Beefeaters throw a towering strop over pop festival plans

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The Independent Online

* Battle lines are being drawn at the Tower of London. The Beefeaters, who have guarded the palace these past 900 years, are upset by plans to bring a collection of noisy pop stars across its threshold.

* Battle lines are being drawn at the Tower of London. The Beefeaters, who have guarded the palace these past 900 years, are upset by plans to bring a collection of noisy pop stars across its threshold.

This summer, for the first ever time, Historic Royal Palaces wants to use the Tower as a venue for a 10-day music festival, featuring a range of stars, including Katie Melua, pictured, Amy Winehouse, Lisa Stansfield and Alison Moyet.

It's an enterprising project, and should raise plenty of money for the Tower's upkeep. But news of the planned concerts has seriously upset the famous Beefeaters, who live at a variety of apartments within its walls.

The majority of the Beefeaters are of a certain age (typically, they are retired soldiers) and have not taken kindly to the prospect of being kept awake throughout much of July by pop music and crowds of revellers.

Amid dark rumours of industrial action, an impresario behind the event, Hannah Francis, is understood to have held a series of "consultations." Yesterday, she said they had now agreed to allow the festival to go ahead.

"At first the Beefeaters were very worried, but we've now been round to every single flat and discussed it," she said.

"Some of them have kids and were understandably a bit put out, so we've offered them sound-proofing. Hopefully that will solve the problem, because ideally, we want this to become an annual event."

* THERE ARE rumours that James Nesbitt doesn't exactly see eye-to-eye with one of Hollywood's best-known creative talents, Woody Allen.

The amiable Irish TV actor was given a "big break" last year, when Allen cast him in his new London film, Match Point .

But with the film's release date rapidly approaching, Nesbitt's role (in his biggest film to date) has turned out to be little more than that of a walk-on extra.

Nesbitt is taking it all on the chin, though. Speaking at Monday's Tio Pepe ITV Restaurant Awards, he said of the vertically challenged director:

"Woody is a very passionate little man. Oh dear, did I say little? I mean: he's a very passionate, creative man."

As to his role, he added: "None of my scenes in the film were with Scarlett Johanssen, and more's the pity, but it was fun to do."

* ANDREW GILLIGAN remains a political hot potato for his former bosses at the BBC. At the recording of last week's Any Questions in Essex, a punter informed Radio 4's new controller, Mark Damazer, that Gilligan ought to be re-hired instantly.

"It is most unlikely that Andrew will return to the BBC's newsgathering staff," replied Damazer. "He's a complicated man and I'm sure he's happy in his new job. It would be an interesting moment if he said he wanted to come back, but I think its safe to say he won't."

Funnily, this stammering exchange was never broadcast on Radio 4. There must have been strong editorial reasons for its omission.

* SIR ELTON JOHN is returning to Theatreland. He's written a new Broadway musical based on the Interview With the Vampire books by Anne Rice.

"Elton has already finished the music and the producers in New York are currently in pre-production," says a spokesman. "The musical's opening is scheduled for 2006."

The show will be his fourth such project in recent years, following a reworking of Aida , Disney's The Lion King , and Billy Elliot , which hits the West End soon.

Its working title is Lestat , which - if you divide it into two words - would make sound advice for the old duckie.

* His rivals kiss babies, but Tory backbencher Richard Bacon reckons that cuddling piglets is the way forward this election. The aptly-named MP for Norfolk South has gone into battle on behalf of the British Pig Association, tabling a series of Parliamentary Questions and an Early Day Motion about pork imports.

"I'm a great supporter of the British pig, and there's a problem with meat coming in from places like Holland and Denmark, which is produced to welfare standards that are illegal in this country," he explains.

"There are lots of pig farmers in my constituency, and I want them to get a fair crack of the whip. I've even done a publicity picture."

And here it is. Let's hope it doesn't create the rumpus of Labour's (eerily reminiscent) "flying pigs" poster.