Pandora: History ain't what it used to be, according to Sir Roy

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The Independent Online

At the ripe old age of 73, it appears that Sir Roy Strong has lost none of his fighting spirit. The flamboyant art historian – who famously became the youngest National Portrait Gallery Director at age 32 – has launched an impassioned attack on the nation's teaching of history, claiming the Government holds responsibility for fostering ignorance among children.

"This Government in particular has wiped out virtually the teaching of history in schools," he argues. "Children have no idea of whether a reign was before or after Queen Victoria."

Strong, whose comments were made during an interview with Cotswold Life, fears that without improvement, youngsters will lose the ability to question those in authority. "People don't know why we've got Parliament, why we've got the monarchy, why we've got the church.

"If you don't know all those things, how can you, as it were, really understand your own country – or anything at all? If you destroy people's knowledge of the past, you can do anything with them that you like."

"A pertinent example is: we've had extremely repressive measures passed in the last few years, proposals that every single telephone call and email should be open to access ... Those are in extreme of the worst repressive measures taken in this country after the outbreak of the French Revolution and then there was an enormous reaction. This time it all sailed through."

West's pause for Pinter

There was a notable absence from the audience at last night's performance of The Family Reunion at the Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden.

Harold Pinter, the esteemed playwright who died on Christmas Eve, had tickets booked for the show – a sure sign he was determined to carry on as normal in spite of illness.

Pinter's plan to go and see the TS Eliot classic was revealed in a moving tribute paid to the playwright by the actor Samuel West, the son of theatre greats Timothy West and Prunella Scales, and one of the stars of the production. He joined fellow cast members at the end of Saturday's matinee performance to remember Pinter.

"Harold always loved this theatre," said West, before inviting the audience to give Pinter one final round of applause as the cast left the stage.

Timmy's ticket sales suffer

A stint on ITV's gruelling reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! usually guarantees a fleeting revival in a contestants' pulling power. Things don't, however, seem to be working out that way for Timmy Mallet.

The perky presenter's appearance in a panto has failed to excite Weston-Super-Mare's theatregoers, whose turnout to the normally-popular Playhouse production has been notably anaemic.

Theatre bosses are complaining that despite the star's heightened profile, ticket sales are at an all-time low. "Attendance numbers are not as good as last year," a spokesman says. "Though I do think this is one of the best pantomimes we have done in years. It paces along nicely."

High praise from Lynda

The writer Lynda La Plante complained recently that the state of young British actors' teeth made finding a lead for ITV's Above Suspicion particularly painful.

But not all the cast come in for criticism. She heaped praise on the actresses cast as prostitutes, claiming they give a top performance.

"They're the best I've seen in any TV show," she muses.

Was ITV's plug really Worth It?

No doubt those made jobless by the closure of Woolworths will have been delighted to see ITV's Christmas Cooks Challenge over the holiday period, hosted by Anthony Worrall Thompson.

Tuning in, they would have discovered that although Woolworths cannot afford to continue trading, it can afford to sponsor this ITV morning programme, plugging its own-brand Worth It range. A tad mystifying, given that every one of its 807 outlets will be history by next Monday.

Corden gets controversial

Amiable comedian James Corden took a strong stance on Channel 4's Big Fat Quiz Of The Year, demanding that his money be returned after he voted for John Sergeant to win BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing . But what will his bosses in the Beeb's boardroom say? After all, they've just commissioned his hit show Gavin & Stacey for a third series.