Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (09/01/11)

Our nightwatchman

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When Radio 3 announced its 12 days of Mozart, the station said it would play "nothing but Mozart". I hate to quibble, but I'm afraid they have broken this promise, having broadcast two pieces that were clearly not by the maestro. The lapse occurred during Choral Evensong on Wednesday, which was broadcast from the Chapel of Eton College. Though much of the music was by Mozart, listeners were also treated to hymns by St Ambrose of Milan, and an anonymous 17th-century pen. A spokesman for Radio 3 confirms the blip: "In line with the nature of Choral Evensong, we broadcast, for liturgical reasons, two short hymns appropriate to an Epiphany service. These were the chorale Brightest and Best, a 17th-century Lutheran chorale which Mozart would have known, and Why Impious Herod." And, er, Mozart didn't write any hymns, did he?

If you bump into a shrunken Simon Russell Beale, don't worry. The diary's favourite actor, who turns 50 on Wednesday, has managed to lose three stone simply by taking up ballet and giving up beer. This comes after he was persuaded to perform in the Royal Ballet's forthcoming Alice in Wonderland, despite never having danced professionally. Director Christopher Wheeldon was so impressed on seeing him do a comic dance in London Assurance at the National Theatre, that he enlisted him to play the Duchess in his new production, which opens in March. "The challenge was too good to miss," Beale tells me, "but I wouldn't be offended if they sacked me. It's technically so difficult." In typical workaholic fashion, Beale continues to star in Deathtrap, while rehearsing the ballet three times a week. He has yet, however, to give up smoking.

A controversial dramatisation of the lives of the Kennedys has been axed by the History Channel, despite being the most expensive programme it has ever made. The eight-part drama was filmed last summer, and starred Katie Holmes as Jackie Onassis and Greg Kinnear as John F Kennedy. But, in a terse statement , the channel has announced it will not be airing the series after all, as suddenly it does not "fit the History brand". This may come as a surprise to anyone who has watched the History Channel, which serves up an inexhaustible diet of lurid documentaries about Fascists and the Second World War, leading some to dub it the "Hitler channel". But the portrayal of the Kennedys was, it seems, a liberty too far. One film-maker who saw the script described it as "completely inaccurate and a hatchet job. It is sexist titillation and pandering, and it was turning everything into a cheap soap opera of the worst kind." Conspiracy theorists will inevitably see it as proof that the Kennedys still pull strings behind the scenes.

The Guardian made much of its pious partnership with WikiLeaks and various worthy newspapers when it broke the US embassy cables story. Since then, relations have thawed a little. The latest issue of Vanity Fair claims that WikiLeaks' Julian Assange threatened to sue The Guardian if it published certain documents without his permission. The irony is superb. Apparently he became enraged after a WikiLeaks insider gave the newspaper a cache of documents via freelance journalist Heather Brooke, but he argued that "he owned the information and had a financial interest in how and when it was released". Odd that The Guardian hasn't found space to report on this little spat.

How many world leaders will be invited to the Royal wedding? I only ask, because Prince William has made it clear he wants to keep the event as low-key as possible. But the Foreign Office wants to do a lot of business that week. The choice of Westminster Abbey over St Paul's has significantly reduced the guest list capacity already. As prime ministers and minor royals worldwide wait for their gold-embossed stiffies, those left out could take offence. But I'm sure the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, would be happy to surrender her pew: she wants to abolish the monarchy when the Queen dies.

Say what you like about the Prince of Wales, he is a generous cove. He is giving each of his Duchy of Cornwall tenants their own walking stick. And not just any old stick, but a traditional shepherd's crook, each one crowned with a real ram's horn. Trouble is, rams' horns aren't that easy to source, and only half his tenants have actually got their sticks. The others have been told to wait until next Christmas. This is "due to the time it takes to craft the crooks and source the ram's horn", says a spokesman. Can't wait to buy one on eBay.

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