Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary

Carefree as a runaway balloon
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The Independent Online

The tussle between Benenden alumnae Veronica Wadley and Arts Council chair Dame Liz Forgan over Wadley's application to head the London arm of the council – first revealed in this paper – took an awkward turn last week. The former Evening Standard editor and husband Tom Bower had bought tickets to a fundraising dinner at Burgh House, an 18th-century pile, several weeks ago, so imagine their surprise when they arrived on Thursday to find the evening's speaker was – Dame Liz. After dinner, Forgan approached Wadley with a big smile and cooed that her letter to the Culture Secretary – in which she claimed Wadley "had almost no arts credibility" – wasn't anything personal or political, but that she simply felt there were other people better qualified. "It was a dinner and we're old friends so of course I said hello," says Forgan when I call. "End of story." But is it? Wadley is disinclined to let the matter rest and so, it seems, is Boris Johnson, who is anxious to see Wadley right after the Standard's loyal support for him in his mayoral campaign.

Vivacious actress Miriam Margolyes can be found half-naked in a bin most evenings, starring in Samuel Beckett's Endgame in London's West End. So she can be forgiven for forgetting her ladylike manners when she pitched up at a school reunion. Joining old friends at the Oxford High School to commemorate 50 years since leaving, Margolyes delivered an unexpectedly peppery speech: "I wanted this to happen because the school was such a large part of my life," she said, "But there's a moment of panic when you look at each other and think, who the fuck is that?" She went on to talk of her lesbianism, saying she doubted there were any others in the room, before cries of "Miriam!" steered her into safer waters. "Miriam was exactly the same then as she is now," said event organiser Anne Truelove. "She didn't always have very good judgement about what not to say."

Intriguing to learn that Precious Williams is publishing a volume of memoirs in the spring. The young writer was briefly all over the headlines when it was alleged she had had an affair with Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, which turned out not to be true. So will we now learn what really happened? "I've been told by my publishers not to talk about it until it comes out," she tells me, playing down suggestions there will be any big revelations. Spoilsport.

A suitably eclectic mix of toffs, celebutantes and cabinet ministers past and future celebrated Tatler's 300th birthday at Lancaster House on Wednesday. The majestic building was the venue for the first party photographed for the magazine in 1901, but is now more commonly used for entertaining fusty diplomats. Although security was super-tight, two gatecrashers made it in – a pair of guardsmen in full uniform. "They said they often slip into parties here," said the Condé Nast gatekeeper, who politely booted them out. Perhaps they would have blended in better as waiters, who were dressed in full 1709 garb of red coats and tricorn hats, as affected by the mag's columnist Bystander.

Supporters of mental health charity Sane were given an unexpected glimpse of Tony Blair at a charity event at Wotton House in Buckinghamshire the other day. Patrons were there to hear prodigy violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and admire the sculptures of Josie Spencer and were expecting a visit from Cherie. But since Tony was knocking about at home next door – at the Blairs' little retreat in the grounds – he thought he'd pop in for a chat. Ever the professional.

Who said punk was dead? Poet and singer Patti Smith brought anarchy to a smart London gallery when a gig she was playing spiralled out of control. Originally intended for 300, more than 1,500 people turned up, causing something of a crush. As fans poured into the Alison Jacques Gallery some began to panic, with at least one girl fainting. To avoid causing death, Patti moved into the street to sing. "There were only supposed to be 300," she said. "You all spawned like tadpoles." We love you, Patti.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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