Tuesday 12 March 1996
I have discovered the real reason why the Arts Lottery Board has a reputed administrative backlog of three months' paperwork. (There are some 628 applications pending, even though 466 awards were made last year, according to a report in last week's Arts Management Weekly.)
The hold-up is not because, as has been reported, the board has been inundated with far more applicants than anticipated. It is, I'm afraid, to do with a far more immediate problem in the office. You couldn't swing a half, let alone a whole cat between desks, apparently - even in the classy office assigned to the Arts Council chief, Lord Gowrie. The building in Great Peter Street, near Victoria, is simply too cramped to recruit the much-needed extra staff.
For three months now the board has been unable to carry out its recruitment plans (it intended to take on 20 extra bodies) on account of the cramped conditions. But now, I am pleased to say, the situation has been resolved.
"We are extending the third floor," explains a spokeswoman for the Arts Council (in whose premises the board is located). "Education is moving up from the third floor to the fourth and finance is moving out of the building altogether. We're going to have much more space and we are currently advertising the job vacancies."
Lunch's Labours lost?
Methinks a few of the Labour MPs who have offices in the parliamentary outbuilding Norman Shaw South (in Whitehall, far away from Tony Blair in the Palace of Westminster) do not have enough to do. At least, that is the only explanation I can come up with for three of them writing some very banal comments in a book chained to the new vending machines erected in a room off their corridor. I'm sure their constituents will be pleased to note that Audrey Wise, the MP for Preston, laments the lack of Snickers and shortbread while Keith Hill, MP for Streatham, is irritated by the loss of his pounds 1 coin. However, one happy customer, John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, is prepared to stand out from the crowd, "I don't want to be a creep but I think the range of food is much better".
I do so hope somebody finds their comments useful.
Wolf in camp clothing
I was startled to see an unlikely symbol of male campness pop up in Ken Russell's production of Salome's Last Dance, shown on Channel 4 on Sunday night. The film, based on Oscar Wilde's banned play Salome - it has a homosexual subtext - is set in a male brothel. So far so good. But I nearly spilt my cocoa when I spotted a familiar face, standing in the shadows next to young gold-painted slave boys. It was none other than Gladiators' most macho, virile fighter - Wolf.
Wolf, who in everyday life goes by the name of Michael Van Wijk, thrives on his image as the aggressive gladiator most likely to terrify the kids and bully the other competitors on the Saturday night show. I imagine his role in the Russell film, made in 1987 in which he wears a leather G-string and minces around as a Roman soldier, is not something he cares to publicise. Indeed, when I rang the Gladiators press office to inquire about it, this seemed to be the case. "This is a private matter for Mr Van Wijk," said a spokesman firmly. I didn't like to remind him that the programme had been broadcast to the entire country the previous evening.
So what happens when the UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, puts the Environment Secretary, John Gummer, on a panel of ``internationally eminent persons'' to plan a major UN conference on the environment later this year? This panel met in New York yesterday and our globe-trotting Secretary of State decided to get there by the fastest, most expensive and most ungreen-possible method, Concorde.
What, no double rooms? It's a dog's life
Worrying news: the country is being altered to accommodate all aspiring Mrs Pumphreys (Mrs Pumphrey, you may recall, is the fictional character in James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small who dotes obsessively on her absurdly spoilt poodle, Tricky Woo). Nobody in reality, I had fondly imagined, would ever really treat a dog like that. But times, I discover, have changed. On 1 May, a kennels will open near Cambridge offering dogs a single room, complete with TV, remote control, a proper bed with mattress, a rug and a picture of a fellow pet. There is also a sick bay, in case any of the guests feel ill. Ann Sawyer, the owner of the kennels, Third Bridge Farm, swears that she is not, to use a bad pun, barking mad. "I have bred and shown poodles for years," she says proudly. "I would never send one of my own dogs to kennels. A dog is used to TV, to carpets and to central heating. It's very cruel to deprive them of those things." All humans inspired by my picture opposite might wish to know that the charge for one night's stay is pounds 10 - and I intend to book in pronto under the surname Rover.
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