Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (09/10/11)

Autumn colour


On what subject will Sir Michael Bishop, now Lord Glendonbrook, make his maiden speech? The gay businessman, formerly head of BMI, was ennobled in March. He will no doubt want to choose a subject that is close to his heart, such as the benefits of politicians being open about their sexuality. It would be a timely theme, as this paper is soon to publish the Pink List, and the Tories are consulting on legalising gay marriage. Speaking at the Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff last week, which champions LGBT film, Lord Glendonbrook spoke of his own coming out: "It was so widely known that I was gay by my colleagues and friends and it was at a period in the mid 1990s where there was a certain fever in the see how many people could be outed. I wasn't willing to play that game and thought that by far the best thing to do was to confirm what many people knew already. It was a very life-enhancing experience... I've never regretted it for a moment."

The appointment of Julian Glover as speech-writer to David Cameron will leave a Tory-shaped hole at The Guardian. As well as being the partner of ex-Conservative MP Matthew Parris, Glover enjoyed the role of token right-wing voice in the paper's mainly left-wing comment pages. But for some Guardianistas his departure couldn't come too soon, it seems. I'm told that veteran columnist Polly Toynbee boiled over on the editorial floor the other day, complaining in forceful terms about a "Tory phalanx" taking over the paper. Who could she mean?

The Marriage of Figaro is one of Mozart's best-loved operas, with a plot that teeters between farce and disaster. But Fiona Shaw's new production lurched dangerously towards tragedy, when a lead singer had to pull out the night before last week's premiere. Kate Valentine, in the role of the Countess, was forced to withdraw after the dress rehearsal, owing to a chest infection. She was replaced by Elizabeth Llewellyn, her understudy, who had only sung the part once before. Happily, she did it with panache and wowed the critics, who called her performance "show-stealing". Shaw was visibly delighted, bobbing in her seat with glee. This may be the beginning of a bright new future for Ms Llewellyn. "Expect to see a lot more of her in future," gushes my man in the wings.

Rory Bremner would like to make clear that he hasn't lost his confidence, contrary to the headline slapped on an interview in the Telegraph last week. "I'm absolutely fine," he tells me, "It was all out of proportion. What happened was that I went on Mock the Week and found it's a very blokey programme, which isn't my brand of humour." The mimic was at the British Olympic Ball on Friday, where Tom Jones and posh club Chinawhite kept celebs like Mel C bopping until the small hours. Stephen Fry made himself popular by addressing guests as "Your Royal Highness, Olympians, and assorted media scum." Not the words he used when he sold his book's serial rights to News International.

Grayson Perry has got the measure of the mad world of modern art. The cross-dressing potter was at the opening of his new exhibition at the British Museum on Wednesday, in which he has selected 200 of the museum's works that correlate to his own. Asked by an interviewer if the bicycle helmet near the entrance was part of the show, he said, quick as a flash, "If someone wants to pay money for it, it's an artwork."

A bevy of high-profile green inkers wrote to yesterday's Times, urging "world leaders not to sacrifice the hard-won gains that Afghan women have made". Juliet Stevenson, Mariella Frostrup and Anna Friel were among the signatories announcing their intention to wear green scarves – the symbol of the Afghan Women's Network – until the Bonn conference in December, when Afghanistan's future will be discussed. Intriguing to note that, buried in the list of names was one Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, also known as Mrs Nick Clegg, wife of the Deputy Prime Minister. Just think how much Smythson paper Sam Cam would get through if she wrote to The Times every time she wanted to tell her husband what colour she was planning to wear next.

The actor George Baker, who died on Friday, was best known for playing Chief Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. But he also shared his name with the subject of a favourite bit of racing trivia. There's a gelding called George Baker that is part-owned by a man called George Baker, and is trained by another George Baker, and, when he won a race at Leicester this summer, was ridden by the jockey George Baker. A lucky name for some.

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