Diary

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Blood is up at the Royal Opera House, whose in-house magazine UpROHR is doing just that in the summer edition. It positively rails against the closure of the in-house shop which occurred in May to make way for more commercially viable enterprises such as Austin Reed. The editorial, written by Judy Mackerras, niece of conductor Sir Charles, suggests 'there were many questions left unanswered at the time', and it transpires that marketing director Keith Cooper later admitted at a meeting of the joint consultative council 'that the closure had been badly handled by

management and that lessons had been learned'.

There follows no fewer than five heated pages devoted to the

subject, including a letter from the previous manager of the shop who quoted a letter he had received from a customer, concluding: 'We (ROH) talk about making the house accessible, we talk about serving the customer, but we act differently'. Finally, Cooper himself has written a piece about the background to the closure stating, inevitably, that 'like other major arts organisations in this country and abroad, we must aim to maximise our earning opportunities within the artistic environment in which we work'. Fair enough - only where will it all end - La Boheme shortened to two acts perhaps?

Flying the feminist banner is Jo Phillips, 38, the first woman to be given the delicate task of running Paddy Ashdown's office. (Mr Ashdown is indeed a lucky man - all the senior characters in his office are now women).

Mrs Phillips, however, should be a refreshing presence. A mother of two and a former radio

producer with the BBC and IRN, she will doubtless bring a healthy perspective to both the

policy-making and press divisions which she is heading. Any special interests? I asked her yesterday. 'I am a keen vegetable grower,' she said. 'I shall

work on my allotment at weekends to keep me sane.'

The Edinburgh Festival has never shied from controversy, but this year one of the greater causes for unrest comes from one of its usually safer bets - BBC Radio Scotland. It has commissioned writer William Boyd to compile a programme in homage to Anthony Burgess, in which the vivid rape scene from A Clockwork Orange - which led to Stanley Kubrick's film being withdrawn 21 years ago after fears that it encouraged violence - is to be performed.

Actor John Sessions is to play the rapist and, I'm told, his

performance is expected to be worryingly vivid. The programme, scheduled for Sunday 21 August, is to go out live. Although no legal challenge is expected, ripples of disapproval are inevitably spreading. 'We've heard murmurs that the Church and feminists are angry,' said a BBC spokesman. And that is not all. Edinburgh councillor Moira Knox, who has suggested bringing in a squad of 'bailies - council officials - to stop morally

unsuitable shows will, according to a council spokesman, 'throw

a great big hairy fit' when she finds out.

Yesterday's rain, I noticed, was not exactly helping the

commercial spirits at Bucking-ham Palace - not one person was to be seen queueing at 9am. Mind you, I gather they made a tidy profit over the weeekend on account of forgetful members of the paparazzi who turned up expecting a photo opportuniy of the souvenirs - pens, boxes, goblets - on sale. 'There's the shop: if you want it, you can buy it,' was the response of Dicky Arbiter, the palace's shrewd head of PR, explaining that standard photos had already been provided in a press pack. Off rushed the snappers, grumbling as they dug into their wallets. The palace, I'm told, reaped a

six-figure sum that day.

Unable to sway voters here, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party has opened a foreign branch - in Gibraltar. So far, membership has risen to 50. This, however, could have something to do with the

location of its HQ: a particularly popular public house entitled The Pig and Whistle.

(Photograph omitted)

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