The writing is on the wall for Bragg & Co's literary 'Rada'

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The Independent Online

* When the National Academy of Writing was launched three years ago, a host of literary superstars rushed to put their names to the project.

* When the National Academy of Writing was launched three years ago, a host of literary superstars rushed to put their names to the project.

Melvyn Bragg was made president of the institution - which was intended to be a sort of literary Rada - and 100 of Britain's most famous authors (from Margaret Atwood to Jilly Cooper) agreed to be patrons.

But today, it stands homeless and on the verge of collapse. Not a single course is currently running, and the academy has just been forced to vacate its offices in Birmingham, following a collapse in funding.

Survival now rests on one of two lucky breaks: either a donation from one of the academy's wealthy supporters, or talks that will be held next month with the University of Central England, in Birmingham, which has been asked to incorporate the academy into its existing estate.

Yesterday, the academy's chairman, Dr Barry Turner, said that all current activities are currently on hold. "If UCE agrees, we could afford to get things off the ground again," he said.

"In the meantime, Birmingham Council has provided some money for us to join a fusion programme and offer some writing master-classes at the end of this year."

It's a far cry from the grand scheme launched in 2002, and represents a sad decline in fortunes since September. Back then, Dr Turner told Pandora: "We have secured funding to keep our office going for the next three years."

* Here's a tale to put Pete Townshend right back into the news pages.

A week ago, the music "bible" NME announced that Townshend and his sidekick Roger Daltrey were to be assistant producers of a film about their band The Who's 1960s heyday.

Since then, there's been a dramatic U-turn, and Townshend has issued a formal statement attacking the documentary.

Writing on his internet site, Townshend says he's no longer a "driving force" behind My Generation: Who's Still Who, and will try to prevent his band's songs from being used in it.

Apparently, he's upset that the film's director, Oscar winner Murray Lerner, has asked fans to submit contemporary bootleg footage, "however shocking or exotic".

"My music - Who music - is not a commodity I will make unconditionally available to film-makers," he writes. "My entire mission is to preserve the integrity of Who music, and I'd rather offer it to sell soap than have it turned into a 'soap' by Lerner."

* There is further evidence that Madonna - who once embraced the land of flat caps and tweed - is falling out of love with the English way of life.

Increasingly based in her native US, the first woman of pop (who has also given up shooting) will this week deliver a snub to London, and launch her new children's book in New York.

There will be no bash for Lotsa de Casha in the UK. Instead, the publishers, Puffin, have circulated a Q&A-style press release, in which Madge reveals the literary influences behind her kiddies' book.

They are: "Anything from CS Lewis, to Charlotte's Web, to The Little Prince, to Nancy Drew murder mysteries, to the poems of Sylvia Plath." Sylvia Plath?

* The sad death of Patsy Calton, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle, has already set Westminster buzzing with talk of a by-election.

One man in the running for the knife-edge poll is Tim Collins, the former Tory frontbencher, who lost his seat (also in the North-West) to the Lib Dems at the general election.

Collins has previously told friends that his preferred route back onto the Conservative benches would not be a by-election, since "he'd prefer to go through a normal selection process".

The marginal Cheadle (maj 4,000) will be tempting, though: it offers a chance for revenge on the party that booted him out of office, and would catapult Collins, a Harry Potter lookalike, into the thick of power-broking over his party's leadership.

* On Monday, I reported that Goldie Hawn failed to attend Sea Princess cruise liner's "christening" in Southampton - despite having been flown there in a private jet by the ship's owners.

The Hollywood beauty was said to have "fallen ill" signing her autobiography at a local bookshop earlier that day. And now there are further signs that her book tour is taking its toll. "Enough of the tour, I want to stop," she told an audience at Hay. "It's so much harder than film tours: I have to meet lots of people and sign so many books. I always give them eye contact."

All of which has caused her to rethink ambitions of a West End debut: "It's that repetitive movement thing I mentioned before," she added. "I can't do the same thing again and again for very long." Apart from romantic comedy films, which she's been "doing" for 30 years. Ho hum!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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