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Stripped of originality

Lady Godiva thought she was being bold riding naked through the streets of Coventry in support of tax cuts for the poor. She had it easy. There were no ex-Conservative ministers around.

The former education minister John Butcher has been made patron of the International Godiva Award. Set up by Coventry Council, the award seeks to honour a contemporary female campaigner for social reform.

He has told the organisers he is becoming "bored" with the current fashion in such ceremonies and had one or two stipulations. His support was on the basis "that the Godiva award will not include a nominee who has anything to do with Aids, multiculturalism, environmentalism, sexism and feminism". That would rule out the environmentalist modern-day Godiva who went starkers in Coventry Cathedral last week in protest against the motor car. But come to that, it would rule out pretty well everybody.

"I was a bit shocked," says Victoria Charlton, the award's director. "He seems to be against the whole spirit of what the legend represents. Lady Godiva did something extraordinary and this is for a woman who has done something quite extraordinary."

Mr Butcher assures me he is being reasonable. "All I want is for the judges to be original and unconstrained by contemporary 'isms'. I would prefer an unsung heroine who has been courageous and effective in an endeavour that 90 per cent of the people would cheer."

That rules out ConservatISM, then.

Fistful of art?

Professor Anthony Jones has resigned as rector of the Royal College of Art for personal reasons (his son is very ill). His departure is unlikely to be followed by a rush of applicants for the job. Morale at the place has remained low since the days of Sir Jocelyn Stevens, who sacked 17 professors. But already an unofficial list of runners and riders is being touted in the corridors of the RCA.

One possible contender is said to be Piers Rodgers, the restless secretary of the Royal Academy. But the front-runner is likely to be Christopher Frayling, at present pro-rector at the college (a post I am assured is less prestigious than being a rector without the pro prefix).

Mr Frayling is the author of numerous scholastic works, including one on the film director Sergio Leone; and whatever his scholastic prowess, is destined to be remembered as the man who invented the phrase "Spaghetti Western."

Insider tips

If Harriet Harman is searching for a rejoinder to her critics in the Labour Party, she could take a leaf out of the book of Labour's elder statesman, Giles Radice. When Radice was Labour's education spokesman in the early Eighties, he was frequently rounded on by party stalwarts jibing at him over the fact that he had gone to Eton. "Isn't it marvellous," Radice would whisper to them, "all that knowledge I have about the enemy. Now I can use it against them."

Change of play

Method acting is in full swing at rehearsals for The Changing Room, David Storey's classic play about rugby players preparing for a match. The cast of the revival which opens at the Duke of Yorks theatre next month have been ordered to attend training sessions with former England international Bev Risman. They have also been banned from watching the Five Nations games on television as they might prove demoralising.

It lacks that serotonin beat

Listen, or rather don't, to Axis Mutatis, the new album by The Shamen. According to this month's edition of Wired, they have translated the information contained within the DNA of the S2 protein in the brain into musical notes.

S2 is the brain site for serotonin, the chemical whose effects Ecstasy is supposed to exploit. So when you hear the music, you are meant to feel energetic, confident, happy, etc - without any of the ghastly side-effects. I can tell them it failed.

To compensate, I made musical notes out of the chemical information in valium ... and ended up with the greatest hits of Barbra Streisand.

Nordic nerds

The computer nerd is fast becoming an international phenomenon, linguistically speaking. I hear there is now a word for the computer nerd in Swedish: "Datanord". Sounds even more expressive than the Anglo-American version.