Coales' Notes: Taking the law into your hands

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The Independent Culture
TUESDAY: This morning, arrived late at the inaugural 'Wormwood in Exile' meeting in Fiona's flat, to hear Bob saying: 'As once in Ceausescu's Romania, so now in Major's Britain - theatre will be performed in the living room, the kitchen and the toilet.'

'Alternative spaces, alternative audiences' is the watchword. The mood was more enthusiastic than I've seen for a long time. It is amazing what catastrophe can do. The idea is that art will now start popping up where it is least expected, and the name of the Wormwood kept alive. Juliet said she had already had a good response from an all-night garage. I decided just to listen. Fiona eventually said 'And what do we think would Gordon be good for?' There was a long pause. I said that one point that seemed not to have been considered was the matter of alternative funding, and perhaps I could try and take responsibility for that. Juliet said: 'On the other hand, perhaps not - I mean, in view of what happened before,' which was hurtful. We agreed that what was needed first of all was a big publicity splash.

WEDNESDAY: Rowena pointed out to me a piece in the Herald, headed 'Art Attack'.

'A motor-maniac at the wheel of a speeding Austin Maestro yesterday caused pandemonium among post-Christmas bargain-hunters when he launched a daring suicide attack on the Wormwood Centre.

Shoppers scattered, an eyewitness said, as the car began to accelerate along Large Street, swerved to the left, mounted the forecourt and smashed through the glass front of the controversial Arts Centre, coming to a stop within the foyer.

The driver, who cannot be named, escaped from the vehicle unhurt and began to attack the inside of the building with an axe before collapsing.

The Wormwood Centre, which suspended operations last week owing to financial irregularities, was closed at the time. A spokesman for the Council said: 'I cannot see any motive for this attack, given that there was no one inside.'

A man is helping police with their enquiries.

What alarms me is that the same thing happened to the Tate Gallery last week, and this looks very much like a case of copy-cat philistinism. The question remains: what kind of lunatic would do such a thing?

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Had a phone call from Fiona. She asked: 'You all right, Gordon?' I told her I was bearing up. She went on: 'I mean I can understand your feelings of course, but you realise we will have to publicly disassociate ourselves from any kind of extremism. It just alienates public support.' I said she surely didn't imagine that I was the person who ran his car into the Centre. She said she had talked about this with Bob and they just couldn't think who else it might be. A gloomy evening, pondering my future. I asked Rowena if I seemed mad to her. She said: 'Well, what is madness, anyway?'

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Took a walk with Fiona and Bob to have a look at the atrocity. There was a small gathering of people who had come to gawp. The front of the building had been boarded up and was already heavily graffitied. Fiona pointed this out and murmured: 'It's these kind of . . . public energies which we now have to try and harness.'

I remarked to one bystander how fortunate it was there had been no injuries. He replied: 'Of course, what I feel is, it could have been any of us. I mean, you live with something like this for years. You almost get used to it. And then - bang - something snaps. You've got to do it. Now.' He added that obviously a car was spectacular, but the problem was, it caused only surface damage.

He then turned to Bob, and asked him how he would set about destroying an Arts Centre. Bob said: 'Oh, I think I'd simply employ a criminal as Marketing Officer, and leave him in charge of the chequebook for a couple of weeks.' I'm getting a bit sick of these remarks.

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