The Feral Beast: Portrait of the artist as an apprentice
Stalking the conference hall
My picture of Lucian Freud, never before seen in public, was taken by his friend Bruce Bernard during the installation of Freud's exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1994. Lent by the Bernard estate, it forms part of the exhibition Painting from Life: Carracci Freud, at the Ordovas gallery, London, until 15 December. The show pairs portraits by Freud with head studies by the Bolognese 16th-century master Annibale Carracci. Bernard, brother of Soho's Jeffrey, was a writer and photographer, and upon his death in 2000 was described as "an angry, affectionate and singular man". He was painted twice by Freud and compiled a collection of photographs of his friend in his studio. Freud knew at least two of Carracci's most important head studies; after seeing Head of an Old Woman, he is known to have said: "I wish I could paint like this."
Hair today but gone tomorrow?
David Cameron's aunt, Lady Dugdale, has swung behind a high-profile campaign to save a much-loved London landmark. Schumi's hairdressing salon in Chelsea's Britten Street faces closure next month, because the landlord has been granted permission to alter the building. Now, customers including Jilly Cooper, Stephen Bayley and Jenny Agutter, are calling for the council to repeal the permission. Austrian-born Heinz Schumi opened his first salon in 1973, and tended to high-profile barnets belonging to Diana Ross, Julie Christie and members of The Who. Lady Dugdale, known as Cylla, says it is more than just a hairdressing salon. "I'm very upset by the treatment Heinz is getting," she tells me. "He has become a good friend. Whenever I go up to London I have my hair done there. He and I always talk about painting, which we both do a little. He always had an easel up in his salon, and we had fun talking. He'd cross the road to help anyone. But it's not just that he offers a good, straightforward haircut. It's a very social place, a real part of the community. It's very unfair at a time when we should be helping small businesses. The council are entitled not to give planning permission if it will have an impact on the character of an individual area, and this certainly will do that. It's terrible what the developers are doing." A spokesman for the council says: "The planning application did not give permission for the premises to be converted into residential use and instead covered modifications to the shop's layout. These met with planning guidelines and therefore there were no grounds to refuse the application. We have no powers to tell landlords who their tenants should be." Stephen Bayley has posted a YouTube video called the Battle for Britten Street, and there will be a gig in the shop next Sunday. Perhaps local MP Greg Hands can intervene. Or the PM himself?
The write stuff
Scriptwriter Paula Milne has been feted with a season at the BFI, which screened hits such as The Politician's Wife. Milne recalls her first job writing for Coronation Street: "It taught you not to be precious. It was weirdly competitive yet democratic. You'd go to these big script meetings, with three women and about 14 chain-smoking blokes…. I never really had any problems being a woman, but I did get the piss taken out of me for being a middle-class southerner." Still, she learned to be protective of her work. "One director tried to reassure me by saying that 50 per cent of "your shit" is still there," she recalls. "I replied that was not a life-enhancing statistic."
Here, kitty kitty
Fans of Greenock Morton Football Club have had a good season so far, notching up five wins out of eight matches played. But superstitious types may see disaster looming, after the disappearance of Cappie the Cat, the club's much-loved mascot. Burglars broke into the Cappielow Park premises last weekend, and stole most of the stadium's PA system. Even worse, they made off with Cappie, a person-sized cat costume. The atrocities did not stop there, and the squeamish may want to look away now. "The cold-hearted thieves dumped Cappie's head in a local garden," says a statement released by the club. Any sightings of a headless big cat in the Inverclyde area should be reported to Cappielow Park post-haste!
Residents of the Shetland Islands are used to storms, but did the council have to create one of its own? Some people are asking why they have appointed Mark Boden as its new £100,000-per-year chief executive, given that he was axed from Wiltshire Council amid a flurry of unfavourable headlines. Boden had previously been chief executive of the now defunct Kennet District Council, and pocketed a secret payment of £10,360 when it was wound up, which was only revealed on the orders of the Information Commissioner. When asked about this last month, following news of his appointment, Boden told The Shetland Times that the auditors had identified a "technical problem" in the way the payments were accounted for. An imaginative interpretation of what KPMG's report actually says, that "it is questionable whether non-pensionable honoraria … should have been paid at all". Still, his new employers are standing by their new man. Convener Malcolm Bell says: "It is all too easy these days to trawl the internet and come to dubious conclusions." Quite so!"
As the sister of disgraced MP Jonathan Aitken, Maria Aitken has always suffered from famous-sibling syndrome. But the 67-year-old great-niece of Lord Beaverbrook is a talented actor and director in her own right, and was nominated for a Bafta for her memorable role as John Cleese's uptight wife Wendy in A Fish Called Wanda. Now she may have surged ahead as the most bankable Aitken, as I understand the West End production of The 39 Steps, longstanding resident of the Criterion Theatre, has raked in an astonishing £20m since it opened six years ago, with around 2,500 performances. As the play's director, Maria will have earned a significant chunk of that: not bad for someone who started out sweeping the stage in Coventry for £9 a week. Those in the know say £20m is an astonishing haul for such a small production: just four actors play all the roles in the 100-minute adaptation of John Buchan's classic spy thriller – that's all 139 roles between them. Bravo!
Benn brews up
Tony Benn is one of few politicians to have become more left wing over time, and even in retirement appears to long for a revolution. Yesterday he was at the opening of Firebox, a new "not-for-profit café and discussion space" in King's Cross, London, run by the socialist organisation Counterfire. The idea is to recreate the kind of coffee-shop culture that swept the capital in the 1700s, fomenting radical ideas. "The original 18th-century coffee houses were viewed as centres of sedition just because they were a place where radical politics could be discussed," says founder Clare Solomon. "And that's exactly what we want to recreate at Firebox." Watch out!
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