Coales' Notes: Nowhere to run, no place to hide: Gordon Coales spends a week trapped between bureaucrats and revolutionaries

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY This is limbo. The days are hanging heavily upon me. I would hope for rather more support from Rowena. But she is still very bound up in her current book. She said last night: 'Well, you do in theory still have your job. You're just being paid to do nothing. But then, if you think about it, is that such a real change?'

TUESDAY Meeting with the Leisure Committee. Rumours had been reaching their ears. It was something of a roasting.

They wanted to know what on earth were we up to, trying to establish an 'Arts Centre in Exile'? They had made it clear that the building was subject to strictly temporary closure. They could not countenance this behaviour. Now they understood we were trying to run a bus. 'Kindly put a stop to this nonsense now, Mr Coales.'

I protested that I could hardly control the extra-curricular activities of my staff. The Chairman answered: 'As things stand your staff are still all on salary, and you are still Director. As things stand.'

I asked at least for their assurance that they did intend, in principle, to re-open the Centre as an Arts Centre. I was informed that 'at this point, all options remain open.'

I hoped that, when it came to it, they would bear in mind which side I was on. They more or less shooed me out of the room.

WEDNESDAY I attended another 'Exile' meeting at Fiona's flat. Bob was talking seriously about 'our struggle' to someone who appeared to taking notes.

I noticed a pile of posters on a table, announcing in bold letters:

'MISSING

ONE ARTS CENTRE.

Have you seen the Wormwood

Centre? Believed missing since

Christmas, this much loved Arts

Centre is still at large etc.'

I informed them that if those posters went up, then we were going to be finished for good. It was just the excuse the Council was looking for.

Fiona replied: 'Look, if you don't want to be involved, fine.'

I reminded her she was still my Deputy, and here was an order. This must stop at once. And since the Press seemed to be present, I wanted it on record that I, as Director, dissociated myself utterly from these carryings on.

Fiona turned to me absolutely coolly and said: 'Please leave now, Gordon.' I did so.

She called after me: 'And if you come out of this without a job, don't blame me.'

I told her I was starting to compile a list, and her name was most definitely on it.

THURSDAY I had a long talk with Rowena this evening. Pretty choppy going.

I thought some sort of overture was in order, and I suggested that if ever the Centre did re-open, we should definitely think about getting her story-telling circle started again. She said: 'Oh, I meant to mention. I've jumped the gun, I'm afraid.' Her circle is now due to re-convene at the Public Library as from mid- February, and this has all been arranged. I was surprised, and I told her I took it as as a pretty clear vote of no confidence in the future of the Centre and in me. She replied: 'Well we both have to think alternatively now. And anyway - it was always a place of such negative energies.'

I said really, she made it sound like a concentration camp or something. I supposed she imagined people in the next century coming along and saying: 'This was once the site of the Wormwood Arts Centre - and you know, if you listen hard, you notice a very remarkable thing. No birdsong. Even now, no living creature will come anywhere near it.'

She said: 'It was a bit like that, wasn't it.' And then: 'So why don't you write a book?'

I said Christ, I hoped I wasn't that desperate. When people start saying they're going to write a book, you know they've given up on life entirely. Put it in a book] The absolute last ditch of failure.

The wrong thing to say to an author of course. She went home shortly afterwards.

Perhaps she is right though. Betrayal: My Life in the Arts - by Gordon Coales. Fiona, Terry, Alan, the Leisure Committee - I could give them a chapter each.

FRIDAY A very odd thing. Today I had a phone call from Alan. He began: 'So, how you doing Gordon?' I tried to remain calm.

I asked him if Fiona had roped him into exhibiting on a bus. He said: 'Oh yeah. All hands to the pumps, right.' However, he had a lot happening at the moment, 'quite a big show coming up, you know how it is, can't really get away. But you're not engaged in any current project yourself, I gather?' I lost my temper.

I said, very fine it was coming from him - him whose residency exhibition had originally sown the seeds of my destruction. In fact, how dare he even attempt to speak to me. It sickened me simply to hear his voice.

He replied: 'So, just to get this clear - you're in need of a job?'

I told him I was sure he'd be delighted to hear that I very probably was.

He said: 'No, I am quite pleased to hear that. Right. I'll be in touch then.' And rang off.

He is entirely vile.

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