'OK. Accepted.' I said: 'So. You accept my resignation?' He said: 'Yes. With immediate effect. Anything else?' I was almost speechless, but I asked if he could now tell me what plans the Committee had for the Wormwood building. He replied: 'Well that is a matter which in due course we will have to discuss with your successor.' I said, what did he mean my successor? Surely they were going to close the Centre down. He said 'Oh no. By no means. By no means.'

I walked out shaking. I seem to have played straight into their hands, and I have absolutely no doubt that Fiona is behind this. I immediately signed and posted the Ars Longa contract. Yes, I am very, very well out of everything here. And I think again of what Dame Ethel said that evening.

We managed to get her up to a mike, and she mumbled for a bit, and then a light came into her eye, and she spoke out bright and clearly: 'Now, you will promise me one thing, won't you? Do try and get all your boys and girls to masturbate properly. It is so important. It is the very basis of everything.' She was quickly drowned by coughing and fevered applause.

We should have had it inscribed upon the plaque.

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