The Feral Beast: Skeleton in the cupboard

Outstanding on his podium

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Anna Wintour with no clothes on – now there's a sight you don't see very often. So when designer Jasper Conran and socialite Lucy Birley heard there was an opportunity to do so at last weekend's Port Eliot Festival, they hot-footed it over. They were in fact there to see a knitted doll of the fearsome Vogue editor, shown wearing nothing but her trademark sunglasses and bob.

The artwork, called Poor Anna – Nothing to Wear, was part of a collection on loan from Twisted Knits, a Devon-based art group, whose other dolls include Colonel Gaddafi, a dog in a burka, and Rebekah Brooks being visited in prison by her baby.

But a rumpus erupted when Conran and Birley discovered the Wintour doll had been discreetly hidden away by the show's curator, Sarah Mower, who happens to be a Vogue contributing editor: understandably, she felt her boss's modesty should be preserved. My man behind the curtain says Conran and Birley immediately demanded to see it, and threatened to launch a "Free Anna" campaign. Ever the diplomat, festival hostess Catherine St Germans offered them a private viewing, and led them up to her own bedroom, where the naked Anna was hanging in her wardrobe. Shrieks all round!

Rebekah joins Loulou's set

Rebekah Brooks isn't letting the small matter of being charged with phone hacking stop her from having a good time. I can reveal she and fun-loving husband Charlie Brooks were among guests at the recent opening of Loulou's, Robin Birley's new Mayfair nightclub.

The ritzy boîte, in the basement of Birley's long-awaited private members' club, 5 Hertford Street, is being dubbed the new Annabel's, after Robin's father, the late Mark Birley, sold the Berkeley Square haunt to Richard Caring. Rebekah's admittance to the Loulou's set is perhaps surprising, given that Robin's sister Jemima Goldsmith is one of the club's chief backers: her ex, Hugh Grant, is a leading member of Hacked Off, the anti-News International campaign group. On the other hand, Charlie and Rebekah are Oxfordshire neighbours of Goldsmith. I happen to know that Rebekah became a member of Annabel's last year, at about the time snobs were saying it had lost its caché. Let's hope she doesn't lower the tone at Loulou's!

Simmering in Saatchi kitchen

Is Charles Saatchi trying to tell us something? The millionaire art dealer has written an extraordinary article in the London Evening Standard about the misery of marriage, describing it as "a flawed ideology with a miserable track record that only gives comfort to the insecure and the needy, like me".

He is, of course, married to the celebrity TV chef Nigella Lawson, though one can only wonder what she makes of his latest musings. In the piece, he marvels at the idea of a "brank", an iron muzzle used in 16th-century Scotland for clamping the tongues of nagging women, and grumbles that today "it would probably be considered inappropriate by Health and Safety".

He also tells a revolting anecdote about an obese past lover, who had BO, and concludes with this joke: "The only advice I can offer a friend whose marriage is in difficulty is to remind him that wives make excellent housekeepers: they always manage to keep the house."

Last month, it emerged that the BBC had built a replica of Nigella's kitchen because she felt it would be too intrusive for her teenage children if she filmed her series, Nigellissima, at home. Aren't Charles's musings rather more intrusive?

It's taking part that counts...

The relatively unknown punk rocker-turned-folk singer who opened the Olympics ceremony tells me he was persuaded to take part when he heard Danny Boyle knew all his songs. Frank Turner, who was a contemporary of Prince William at Eton, is a resolutely anti-establishment figure, who has previously said he despised his school and background. But when he heard Boyle was a genuine fan, he agreed to take part, and has no regrets.

"It was fantastic," he tells me. "Easily the best thing I've done in some time. I'm not really a tub-thumping, flag-waving nationalist, but being part of the ceremony in the only Olympic Games that will take place in my city in my lifetime was something to be proud of."

So does he now feel he's part of the establishment? "Ha! Well, obviously the thought wandered across my mind when I was asked. It might have been different had I got a call from an IOC suit, but the fact it was Danny and that he had obviously thought about this a lot made me want to be a part of it."

Fun and games in the abattoir

With Anneka Rice for a mother, and West End producer Nick Allott for a father, it was only a matter of time before Josh Allott made his name in showbiz.

Sure enough, the talented 21-year-old, who has just landed a first class degree in drama from Manchester University, has written his first play, which he is taking to Edinburgh. It's called Swordy-Well, and is a "dark comedy" about a struggling family-run abattoir. "It treads a fine line between horror and comedy," he tells me.

"I had seen a few documentaries about the decline of the British meat industry, but it's also a metaphor for commercialisation more generally. Setting it in an abattoir gave me an opportunity for some gory indulgence."

Allott hopes to become a full-time writer, with plenty of encouragement from his father, who as Cameron Mackintosh's right hand man, runs seven West End theatres. "He's been very helpful, but at the same time, he's quite keen on letting me figure it out for myself. I sent him a script and he panned it. He's very honest with me."

It's tough on your own

Steve Coogan turned up to a dingy suburban theatre to watch a one-man show by Richard Peppiatt, the hack-turned-tabloid scourge.

Peppiatt is the former Daily Star reporter who, after a crise de coeur, quit in order to spend his time lampooning tabloid journalism. His show, previewed on page 56, is likely to make him many enemies on Fleet Street, though I'm bound not to divulge any details.

"I'm trying to keep a Mousetrap-style secrecy round the show," he says, "so that it's a surprise for as many people as possible."

After the show, Coogan gave Peppiatt a, er, pep talk on how to perform. "I've got a massive new respect for comics," adds Peppiatt. "The stage is a very lonely place when you're on your own."

So is performing as tough as being a hack? "Let's just say they're both very creative endeavours."

Cyclists' spoke in Beck's Games

David Beckham's journey to the Olympic Stadium on Friday was eventful, quite apart from his speed boat trip. Word reaches me that the footballer's car got tangled up in the monthly outing of Critical Mass, an urban cycling group who celebrate life on two wheels.

One of the 500 cyclists posted an alarming message on Facebook afterwards, saying his bike had been damaged in the incident and making further allegations as to what happened subsequently. He was believed to be one of many cyclists to have been arrested for causing a public nuisance.

When I call Beckham's office, a spokesman says: "There was a number of aggressive cyclists hell bent on causing maximum disruption and distress to people for the start of the Olympics. David was one of many people caught up in this disturbance." Beckham himself was unreachable to clarify further, and regrettably the cyclist is also out of reach. All very curious.

Whisky isle to inspire Bond writer

William Boyd is busy beavering away on a new James Bond novel, to be published next year. But he has been made another offer too good to turn down.

I understand he is the latest author to have accepted a stint as writer-in-residence on the Isle of Jura, where the eponymous whisky-makers run a writers' retreat. Scribes are given a luxury lodge and must pen a short story, inspired by the island, in return. Jura was where George Orwell wrote 1984. The west coast of Scotland was teeming with Bond-like spies during the war, so no doubt Boyd will be inspired – the odd dram or three allowing!