Virginia Woolf isn't the only woman to have felt a pressing need for a room of her own. The comedian Shazia Mirza has been denied this over the past few years at the Edinburgh Fringe, and has instead found herself sharing a flat with a bunch of waifs and strays. "Every year, whenever I've gone up, I've had someone sleeping in my living room. One year, I woke up to find someone sleeping in my wardrobe, another year there was someone in the bathtub." The infestation of festival-goer friends looking for a roof for the night has become so severe that she has rented her very own one-bedroom flat, in central Edinburgh, for her month- long stay from 4 August, the day she starts her new show, Multiple Choice. "I didn't care how much it cost, I just knew I had to wake up alone." Meanwhile, she is performing in Amsterdam this weekend, she tells me, and will adapt the cultural elements in her show to fit, as she does wherever she goes. When she's in Britain, she peppers the act with references to her Asian heritage; in America, she is often mistaken for being Mexican, so that goes into her act. "When I got mistaken for a Mexican, people kept speaking to me in Mexican and they put me on a Mexican show, where the whole audience was also Mexican. They hated me when they found out I was English!" Just as long as she's not mistaken for a Spaniard this weekend. Those still-smarting Dutch football fans might not see the funny side.
A single woman
What is a fifty-something woman who finds herself unexpectedly single to do? Jo Wood is taking herself off on a pilgrimage to Kathmandu, she tells me. "I'm going there with a mystic," she says, with a bright smile. The idea came to her after her 31 years of marriage to the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood came to an abrupt end. She found herself watching a television programme about a journey into the Nepalese city and became inspired. Being single now, after decades of marriage, is a refreshing experience, she adds. "Until now, I'd never really been single. I feel I can do things I really want to do without having to consult anyone."
More nights at the museum
Tate Modern started it, some years ago, when it invited the public into the vast expanse of the Turbine Hall to sleep the night. Now the Serpentine Gallery and the V&A are to stage their very own sleepovers, featuring talks, films, music and a midnight feast. The event starts at the V&A and continues inside the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion nearby, the site of much carousing at the gallery's summer party last week. The Serpentine's Sleepover, which takes place on 30 and 31 July, will include artists, architects, musicians, psychologists, scientists and activities throughout the night in an experiment to map sleep and sleeplessness. Insomnia experts will give lectures, too (long ones, perhaps designed to send you to sleep). "The psychedelic qualities of insomnia and the productive potential of alternative sleep states will be investigated," says the gallery. Sounds like fun.
The Women's Institute is searching for singers for a £1m record deal with Universal Records, the label that houses Cheryl Cole and the Sugababes. The search, which comes to an end in September, will take the form of an X-Factor-style singing competition. The five winning women will become The Harmonies, having been hand-picked from the 205,000 members. Meanwhile, a bunch of pensioners from Chelsea have brought out their first album. The group, called Chelsea Pensioners, is made up of – as their name would suggest – seven Chelsea pensioners, with a combined age of 550 years.
A Silva lining
Youngsters from Stockwell Park Estate and the Pereira da Silva favela in Rio de Janeiro have got together to build a miniature favela at London's Southbank Centre as part of Festival Brazil. It will be unveiled tomorrow. Just like the Rio favelas, Stockwell Park Estate's community centre and residents have been wrongly tarred with a reputation for drug-related crime and poverty. Project Morrinho, as it is called, is seeking to put that right.