Paul Vallely is visiting professor in Public Ethics at the University of Chester and a senior research fellow at the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester. He writes on ethical, political and cultural issues. He has a fortnightly column in the Independent on Sunday and also writes for the New York Times and the Church Times. His latest book is Pope Francis – Untying the Knots. He was co-author of the report of the Commission for Africa and has chaired several development charities.
Friday 11 August 1995
So, do we relish the prospect of a new head of the BBC appointed by this dying government, courtesy of Virginia Bottomley, before some innovative Blairite choice is lighted upon? One who knows Dukey - his intimates really call him that - tells me that the most important job of any chairman is finding his successor.
Those on his shopping list are thought to include two current BBC governors: Sir David Scholey, the former chairman of Warburgs, and Sir Martin Jacomb, who chairs the British Council. Other possibilities are Sir Christopher Bland, who is said to have walked away with a handy pounds 12m when LWT lost out to Granada last year, and Sir David Puttnam. All of whom would have the skills to turn the BBC from a 90 per cent public service organisation to one which earns 50 per cent of its income from commercial work - which is said to be the Government's long-term plan (and from which, insiders say, Tony Blair might not demur.) All of which, apparently, rules out David Owen, who also fancies the job. Watch out, Duke is about. You read it here first.
At the late-night Stravinsky Prom this week I was sitting behind the choir and was thus able to witness the antics of a jocund Oliver Knussen, who was conducting a translucent performance of the Requiem Canticles by the BBC Singers and Symphony Orchestra. There was much grinning and winking all round from the bear-like composer. But what has he got to laugh about?
Is this not the man who failed to finish Chiara, the work commissioned from him by the BBC for a Prom the week before? To make matters worse, it was first commissioned in 1986, when he also failed to finish it in time.
The amiable Ollie does not have a good track record here. His acclaimed opera Where the Wild Things Are was not finished on schedule and was performed for some time with its central "Wild Rumpus" section unorchestrated and sketched out only with a piano recitative. There were similar delays over Higglety Pigglety Pop. Ah, but it won't happen this time, said Ollie, only a matter of weeks ago. It's been maturing in my head for eight years. It's all finished. It's just a question of writing it out.
So why the merriment? The programme reveals all. Ollie has just signed an exclusive deal with Deutsche Grammophon to record the Stravinsky and more, including a couple of pieces by Colin Matthews, who helped him out with the scoring of Wild Things when the heat was on. A debt of honour repaid. And it means Ollie will have to do less conducting to survive. Which should give him time to finish Chiara. Proms 96? Third time lucky?
You will have read that there have been 11,000 applications from worthy bodies - Eton College apart - for National Lottery funds. And that one undisclosed body has applied for pounds 10m. I can exclusively reveal the application has come from the National Lottery Equilibrium Fund. This is a body established by me to redress some of the unfortunate effects this disastrous innovation has had upon the cultural, charitable and economic fabric of the nation.
Its chief aims are to find employment for the 200 bookmakers made redundant by Ladbroke's, make payments to charities whose fundraising has been hit, fund research into the unhappy addiction of card-scratchers, and rebuild the sense of industry and enterprise which Margaret Thatcher so carefully cultivated here and which is being undermined by the crazed quest for easy money. A bottle of Bollinger for the best reader's suggestion for additional aims for my new fund. (Last week's Bolly, by the way, on what I should do with 8,572 remaindered books, was won by Georgina Hunter-Jones of Battersea, for an ingenious proposal for a Union of Remaindered Authors who could build extensive libraries through computer-aided swaps).
Up betimes and a-crosse the river to Southwarke and to Mafter Wanamaker's new Globe Theatre to witnesse the first performance in this wondrous factum simile of Shakespeare's original Wooden-O.
OK, so you are already all Globed-out after the copious publicity this week to mark the appointment of the Globe's first director, Mark Rylance. But suspend your weariness. For this first glimpse hints that this will eventually be a very special experience.
If Wednesday afternoon's first outing is anything to go by, we are in for some changes. Extracts from a variety of plays began with a warning to the groundlings (standing pounds 5, compared with pounds 11 for a wooden pew) that the noise they made carried better than that of the actors on the canopied stage. It was true. Prunella Scales was marvellously comic as Juliet's nurse, but too close-focused and frequently inaudible. And other lesser performers seemed to be straining their voices. By contrast, the sweeping deliberate delivery of Jane Lapotaire (as Gertrude and Catherine of Aragon) and the grandiloquent gestures of Peter McEnery (Cassius) were effective even from the galleries. I predict a return to the jee-jawing, see-sawing style of the great hams, of whom Donald Sinden is the chief extant exemplar. Either that, or sponsorship by Strepsils.
And finally, as they say on the telly, I had embarrassingly to read the last line of one of my articles over the phone to a disgruntled reader yesterday who complained that too many final lines mysteriously disappear from Independent articles. The Department of Official Excuses blames the computer system for this. But our literary editor, John Walsh, explains they arise from a characteristically fin de siecle reluctance to embrace the great full stop that awaits us all. Our music chap, Mark Pappenheim, mutters something about interrupted cadences and the need to avoid comfy resolutions. Myself, I prefer the Post-Modernist philosophical exegesis which suggests that
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