COALES' NOTES / Paper chases: Gordon Coales records a week of uncomfortable revelations in the world of Ars Longa

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The Independent Culture
THURSDAY: I was amazed to come back from lunch today to find Di here, deep in confab with Rory. I asked if she was back with us again. She said, 'not at all, friendly call' - and then, 'incidentally, Gordon, you left Lottie in charge here when we were up in Edinburgh, didn't you?' I replied, not exactly - if she remembered, it was she who had introduced Lottie into the office, supposedly to assist me, and I had then been unwillingly summoned to Edinburgh to deal with her life crisis, so I could not be held responsible for anything.

Di said, 'Well, whatever,' and added that I might be interested to hear Lottie was now finally writing an article about Ars Longa. I said I'd believe it when I saw it.

Di went on: 'The thing is, it may not be wholly favourable. I think she went through some of the files when she was here. And then I may have said various things to her subsequently. So just to warn you.' I suggested perhaps she might try and talk her out of it. She replied: 'Well, it is the first proper piece she's had accepted in a national newspaper. And don't forget - Richard Silver is trying to sue me for breach of contract.' I was not aware of that. I asked how she was finding the world of dance. She said it was a real liberation, bye.

Rory later told me he'd known all about this. Lottie had already been on to him. 'I gave her a quote saying basically no comment.' He wasn't too worried about it. 'It's probably just going to be a re-hash of the installation incident in Wales last year and that was all cleared up at the inquest. We're in the clear there.' I was aware of that one, at least.

FRIDAY: I have the mischievous document before me. She actually managed to miss the installation death, but it hardly signifies. The headline runs: 'ARS BACKWARDS - is this the future of arts management? Lottie Jones looks at one private sector arts organisation, and hopes not.' Thereafter I extract, passim:

'One of a new breed of commercial 'arterprises', where profit comes first, and artists and integrity are sorry also- rans . . . This is arts management, Hale and Pace style. Project Co-ordinator Rory Loaf concedes that 'a certain level of creative friction is perhaps inevitable' . . .' (fatuous). 'Diana Mallin, who resigned from Ars Longa last month to work with PVC Dance Company, talks of a growing disenchantment with AL's 'quick turnover, quick getaway' methods . . .' (devised largely by herself). 'Cast-iron contracts forbid artists from commenting publicly on the organisation, but several have none the less been willing to speak . . .'

And heading the bill, naturally: 'Performance artist Alan Dunn, forcibly removed from a company attachment mid- project . . . (ie while asleep) . . . 'The highly respected Hypnos Ensemble who were compelled to pose semi-nude in an aquarium for publicity shots . . .' (all their idea, as it happens). 'Radar Theatre, who at the last moment had 50 minutes cut from the running time of one of their ground-breaking Schiller productions, and were simply told to 'act faster' . . .' (true, in a way).

And much more in this vein, talk of 'unanswered questions', concluding, 'But for many of those involved with Ars Longa over the last four years, the question is a simple one. How much longer?' It is a tissue of distortion. No mention of me anyway.

Silver was on the phone first thing (from Blackpool, I gathered), very excitable - everyone in breach of contract, sack them all. I counselled calm, best to take no immediate action, the journalist herself was notoriously incompetent, he might even be able to sue her - which did the trick. It wasn't the moment to raise my own contractual status.