Diary: Exit stage right, re-enter stage left

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The Independent Online
AS SPECULATION continues about the likely successor to Matthew Epstein as general director of Welsh National Opera, following his precipitate resignation earlier this month, I learn that Epstein has already returned to the WNO - as a consultant.

The news will come as a surprise to many, since both the New Yorker's appointment to and his departure from the WNO have been surrounded by controversy. There were those who felt that one of the biggest figures on the international opera scene - with a taste for lavish productions - was out of place in a small British company, and that his ambitious projects would far outspend the meagre pounds 5m the company receives from the Arts Council.

He resigned only three years after his arrival, denouncing 'inadequate funding and support at the very highest level of government' as he went. Some critics took this as a sign that there had been a difference of opinion over budgets. His reinstatement will do much to quell such rumours.

Meanwhile, the search goes on for a new director. One name being mooted is Graham Vick, described by a WNO insider as 'the shortest-priced favourite'. If so, there will be horror down in Sussex, where he has recently taken up a new job as productions director at Glyndebourne.

A TRAVEL guide for one of our more historic (and currently newsworthy) cities lands on my desk with the unfortunate title: 'Gloucester, the City of Spirit.'

Home and away A BOOK chronicling the footballing passions of MPs will be published later this year in time for the party conference season - and the electorate would do well to read it.

In Football and the Commons People, draft extracts of which have been slipped to the Diary, Labour's Mike Watson avoids incurring the wrath of some of his constituents in Glasgow (that boasts both Celtic and Rangers) by supporting Dundee. 'He's no wan ae us, but at least he's no wan ae them,' is how his constituents see it. Likewise Labour's George Foulkes, who supports the Edinburgh team Hearts rather than Kilmarnock or Ayr United, who both play in his constituency.

The Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones doesn't have such problems with his constituency of Cheltenham, not one of the hotbeds of the game. He can show his face at Cheltenham Town without the other half of the town taking umbrage. However, I suggest more diplomacy than he showed the other day when Swindon Town (between you and me, his favourite team) visited Cheltenham Town, and scored. Half rising to his feet, he sheepishly took to his seat again, having successfully stifled a cheer.

ALL IS not quite lost for Sir Peter Harding, the former Chief of the Defence Staff who resigned at the weekend over an affair of the heart with the (now) pecunious Bienvenida Perez- Blanco. I'm told that his many friends in the Establishment are determined he should not also be deprived of the peerage that goes with the job. As one of those friends is Malcolm Rifkind, the Defence Secretary, we could yet see him in the House of Lords.

Jobs for the girls SOME history-making at Oxford University today, when Dr Anita Avramides becomes junior proctor, the first time both senior and junior proctors have been women. A philosophy fellow from St Hilda's, she won an election for the post last year and will be sworn in at a ceremony at Convocation House. She will be in charge of undergraduate discipline and examinations and thinks the former will be a doddle: 'The days when undergraduates had to have their bedroom doors a wastepaper basket's-width open when entertaining a guest of the opposite sex are long since over,' she tells me.

A day like this

16 March 1938 Ford Madox Ford writes to Ezra Pound: 'The situation is this: I am offering to give up my job at Olivet because you have been making noises about Universities for a long time and it would give you a chance really to do something. I teach what I want to ie comparative literature from the beginning of time to the moment of speaking. No one interferes with me in the slightest. Nor would they with you. I don't know just what they would do if you tried to introduce your politics into your teaching - nothing at all probably unless you were too loudly communist in which case the local farmers would shoot you. Please understand. I am not a confidence trickster trying to induce you into some disastrous folly. I am not trying to persuade you to take the job. You would probably turn that pleasant place into a disastrous place of hell. But there the place is for you & the authorities want you because they admire you as a poet and teacher.'

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