Coales' Notes: The right man for the job

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The Independent Culture
THURSDAY: A drink with Di. She said she'd given up on me completely, hoped she'd been right to do so. I told her it was usually the best approach with me. But she said she was surprised to find me slinking back to Ars Longa. 'Actually, I expected to hear nothing, and then in six months' time there'd be a postcard from Mount Athos or somewhere.'

I said I couldn't help noticing that it was a year to the day since my resignation from the Wormwood Arts Centre had been so readily accepted by the Leisure Committee of the Council. I didn't exactly miss it. But I had gradually come to realise that I was one of nature's figureheads. I wasn't put on earth to do anything active, I was just meant to be there, and look friendly, and take the blame. A hard job to find again.

FRIDAY: A strange thing. I had a call today from someone claiming to work for my old Leisure Committee as its Cultural Officer - something they never had in my day. She was delighted to have found me. 'Now, you know all about the festival.'

I said no, which one?

She said: 'But you do still live up here?'

I explained - not wanting to go into my recent life - that, working in London, I tended to be rather out of touch with city affairs. She said: 'Oh. OK.'

But she assured me that the whole city was 'galvanising itself' towards an arts festival happening in May. (It sounded very much like every other arts festival happening in May.) I asked who was running it, and she said: 'Yes, a very pertinent question. Because, owing to unforeseen circumstances, we find ourselves with a vacancy. And the reason for my calling - not knowing, of course, the extent of your present commitments - is actually to invite your application to be the Director.'

I told her she must be the victim of a clerical error. I was the very last man in the world the Leisure Committee would wish to employ in any capacity. But she said she could assure me, in confidence, that I had seemed to the committee - 'given your long-standing association with the city and its cultural life' - to be the ideal candidate. 'And we hoped we might be able to tempt you with the promise that, if appointed, you would be organising every aspect of the festival, in person.'

It could hardly have been less tempting. But I rang Di, and asked her what she knew of this festival. A bit of a rushed job, she thought. On the other hand, she did know the Director vaguely - 'very experienced, very able person. So it could be fine. Why, are you thinking of doing a one- man show or something?'

I replied, no, just generally curious.

Then I rang Rowena. She said: 'How can you not be aware of it? It's everywhere. You must have noticed the festival office.'

I said I didn't think so.

'It's that shop in Barn Yard - the one with the 'No Festival' stickers all over it.'

I asked, was there some opposition then?

She said: 'Oh, I'm not involved. You must talk to your old deputy, she's doing all that.'

So I rang Fiona. I only had to say the word festival.

'I mean it's crazy, Gordon. No one wanted it. It's just been foisted on us by the Council.' The rumour was, she added, that they were in danger of coming in under budget, and had to get rid of some money in a hurry.

'We're all fighting it. We had a big meeting last week, we've already got rid of the so- called Director, he couldn't wait to go. Of course, they've got this Cultural Commissar in too, she's basically running it. But they're desperately trying to find someone local to be a kind of figurehead figure - which frankly they're not going to be able to do, because who local is going to take that job?'

So now I'm wondering.

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