The Week in Arts

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The Independent Culture
IS THERE a little more than meets the eye to the listing of Sir Noel Coward's London home this week? A careful reading of the English Heritage inspector's report suggests there is. Listing a building for cultural/historical reasons rather than architectural ones is highly unusual. The listing of Sir Paul McCartney's childhood home was a rare example. It seems to have rankled.

The inspector's report says that Coward is "the most significant and lasting popular playwright and songsmith of his generation." Fair enough. But then comes a snooty sting in the tail. "Gerald Road is at least as deserving of recognition as Paul Macartney's [sic] childhood home; and has the added benefit of clearly manifesting his personal interventions... as well as being the place where he worked for 16 years."

Ouch. So McCartney, whom English Heritage can't even spell correctly, didn't make any architectural changes to his house, and he didn't write many songs there. Do I detect high versus popular culture lobbying going on among the inspectors? The chances of that petrol garage wall, on which The Rolling Stones famously relieved themselves in the Sixties, receiving grade 2 listed status are receding rapidly.

MARY ALLEN'S diaries, serialised this week, tell a predictably appalling story of her time as chief executive of the Royal Opera House. "The budget- making process is opaque," she writes. "Decision-making is incomprehensible... how can any organisation be so utterly disorganised, have such a complete disregard for its own health, and be so irredeemably hopeless at communicating within itself...?" There is another question to be asked, but perhaps she had run out space, so could not ask it? How did the person supposed to have been monitoring this hopelessness in the preceding years not spot how "irredeemably hopeless" it all was. I refer to the secretary general of the Arts Council, that famous diarist Mary Allen.

IT'S TRUE that there are never enough arts programmes on television. But last Monday's Omnibus on Darcey Bussell did not advance the cause of the genre. In 50 minutes, and after months of privileged access, it managed to tell us nothing about her technique, what makes her different from other dancers, what her lifestyle is like, or how she approaches a role. What a waste.

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