Pandora: What time can we check in, Damien?

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The Independent Online

After the record-breaking success of his auction at Sotheby's in September, there is more good news for Damien Hirst.

I'm told that BritArt's controversial poster boy, whose mega-money sales tend to provoke almost as much criticism as they do admiration, has received the go-ahead on his latest venture: a bed and breakfast in North Devon.

Hirst's decision over the summer to buy a seven-bedroom house in Ilfracombe prompted a ripple of speculation as to his motives; since he had already opened up a chi-chi restaurant nearby, it was suggested that he might like to "do a Jamie" and boost local tourism with some celebrity association. Now it seems that he is well on his way to doing just that after a town council meeting voted to approve his plans to extend the property.

Hirst wants to remove the outbuildings to make room for a boutique guesthouse as well as staff quarters.

"We're delighted with the idea," said one council member. "Of all the places in Britain he could have chosen, he went with us. It will change the perception of the area.

"Of course, the only times that I've met Damien he's been drunk and lying on the sofa but I don't think that's any reflection of his plans for the hotel."

For the neighbours' sake, let's hope not.

Natalie and Julien avoid a fur-fight

Sighs of relief on Wednesday night as London's latest members' bar, Molton House, managed to avoid an awkward encounter at their eagerly awaited launch.

The swanky venue on Bond Street boasts an all-star "creative committee" including fashion designer Julien Macdonald and singer Natalie Imbruglia, both of whom were expected at the party.

Imbruglia, however, has just announced that she will join the ranks of celebrities campaigning for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, posing naked for their anti-fur campaign and issuing a statement on the "gruesome deaths" fur wearers cause.

Macdonald, meanwhile, is an old foe of the group, with a feud dating back to 2006, when activists pelted him with flour.

Perhaps wisely, both took the last minute decision to skip the event. In their place was a party-ready Andrew Neil – who took to the dance floor with characteristic gusto.

Tim leaves Bob yawning

When two grandees get together, mutual appreciation doesn't always follow. Such a meeting occurred at the Cartoon Art Trust Awards at the Cartoon Museum in Holborn, with veteran Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews appearing to take against an equally considerable figure from the theatrical world, Timothy West. Their valiant attempt at small talk centred on a picture that West had bought at the same event last year. "It was about the post office, a subject quite dear to my heart," he explained. After West had wandered off, Marshall-Andrews was heard to remark on those party-goers who "never remember anybody". One wonders who that might be?

Savannah won't be jetting off

Matthew Williamson to New York, Burberry to Milan, and Stella McCartney to Paris: Designers are fleeing London Fashion Week faster than confidence deserting the pound. So it's heartening to find the city has such an enthusiastic cheer-leader in the form of New-York born fashionista Savannah "sister of Sienna" Miller. The willowy blonde, who runs label Twenty8Twelve, tells me that she couldn't disagree more with those opting to show abroad. "I couldn't ever see us leaving – even though we're both from New York originally. The clothes are really all about London. It's the edgiest city."

Strictly calling for Humphrys

Who (if anyone) should replace John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing? Pandora would like to put forward our preferred candidate: Radio 4's John Humphrys. The Today host let slip during yesterday's broadcast that he had previously been asked to appear, but declined. In fact, my spangle-clad mole tells me he has been approached twice. Could it be a case of third time lucky for the BBC?

Lee Evans finds a friend in Hatton

Comedian Lee Evans tells me he's off to Las Vegas to see Ricky Hatton's big fight over the weekend. The unlikely pair have apparently become friends since Hatton attended one of Evans' recent gigs at the Manchester Arena. "I've always been a boxing fan," he said at the launch of his new DVD. "But I rarely get the time to follow it properly."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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