Festival moves to save Amis and Greer from al-Qa'ida

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The Independent Online

* Next year's most keenly anticipated cultural beanfest has been moved from the wilds of Jordan, for fear that Germaine Greer and Martin Amis would be kidnapped or shot.

Luminaries at April 2007's Majestic Petra Festival - the inaugural British-Arab fiesta of literature, media and culture - will include Greer, Amis, Vikram Seth, Sir VS Naipaul, Michael Portillo, Clare Short, Rageh Omaar, Dame Vivienne Westwood and the National Gallery director, Charles Saumarez Smith.

They were meant to be sleeping in Bedouin tents at Petra, Jordan's "rose red city", itself festooned with Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine history.

Unfortunately, the spicy, less-than-majestic security situation there means that organisers have pulled out the tent pegs and relocated to Dubai. Fewer camels, fewer gun-toting youths, apparently.

"The security in Jordan isn't good enough," says Pablo Ganguli, czar of this festival and many others.

"Several Brits were shot in Oman earlier this year. Petra is extremely remote, and we wouldn't have enough bodyguards. If something went wrong we'd need government help, and the Jordanian government's not keen on this.

"The last thing we want is for something to happen to Martin Amis or Germaine Greer." Quite!

Ganguli hopes to return to Petra for a "cultural salon" when guns/bombs allow.

Pandora notes that he is in good company: the Crusaders built a fortress in the city in the early 12th century but soon scarpered.

* Good to see that Camilla Rutherford's recent bagging of her first major Hollywood part has not turned the British actress into a fawning sycophant.

Rutherford, last seen frolicking in the BBC production Rome - is soon to start filming Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, about three brothers' journey through India after their father's death.

"I'm flying out to India in January to start shooting," she tells me at the launch of Essenziale boutique in Mayfair.

"I'm really excited about it because I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan. I am going to be playing the wife of Damian Brody."

Perhaps Rutherford is not as much a fan of heartthrob Brody (King Kong, Hollywoodland, The Pianist) as she is of Anderson.

"Did I say Damian? Yes, I'm sorry, I meant Adrien Brody - I am his wife."

Carry on!

* Still 11 shopping days to go, but Sir Paul McCartney already has one gift to place beneath his tree.

I hear that the TV agent and producer Paul Duddridge has sent the former Beatle a copy of his recent book, Ever Dated A Psycho? - a collection of tales about fractious love relationships - as an early Christmas present.

"My publishers posted it," Duddridge tells me when I interrupt his lunch. "I hope Macca enjoys it.

"But I can't imagine what possible use he would have for the book, or why anyone thinks he would find it helpful or particularly relevant."

He adds: "I'm told that people have bought it for friends as a subtle hint. We hope it sells well after office parties."

I will exchange my copy for a gruesome dating tale. E-mail at the top!

* First of all the Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer, locks up journalists (Pandora passim). Now it's the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, torturing hacks at her Christmas drinks.

The sound system went "completely bananas", subjecting guests to - I quote - "a Guantanamo-style noise blast... a sort of WHEEEEYOEEEEEYYYHH. But louder. Like when people play death metal at ear-bleeding volume.

"David Lammy shat himself."

Meanwhile, across town at the BBC party, who could be the "talented baldy bloke" special advisor at the right-hand of Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary? Looked suspiciously like Guardian political editor Michael White, but younger. His son Sam?

* Darts commentator Sid Waddell, the pint-sinking-woman's crumpet, is quite the wordsmith, as fans of his loquacious observations from the oche would surely testify.

"Look at the man go - it's like trying to stop a water buffalo with a pea-shooter," is a personal favourite. Or, "There hasn't been this much excitement since the Romans fed the Christians to the lions."

But difficult to beat this gem: "When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer - and Eric Bristow is only 27."

Waddell's creamy dialect has finally been recognised: he has been commissioned to pen a literary opus. He tells me: "I'm working on a Geordie dictionary with one of the lads from Viz at the moment as it goes." Haddaway.