Book queen Victoria Barnsley parties on as she jokes about a new chapter in her life

Arifa Akbar's Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture

Victoria Barnsley (pictured), the charismatic outgoing CEO of HarperCollins (UK) said she didn't want the authors' party last week to be turned into her impromptu leaving party for her after announcing her departure but that is what it became, with writers giving moving speeches about her impact on the company. Her speech, though, gave no signs of slinking away quietly despite her joke that she would – as an avid gardener - be taking gardening leave in the countryside for a while.

The founder of Fourth Estate (which boasts such heavyweights as Hilary Mantel) who sold up to HarperCollins in 2000, has risen dramatically in the world of publishing and vowed to return, battle ready, one supposes, to the industry. She even joked about a possible future launch of "Fifth Estate". Humour with a serious message? Speaking to The Independent, she clarified that this was indeed just a joke, not least because the URL for 'Fifth Estate' was already owned by HarperCollins. So "Sixth Estate" then?

Skate me down the river, say boarders – but mind the bird poo

As the campaign to keep the the skaters' park at its present location (underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall) on London's South Bank continues to rage, a blog for the skate store, Slam City Skates, points out that there is a long, rich heritage of skating further along the river, under Hungerford Bridge, exactly where the Southbank Centre is proposing to move the community of skaters. The site, informally named Mellow Banks, was used by skaters until 2004. Legend has it that "Ben Jobe switch-backside flipped over the wall into the bank, and Scott Palmer 360 flipped the stairs that used to be there...". Sick, as they say, though the blog does flag up another, informal name for the site: "Any of you who skated... more than a few years back will remember Bird Shit Banks...". It will be cleaned up and redesigned under the plans, I'm assured.

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