Miller's Academy gets things started with a fiery debate

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The Independent Online

Having "done" antiques, and then his own gin, the restless impresario Martin Miller decided this summer to establish an eponymous Academy of Arts and Culture in Notting Hill. Festooned with war hangings, flickering candelabra and assorted Proustian artefacts, it was to be a relaxed club where the drinks would flow and the intellectual sparks fly.

A more literal conflagration has seized the institute, however, following a strange altercation last week with an uninvited guest who wandered in off the street.

During the middle of "Can Fashion be Art?" - a talk on how the ancient Greeks believed that "a sculpture had the same 'status' as a chair or a spoon" - a lady who appeared to be two swigs short of a coma barged in through the door, sat herself down, and began contributing to the lecture.

The uproarious members ejected her, but she rushed back in, started chucking broken glass about and threw her shoe through the (closed) window. "She was a big, quite insistent, person, and took some moving by the police," says Miller.

The following afternoon, a passerby saw smoke billowing from the smashed window. "They thought we had an open fire," Miller continues. "It turned out to be a very open fire."

The fire officers suspect arson but continue to gather evidence. The blaze gutted the lecture hall but mercifully spared the salon bar. Miller's Academy will reopen in January.

Meanwhile, the police will be examining whether this was art or craft.

Wizard says kids - and hoodies - are alright

Coy teenagers and beaming parents at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday night, for Teen Vogue's party opening Exceptional Youth - photographs of 19 of our most talented youngsters.

Don Walcott, dad of Arsenal whiz kid Theo (17), had a cast on his arm, having torn tendons in an incident with a golf buggy. Rapper Dizzee Rascal (21) was talking to model and soon-to-be-Cambridge undergraduate Lily Cole (18).

Daniel Radcliffe (17, aka Harry Potter) fumed to me about adults' negative attitude towards adolescents.

"That hoody stuff is a lot of crap, isn't it?" he said. "By having a go at the kids, the blame is wrongly apportioned. Being a teenager is not about violence." (Says the hooded cape-wearing boy wizard, who blows things up with his wand.)

"Although that guy there" - a bloke, about 20, wearing a shirt backwards - "is not really doing us any favours."

In February, Radcliffe takes to the West End stage in Equus, and will perform a nude scene every night until June.

They're growing up quick, this bunch.

Out of fashion

Vivienne Westwood won the Red Carpet Designer glass stick at Thursday's British Fashion Awards for bedecking the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst and Dita Von Teese.

The perfect person, you'd imagine, to ask about the state of our clothes industry. What does she think of London's new fashion academy for 16-18-year-olds? As Kate Moss is blamed for global cocaine trade, can we pin war in the Middle East on Naomi Campbell? And what is the new black?

"I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about current British fashion," says Westwood. "I never watch television or read any magazines. The only one I get is The Independent, for Robert Fisk. I went to see him speak about his book. He's a man with a lot of intelligence and sense."

She declined to comment on our correspondent's sartorial excellence.

Pollard pulling tips

When it comes to "pulling", Blunkett biographer Stephen Pollard seems to have learnt how not to do it from his subject's exotic liaisons.

One of Pandora's lonely hearts - a female member of JDate, the "leading Jewish singles network" - mentions she has been e-mailed by a Stephen Pollard.

She says: "He didn't have a picture on his profile," adding: "We didn't meet in the end. It was mutual." (She refuses to tell me the name of the MP who has similarly contacted her.)

Confirms Pollard: "It was me, yes. I was on it a while ago. I am Jewish - it goes with the territory! I haven't been on it for ages. I hopefully don't have to any more."

So it was a successful search? "No, not from JDate."

O, spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou!

Publisher's having a bubble bath

Fresh out of the publisher's cellophane today: copies of Shame About the Boat Race, a book about rhyming slang which features celebrities who have "donated" their names to cockney diction.

For instance, once you have caught an Andy to the Basil, you might have enough change from a Pavarotti for some Britney Spears. Too many of them though and it'll all go Wallace and Gromit. (McNab - cab; Fawlty - Balti house; tenner; go figure.) You would want to be careful not to step in a Douglas Hurd. Calling someone a Melvyn (Bragg) is just rude.

If you actually walk into an East End pub and talk like this, the clientele propping up the bar will no doubt share the thought, "He's a bit of a James Blunt" - although possibly expressed in other terms.

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