City of Literature hopes for a happy ending to tale of penury

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* A month after the United Nations named Edinburgh as the first ever World City of Literature, the Scottish capital has run out of money to support its victorious bid.

* A month after the United Nations named Edinburgh as the first ever World City of Literature, the Scottish capital has run out of money to support its victorious bid.

Organisers of the project, which is endorsed by a plethora of Scottish writers - including JK Rowling and Ian Rankin - will today ask the Scottish Arts Council for a grant to keep their operations running.

Should they not receive at least £50,000, Edinburgh's WCL team will not be able to replace its only full-time employee, whose contract expires next month.

The city would then find itself in the embarrassing position of having to put the much-hyped Unesco project, which ought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, on hold. No events could take place until next April at the earliest.

Asked to explain the problem yesterday, an organiser said: "Unesco made their decision to award us the title much more quickly than expected.

"We're not suffering a financial crisis, but we'd like to get everything moving as quickly as possible; it would be a shame to have to put it on hold until April."

Despite that prospect, the Scottish Arts Council yesterday insisted that omens for today's meeting were positive.

"I obviously can't pre-empt our decision, but we are very much in favour of the project," said a spokesman.

* THE ACTRESS Maureen Lipman is upset that the last film written by her late husband, Jack Rosenthal, has yet to be seen on terrestrial television.

She claims TV executives are reluctant to screen the satire Ready When You Are Mr McGill , since it lampoons many of their own kind.

"I don't want to get paranoid, because it would be too easy, but it has a stellar cast that you'd kill for, and Tom Courtenay said it's the best job he's ever had," she says.

"It's fun and acerbic, maybe too acerbic. This is insulting to [Jack's] memory and very upsetting."

The film's producers, Working Title, say Sky owns exclusive rights to the film until next autumn: "Because of Jack's death, the timing is not perfect, but it was a deal struck years ago and we can't change it."

* WILLIAM ARCHER recently instructed interviewers to play down references to his father in any potential newspaper coverage, but he's not the only one trying to distance himself from the fallen peer.

BMW have issued a press release saying that a Mini signed by England's World Cup-winning rugby team sold at a charity auction last week for £90,000.

Their PR photograph shows Lord Archer - the auctioneer - in the car's passenger seat. But, strangely, his name is absent from a list of celebrities involved with the event.

BMW blames an oversight, but I'm not sure: in 2001, their brand was damaged when the News of the World reported that Archer had enjoyed a romantic liaison with the actress Sally Farmiloe on the front seat of his Mini, which was parked in Mayfair.

* JACK STRAW has written to this newspaper, insisting that he is a former Communist, rather than an "old Trot".

His son, Will, is also protective of his left-wing image. For I gather he was sounded out to appear in Tatler magazine's "little black book" of eligible bachelors, but refused to play ball.

"Will was rung up by someone wanting to know his age, and where he was working," says a chum. "He told them to get lost: the last place he wants to be seen is in a society magazine."

Why not? Apparently, the former student leader - now working at the Treasury - harbours political ambitions.

JANET WATCH: Call Janet a lily-livered townie at your peril; the jungle has turned her into a ruthless hunter-gatherer. At the weekend, she went fishing for eels. A rod and line didn't work, so JS-P grabbed two of the blighters in her bare hands, and despatched them with a rock.

It's not a technique favoured by "proper" fishermen. "Knocking an eel on the head is ill-advised," says champion angler Charles Jardine. "They are incredibly slippery, and difficult to kill. The best thing to do is to chop its head off with a knife."

Still, at least our celebrity guinea pigs had some grub that night. All except Natalie Appleton, that is: she turned her nose up at eel stirfry, and resigned from the show yesterday morning.