Coales' Notes: The pleasure principle: Gordon Coales on further problems with the Leisure Committee

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The Independent Culture
TUESDAY: Well, the emerging consensus is that I am to blame. How could I possibly have put the Festival publicity in the hands of Ars Longa? Could I not have foreseen what Rory would do?

Actually, I blame Dave Curley. I said to him today, the Herald was supposed to be supporting the Festival - how could he have written that article, without even contacting me? He replied: 'I don't know, Gordon. I just saw that press release - and instinct took over.' Hence: 'Festival to Highlight Horror of City Life'.

This evening I had yet another meeting with the Leisure Committee. I have explained to them the spurious nature of the document. But they are apparently bent on obstruction. They now claim that their plan was to give the city a 'sub-title', to be unveiled on day one of the Festival. All signs would have the words 'It's a Pleasant Place' appended.

They then compelled me to go through the whole programme with them, and at every item the Chairman said to me: 'Now, in all honesty, could this, in the normal and accepted sense of the word, be described as pleasant?' I finally said, wouldn't it be easier if I simply resigned? He said: 'Well, you could do that too. But for the time being, consider yourself banned.'

At that point, I lost my temper. I told them I well knew that their long-term goal was to make the city an art-free zone. And I had no doubt that they had only instigated this festival in the first place to have the pleasure of banning it. They were the kind of people who believed that the arts were just a conspiracy to make people like them look stupid. Well, I could keep the secret no longer: the arts were indeed such a conspiracy. But, on reflection, it now seemed to me a terribly roundabout way of making the point. How much simpler if we had never embarked on 2,000 years of civilisation - but simply confined ourselves, from the start, to pointing out stupidity directly to its face. I stormed out.

WEDNESDAY: Meeting at the Centre. Di up from London. Iz and Alan came in with promised proposal for the People Project. Fiona eyeing everyone fiercely. I said nothing at this stage. Iz began: 'Now what we thought is this. Hundreds of thousands of gas balloons, one for every person in the city, kind of small barrage balloons . . .' Each would be on a cord 100 feet long, attached to the ground, spaced out as regularly as possible, and would be released - 'to form a kind of floating ceiling, over the whole area of the city. Well?'

There was a doubtful pause. Fiona said: 'Balloons, Alan. Lovely. Did you think that up all by yourself?' Iz said: 'The idea for the work is actually my own. But Alan has been able to think up what the work is about.' Di said: 'I have no objection to balloons. So long as they all have the word Schlacht on them.'

But then Fion said: 'Actually. Actually. Thinking about it, I think it's going to be pretty amazing.' And Di said: 'Yes, in fact, I have to say that finally this festival seems to have produced something really quite interesting.' They all began staring out of the window. It looked impossibly smug. I said, OK, let's not get carried away. Quite apart from the fact that the project seemed highly impractical, and probably a danger to bird life, there was one overriding problem. The Festival had just been banned.

I said what I had done. Howls of protest. I must go back to the Leisure Committee. I must go down on my knees. I must, if necessary, lie down. And I must explain to them that what we are proposing is just transcendentally pleasant.

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