McCartney finally achieves his 11-year dream of 'Fame' : Former Beatle sets date for opening of college for performing arts in Liverpool after raising money from the Queen and the EC. David Lister reports

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The Independent Online
PAUL McCARTNEY, 50 and philosophically challenged, has succeeded in an 11-year fund-raising campaign to turn his old school into a 'Fame'-type college for would-be performers. He even persuaded the Queen to sign a cheque donating money.

But, while announcing that the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts would open in 1995, McCartney also discussed how he was prone to bouts of acute pessimism over the world situation. 'It's very difficult these days to keep a smile on your face,' he said. 'I have my days when I think this isn't going to work out, but people rebound and this little flower of hope keeps coming back.'

The pessimism was relieved by thinking back to the Beatles days when he and his three fellow group members were trapped in a car in a snowstorm and the windscreen blew out.

'I asked one of the others, 'what will happen?' ' McCartney said at a press conference yesterday. 'And he said: 'Something will happen.' I've always remembered that; and today when I get pessimistic and wonder how we'll get through to the next century, I think something will happen.'

Whether that was inspirational enough to get the Queen to take the highly unusual step of signing a cheque for an educational campaign, or whether even stronger philosophical argument had to be used, is unclear. But McCartney has now raised two-thirds of the pounds 12m needed.

Yesterday it was announced that recruitment would start in 1994, following a decision by the EC's European Regional Development Fund to give pounds 4m, to add to substantial, though unspecified, amounts from Grundig, the German electronics company, and McCartney himself.

The school will train performers, administrators, managers and even roadies, destroying the illusion that the latter's job could largely consist of finding recreational amusement for his or her employer.

The college will not demand A- levels as an entrance requirement. Indeed, McCartney said: 'If someone is an amazing comedian, he doesn't need to be able to read or write.' Friends would give talks at the school, he said. 'There comes a point in your life when you've got to give back.'

George Harrison and Ringo Starr had donated generously to the appeal; but he doubted that Ringo would be lecturing.

He would give talks himself, he said, though he added: 'It won't be 'here's how you write a song'. One of the joys for me about writing a song is there's no formula. I still don't know how to do it.'

McCartney wrote 600 letters to British companies. Ninety per cent of them did not contribute.

Asked if he could not have saved himself an awful lot of time and trouble by just coughing up the money himself, he responded: 'At the little village school my kids go to they will be fund-raising for the computer. It would be easy for me to wade in, but then I take away all the pleasure from the other mums and dads. And I become just old moneybags. I've written to 30 or 40 friends, but I don't want to become the only donor. We had a cheque from a little girl for pounds 5. I don't want to wipe out that sort of spirit.'

One questioner departed from the mood of philosophical contemplation to ask if the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts would be a drug-free zone. 'No, not necessarily,' responded its founder, leaning forward to inquire furtively: 'Why, have you got any?' Now that was almost the old Paul McCartney.

(Photograph omitted)