The Diary: Chrissie Hynde; London International Mime Festival; Marian Keyes; VOBO awards; National Portrait Gallery

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The Independent Culture

A rocker's reverence for sacred cows

Chrissie Hynde, a campaigning vegetarian and the lead singer of the Pretenders, recently fulfilled a lifelong ambition she spent the day in Watford, milking cows.

A source said she loved her trip to Bhaktivedanta Manor, a dairy farm created from land donated to an Indian guru by George Harrison in the 1970s, where all of the farm's 50 cows are given names and seen as sacred, as well as being hand-milked. "She said to me, 'One of the things I've always wanted to do before I die is to milk a cow,' so she spent the day hand-milking cows at the manor. She loved it, she spent the whole day there," said the source.

So much so, that a few days ago she turned up to the Southbank, alongside two 6ft oxen from the same farm, to help launch Ranchor Prime's book, 'Cows and the Earth: A Story of Kinder Dairy Farming', for which she has written a preface. Hynde railed against modern-day dairy-farm practices that "turn cows into robots" and use "grotesque and archaic machinery". "We need to reassess our relationship to the natural world," she added. The book details a unique experiment to run a dairy farm entirely without slaughter or fossil fuels.

Mime, all mime

There will be no whey-faced Marcel Marceau-styled performers at the London International Mime Festival when it comes to town next year, says its director, Joseph Seelig. Instead, there will be high-octane trapeze and circus artists many of whom will choose to perform with no safety net. "Not all the acts will have safety nets, it will vary from performance to performance. [The danger] is part of the thrill of live theatre." Cirque du Soleil scouts are expected to turn up in the hope of recruiting new talent.

Rebus complaint

Marian Keyes, the bestselling Irish novelist, in London to launch her latest inimitable instalment of "feel-bad" chick-lit, 'The Brightest Star in the Sky', told me she was an avid reader of crime fiction. "I read about 16 things on the go... PD James, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin," and added that she could not help but bemoan the loss of the hard-living and much-adored John Rebus in Rankin's latest yarn, 'The Complaints'. "Rebus is such an iconic figure... It seems a shame. Could he not put him back on cold cases?"

Battling Batlang in VOBO sing-off

Boyce Batlang is a 25-year-old opera singer from Botswana who did not know he was a tenor until earlier this year when he turned up to an audition for the author, Alexander McCall Smith's opera company, the No 1 Ladies' Opera House. Now he is to go head-to-head with six others in the VOBO awards dedicated to discovering the voice of black opera and supported by Jesse Jackson and Maria Ewing in Birminghamon Saturday. Batlang, who had no previous opera training or knowledge, turned up to the Opera House's garage in Gaborone and belted out the only classical music song he knew, "O Sole Mio". He has been singing opera ever since and is one of the Three Tswana Tenors. The competition invites professional singers, or those in their final year of study, to audition for a place in the Grand Final.

The naked and the planned

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said fans of portrait painting need not fear. The gallery, which has in recent times given so much attention to photographic shows, is to stage a comprehensive portraiture exhibition on the works of Lucian Freud, from his early "Big Sue" paintings to his naked portrait of the supermodel Kate Moss, decades later. "It'll have everything," said Nairne. The exhibition is due to be staged in 2012, as well as another show dedicated to the works of the 18th-century English painter, Thomas Lawrence, before that.