The Diary: Shane Meadows; Alan Bennett; Playboy Bunny; Handel; Alice Walker

A degree of credit for British director

The acclaimed British film-maker Shane Meadows has come under the academic spotlight this week with a two-day conference at the University of East Anglia (UEA) yesterday and today, dedicated to him. It is the first time his work has been the subject of a conference, and a book exploring his work is also planned. The director, is working on a four-part TV series updating his film 'This is England', may be flummoxed by his elevation into academia, given that he left school shortly before reaching his GCSEs. Topics to be discussed include skinhead subculture; post-Thatcherism; his treatment of motherhood and femininity; as well as Meadows' use of "untrained" actors. It came about after a discussion last summer about Meadows' films and the lack of academic work on them. Researches at UEA wanted to focus on "arguably one of the most important young British directors to emerge in a generation". The conference is looking at issues raised in the films, 'Somers Town', 'Once Upon a Time in the Midlands' and 'Dead Man's Shoes'.

Change of Habit

National Theatre lovers – or those who simply can't get to London – will be able to watch Alan Bennett's new play, 'The Habit of Art', on cinema screens when it is broadcast live from the National Theatre to 80 cinemas across the country next Thursday, along with overseas cinemas in 20 countries worldwide. It is the final play in the pilot season of NT Live, following the broadcasts of 'Phèdre', 'All's Well That Ends Well' and 'Nation'. The pilot season has clearly worked. A second season will begin in the autumn.

On the hop...

This year is the 50th anniversary of the iconic Playboy Bunny and Playboy Clubs. A commemorative book, 'The Bunny Years', is being published to tell the "surprising inside story of the playboy clubs: the women who worked as bunnies and where they are now". A press release adds: "a remarkable range of bright and ambitious women launched their careers while working as Playboy Bunnies"! Kathryn Leigh Scott's memoir is based on over 250 interviews with former Bunnies and her own recollections of working in the New York Club while she was studying.

Joyful Noise a Bishop couldn't Handel

George Frideric Handel had a job getting his 'Messiah' performed in 1741 because of bitter opposition from the then-Bishop of Hereford, Henry Egerton.The Bishop considered the work sacrilegious and he even went to Parliament in a bid to ban it. Now the UK premiere of 'Joyful Noise', the story behind Handel's battle, is being staged in a Herefordshire theatre. The comedy-drama by Tim Slover opens at the Phoenix Theatre in Ross-on-Wye on 30 April and runs until 8 May. The play's director David Edwards, says: "Handel had a really big battle with the church and the Bishop got all worked up about it." Ironically, the Bishop was against one of the most religious and sacred works, despite not having seen it. It took King George II to persuade him even to see the oratorio.

Purple patch for American author

The American writer Alice Walker, who has in the past suffered depression brought on by the loss of her mother, her struggle with lyme disease and her rocky awakening to bi-sexuality, has just confirmed attendance to the Happy Soul Festival, from 20 April. The festival aims to raise awareness of mental health issues in minority ethnic communities, where they are often stigmatised. Films being screened include 'The Color Purple', based on her bestselling book, after which a conversation about her writing, and life.