Coales' Notes: Taking art to the streets

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY: I have hardly dared go out all weekend. Dave Curley called, still convinced that an underground arts festival is under way. I said to him: 'Now look, Mr Curley - please believe me when I assure you that there is no art anywhere in this city. It's actually the situation that you, as arts correspondent of the Herald, have been trying to bring about for 10 years. And now your dream's come true. So why can't you just be grateful?' He said: 'You may say that, Gordon. But it's not what it says in my article.'

TUESDAY: Fiona had the utter nerve to ring me today. 'What we have done, Gordon - with your help of course - is to mobilise a wider interest in the arts than we have ever done before. People are now actually looking. And now nobody will be able to say that this city doesn't need an arts centre. Have you seen the paper?' At that stage, I had not.



'Art fever gripped the city centre over the weekend, as rumours spread that a city-wide arts festival had been spontaneously organised by staff from the suspended Wormwood Centre. But with reports that dozens of artists and works of art were arriving in town, the message from residents and tradesmen alike was simple but resounding - 'No way]'

'Workmen repairing Folsom Street were closely questioned about a row of bollards which a local art-spotter described as 'suspiciously regular'. On Saturday night, several people were ejected from the Rabbit and Firkin pub for singing too well. And, in a serious incident, an out-of-order telephone box was removed from outside the Co- op . . .'

And so on. It is a very confused report, and presumably much exaggerated. Moreover, one must suspect that a purely hooligan element has taken it as an opportunity to inflict gratuitous damage on property under the guise of iconoclastic zeal.

All in all, a disgraceful series of incidents. But perhaps the most staggering thing is the placing of this article - third item on Page 1. I don't believe the Herald has ever given such prominence to an arts story before.

The lead item was devoted to the cracking of the local fraud ring, of which - it now emerges - our Terry was only a minor if very active member. It looks as if the Centre got off lightly. I am, of course, entirely innocent, but it strikes me that it may have serious repercussions for my future employability. I never want to hear the word 'entrepreneur' again.

WEDNESDAY: So, basically, one has to face the facts. That's it. We're finished. As I said to Rowena this evening, we're only waiting now for the Leisure Committee to put on its collective black cap and pronounce sentence. She asked if I had heard anything more from Alan. Naturally not. And besides, on reflection, how could he realistically have been offering me a job? The man is an artist.

THURSDAY: Today I got a call from someone whose name I didn't quite catch. He had the kind of voice that I can only describe as 'commercial' - one of Terry's confederates, I supposed. I asked him what his business was. He said: 'You may have heard of me. I believe we have a mutual acquaintance.' I told him to stop right there. I didn't want to know anything more about it. I was now going to put the phone down. And if he tried to contact me again, I would feel obliged to inform the police. I cannot afford to be sucked back into this maelstrom.

FRIDAY: Well, good news at last, tempered by a little embarrassment. Alan has rung.

I told him how delightful it was to hear his voice again, terribly sorry to have been so insulting on the last occasion, under a lot of pressure, all meant in good part etc.

He said: 'Now you are still definitely looking for a job, right?' I said definitely, now more than ever, in fact.

He went on: 'Well, I hope you don't mind, I gave your name to a friend of mine in London.'

I said (in some excitement) no, not a bit - and if this friend wanted to ring me at any time, I would be only too happy to speak to him or her.

Alan said: 'I see. Because he already has. But he was a bit thrown by you threatening him with the police.'

I explained that I was still under a tremendous amount of pressure, but hoped that he would feel able to try me again. Alan thought it was best if I got the details from the horse's mouth, but I gathered that his friend had some kind of 'arts- entrepreneurship thing' going, which would, of course, be of great interest to me, though I seem (once more) not to have caught the man's name.

I am furious that the dustbin I keep my coal in has been removed by someone. I can only presume that this is because it had painted on it the words: 'This is not a dustbin.'