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Royal Academy gloom grows with yet another resignation

VMore trouble at the Royal Academy, with yet another senior member of the organisation leaving abruptly. The latest scalp is that of the curator of the RA Schools, John Wilkins. He was number two to Professor Brendan Neiland who resigned last year over a scandal involving the unauthorised transfers of pounds 80,000.

In December, Lawton Fitt, the secretary of the Royal Academy, resigned after a very public falling out with its colourful exhibitions secretary, Norman Rosenthal, pictured. And days later, Professor Philip King, the president, stepped down after five years, amid rumblings of discontent that he had not handled the "Lawton Fitt situation" well.

The latest resignation was swift, according to sources at the RA. "One moment, he was at his desk, the next he was leaving the building," says a mole. "But it's been bubbling for some time."

A spokesman said that the Academy has accepted Wilkins' resignation, but would not confirm whether it was linked to the ongoing investigation into Professor Neiland.

"I've had it confirmed that John Wilkins resigned," I am told. "But I don't know if it is linked to Neiland's resigning."

The two men set out to transform the teaching at the school by stamping out the tradition of a "house style" and encouraging innovative work from its students.

Unfortunately, the sudden departure of top staff seems to have become the house style these days.

Toni finds

British cast with like minds

VTONI COLLETTE, left, the star of Muriel's Wedding, has just finished a new film. The psychological murder mystery called Like Minds also co-stars two of Britain's brightest young talents: Eddie Redmayne and Tom Sturridge. Redmayne yesterday added the Critics' Circle award for most promising newcomer to his already groaning trophy cabinet for his role in The Goat.

"We were filming in Sydney. It's about two psychotic 17-year-olds, played by Tom and me, and their symbiotic relationship," says Redmayne. "It was a very exciting project and my first feature film. The only downside was that my girlfriend was back in London."

Said girlfriend - one Tara Hacking, herself an aspiring actress - is nothing if not attentive to her man's burgeoning success.

"She marches me down to the shops to buy newspapers when I've got reviews coming out," he adds.

Unlikely friends

VCOULD FRANCIS Ford Coppola, below right, be lining up as Russia's next Sergei Eisenstein?

The director - who made The Godfather and Apocalypse Now - has struck up an unlikely alliance with Vladimir Putin, left.

In Moscow to receive an award for his contribution to cinematography from their National Academy for Cinematic Arts and Sciences, he was invited to the Kremlin for a meeting with the President. The two traded compliments and Coppola praised Putin for his address on the 60th anniversary of Soviet troops' liberation of Auschwitz.

"Excellent speech," he opined. "But in person you look much younger than you did on TV."

Perhaps Vlad just needs a good director.

Flight of fancy?

VTHE LABOUR Party has withdrawn their "Pigs might Fly" election posters - almost a week after Pandora broke the story that they were seen as anti-Semitic - and the final word should go to Andrew Mennear, the Tory parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, who launched the campaign against them.

"I'm obviously relieved they've finally withdrawn them," he tells me. "I never thought the Labour Party was institutionally racist, but perhaps Fraser Kemp and Alan Milburn would benefit from some diversity training."

Mennear was speaking after a day of campaigning in his constituency. A coincidence, of course, that the Tory battle bus rolled into Finchley at this very opportune time.

VJane Kelly, the journalist and artist who was sacked as a feature writer by the Daily Mail, is paying tribute to her old boss.

Kelly, who was dismissed last year shortly after unveiling a controversial portrait of the Moors Murderer Myra Hindley (now sold), has turned her talents to other subjects.

"It's a canvas called Hated Fathers, and it is going to picture the faces of awful patriarchs," she tells me. "I'm including Earl Haig, who I think was responsible for sending so many young men to their death in the First World War; Chaim Rumkowsky, who ran a ghetto in Poland during the Second World War where all the inhabitants died; Peter the Great, who murdered his son; and Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail." No hard feelings, then.