Pandora: Protest set to greet 'Top Gear' event

As if the BBC didn't have enough on its plate with the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross fiasco, it faces a new wave of criticism directed at another of the crown jewels in its schedule.

Today sees the launch of the MPH Motor Show at London's Earls Court, which is being held in association with BBC2's Top Gear and features appearances by the show's presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond.

Eyebrows have been raised, however, since the show is staged by Clarion Events, a British exhibition organiser with close links to the arms trade. Earlier this year, Clarion bought the DSEi, ITEC and LAAD defence trade shows, some of the biggest events in the UK's arms trade calendar. Clarion already caused disquiet at Earls Court earlier this month when it hosted the Baby Show. The United Nations Children's Fund stopped accepting donations from ticket sales from the event when told of the organiser's association with arms fairs.

No one from Clarion was available to comment last night, but anti-arms groups said they planned a protest during the four-day car exhibition.

Meanwhile, the BBC insisted its participation would still go ahead. "We believe the MPH show is the best place for UK motoring fans to experience the exciting Top Gear Live theatre show first," said a spokesman for BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commerical arm.

Ljungberg eyes up Hollywood

When David Beckham upped sticks to California last year to play for shoddy old LA Galaxy, he modestly dismissed any ambitions of becoming a movie star.

Despite frequent public appearances with Tom Cruise and his "child" bride Katie Holmes, Beckham claimed he was much happier concentrating on his football.

However, former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg isn't quite so bashful. The chiselled Swede (and former Calvin Klein pants model) has just signed for another US side, the Seattle Sounders, who have the added advantage of being co-owned by Hollywood movie mogul Joe Roth.

"I have been thinking about coming here for the past three months, ever since I first spoke to Joe Roth," Ljungberg, 31, tells me from his new home. "So it may well be that I want to get into exploring other business opportunities. Like they say, it's a land of opportunity here."

Nice move to pick Rhys, says Howard

Rhys Ifans has finally confirmed that he will play his fellow Welsh scruffpot, Howard Marks, in an adaptation of the former dope smuggler's best-selling autobiography, Mr Nice.

The film, which has been mooted for the big screen for the past few years, will begin shooting in the new year and released in the latter half of 2009. Speaking to Pandora yesterday, Marks said he was delighted with the news.

"It's great because I have known Rhys as a friend for quite a while now ," he told me. "We met in the 1990s at a Super Furry Animals gig. I didn't have a clue who he was at the time but he wanted my autograph.

"He brought over all these cigarette papers and asked me to sign them. I signed one of them but, for some reason, he wanted the whole lot done.

"Anyway, we became friends after that and I made a promise he could play me if there was an adaptation made.

"I thought I was doing him a really big favour but since then he has become so famous it's like he's doing me one."

Despite their age gap, Ifans, 40, has much in common with the 63-year-old Marks. Not only are they both fiercely proud Welshmen with a fondness for leading hedonistic lifestyles but – to the dismay of critics everywhere – they are also both regarded in some quarters as sex symbols.

Bond's dress sense fails to impress

James Bond is facing a backlash from his former friends on Savile Row. The celebrity tailor Tony Lutwyche, now based in London's Soho, has attacked the makers of the new 007 film, Quantum Of Solace, for opting to have Daniel Craig's threads made by the US designer Tom Ford.

He says: "Bond is lauded the world over as the quintessential Englishman. At a time when we should be promoting home-grown business and all that is good about this country, it is a slap in the face that James Bond of all people should turn his back on English tailoring talent. He'll be drinking Jack Daniels next."

Marshall's a man of easy virtue

The English actor Kris Marshall, best known for his role in the bafflingly enduring sitcom My Family, showed up at Tuesday night's premiere of his new film, Easy Virtue, arm in arm with his girlfriend Kelly Eastwood, who was supposed to be celebrating her birthday. "I don't think she minds," he said breezily. "I took her off to the Tower of London last week, so I think she's happy."

Marshall, 35, who recently finished a run in the West End production of Fat Pig, claimed he had yet to go and see its new cast. "If I go, it'll be with the rest of the cast. The 'A' team we like to call ourselves."

BBC offers a timely lesson in manners

In the wake of the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross affair, a topical note has landed on the desks of MPs this week from the office of the BBC's Head of Revenue Management. A large section of the note addresses that all-important question: how we deal with the public. "Be courteous," it reads. "Answer all communications quickly and politely, always aiming to get it right first time."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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