The Diary: Winston Churchill; The National Trust; Aks Performing Arts; Grayson Perry; Tony Cragg

Arifa Akbar@arifa_akbar
Friday 19 February 2010 01:00

When it wasn't the elite's finest hour

Celia Lee, who together with John Lee has co-authored the new book, 'The Churchills: a Family Portrait' said that in the course of her research, she discovered that Churchill's mother suffered racial abuse within "elevated" Society, both in Britain and abroad. She left much of this material out of the finished book (published in America and Britain) as it would have been "highly offensive to the Americans and a disgrace to the British in the US, particularly as it would have been coming out so soon after the election of a black president". What she left out was that Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill – the wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother of Winston – was treated as racially inferior because she was an American. She was talked about behind her back and dubbed "The Black Panther" because she had jet-black hair and dark blue-grey eyes and her skin was tanned from the horse riding which she adored. What marked her out as "different" when she entered a Victorian drawing room or ball was that she spoke with an American accent.

Trust in Hollywood

The National Trust is enjoying a booming trade in collaborations with Hollywood. Last year, income from films that featured NT properties generated an extra £200,000 (average annual income ranges between £500,000 to £800,000), due to the filming of a crop of costly films, including the latest Harry Potter and Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland'. Not only that, but the NT's friends and employees are often enlisted as extras, including a titled lady whose mansion in Cornwall was used in 'Alice in Wonderland'.

Cabby's double act

A group of City slickers who originally formed an am-dram group (while working at the doomed investment bank Lehman Brothers) and all of whom now have highly demanding jobs are putting on their second theatre production. Their company, called Aks Performing Arts, originally set up by Britain Asian bankers and professionals, is performing 'Caught in the Net', a comedy about a British Asian London cabbie with two wives, showing at the Rudolf Steiner House, on Baker Street in London.

Teddy bares all for sake of art

Alan Measles, Grayson Perry's ragged teddy bear that has appeared time and again in the artist's work, has struck again. This time it's in the form of a Polynesian god with enlarged genitals on an embroidered bag that's selling like hot cakes at Selfridges. If you flip over the eponymously named AM Bag, which costs £60, there's a female counterpart image, this time of a girl taking a pee. The 300 limited edition bags, made for an exhibition in the department store's art space The Ultra Lounge, have become one of the most popular selling exhibits, according to Kit Grover, the show's co-curator. Mr Grover described the bag design as "both sweet and odd". There is also a crown (called Bird's Nest Headdress) that was designed for the late designer, Alexander McQueen, in 2006.

Cragg brings down barriers at gallery

Tony Cragg, the Turner-prize winning sculptor and Royal Academician who fell out with the RA after a turn as a curator (when he implied they were, unsurprisingly, stuffy), is bringing a large-scale show to the Lisson Gallery in London next month. The show is so ambitious, in fact, that the gallery is taking extraordinary measures to make sure it can host Cragg's work. A source said: "There will be over 400 square metres of exhibition space dedicated to him and, rather dramatically, the gallery is busily knocking down walls to accommodate his ambitious, large-scale works."

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