Edition number 45; dateline 3 December 2010

Ten minutes activism for the arts
Labour MP for Wirral South, Alison McGovern, has introduced a bill under the 10-minute rule proposing that local authorities be obliged to provide a cultural service, just as they are required to provide libraries. McGovern – who formerly worked for the charity the Art Fund and was a trustee of the South London Gallery while a local councillor in Camberwell – said her concern was that “not just cuts but total withdrawal of funding for cultural services” was very much on the cards. She cited Somerset and Bedfordshire councils who have respectively cut arts grants and their music service, and argues that culture should be kept available to all, not just the moneyed and the middle class. Her bill was unanimously accepted and will receive a second reading on 17 June, before being thrown out.

Three Ps for Olympic legacy: paltry, parochial and pointless
In a flurry of forced enthusiasm the “Olympic and Paralympic stakeholders” finally launched their plans for a “mass participation legacy” from 2012. It falls to Sport England to ensure that Seb Coe is not proved a liar, as he himself said at the glittering launch event: “When we bid for the Games in Singapore in 2005 we said we would use the power of the Games to inspire young people to take up sport.” Having lodged the responsibility firmly with Jennie Price’s agency, and pointedly ignored the rest of the UK, sports minister Hugh Robertson will doubtless have been impressed by the catchy labelling of the programme, “Places People Play”, and the impressive numbers being bandied: 1,000 buildings refurbished, 40,000 sport leaders recruited and “a nationwide campaign that will capture the excitement of sport, providing opportunities for teenagers and young adults to receive six weeks of coaching in the sport of their choice and guiding them into regular participation within their community”. This in a nation of 60 million souls with the greatest sports show on earth available as a catalyst. Cue tumbleweed.

Sport for AIDS’ sake
Staff from the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have recently created a social campaign group called S’porting Lives and immediately taken it on tour with football matches arranged against the staff associations of both Oxbridge universities, a parliamentary team and the Trades Union Congress. The tour was intended to raise awareness of World Aids Day on 1 December and focused on eradicating the stigma for people living with HIV/AIDS and playing sports.

Literary accolades in Cottonopolis
The Portico Prize for Literature celebrated its 25th anniversary with an awards dinner at Manchester Town Hall with broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie offering his post-prandial thoughts for the edification of the 250-strong audience. Winner of the non-fiction prize was Madeleine Bunting for The Plot - A Biography of an English Acre, while Sarah Hall took the fiction prize for How to Paint a Dead Man. For the first time the Portico also ran a competition for young writers in which contributor to The Leisure Review Helen Owen picked up a “commended” in the prose section and won the poetry prize for her poem The Globe which judge Mandy Coe described as “demanding to win”.

Fields for a queen
SITA Trust and Fields in Trust have launched the Queen Elizabeth II Fields Challenge to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 and to protect outdoor recreational spaces in communities all across the country as a permanent living legacy of this milestone. Once an area has been designated a Queen Elizabeth II Field an application can be made to SITA Trust’s £1 million fund for improvements. There are two strands to the scheme: the QEII Fields Volunteer Support Fund will award up to a maximum of £5,000 for projects where it can be demonstrated that volunteers will be extensively involved in the delivery of a project and the QEII Major Works Fund will award up to a maximum of £25,000 for projects that also focus on delivery by volunteers, but will allow major works to be carried out by contractors.

Dire warning on primary swim skills
The Royal Life Saving Society Australia are warning that as many as one in five children will leave primary school this year unable to swim even one length of an Olympic pool. Chief executive Rob Bradley calls the issue a “ticking time bomb” and warns: “One of the emerging issues is that some schools find the costs of providing swimming lessons too expensive and complex, pool entry, bus fares all place pressure on schools and parents. The growth in private swimming centres and their reach to children prior to school is a fantastic thing, but it often means schools and parents assume this vital education happens elsewhere, and there there’s been a real drop off in children learning water safety and lifesaving skills. This has to be turned around before large sections of our community miss out on the skills that we all remember from our school days, swimming in clothes, diving for bricks, and learning the swimming survival strokes.”

Bude Pool under threat
As The Leisure Review went to press a full meeting of Cornwall Council was considering the fate of Bude Sea Pool a part natural, part man-made feature of Summerleaze beach which costs the council some £30,000 per annum to run. The proposition that the pool should be closed is being fought through a variety of channels including a Facebook page on which a number of contributors have made the point that the council are quite happy to blame the Labour party and spend millions of pounds moving the reception area in its one Truro base.


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Wednesday 8 December
Jeremy Hunt launches a new campaign to get more people to give charitably to the arts, including £80 million of matched funding. The Little Baron says that VIP traffic lanes are essential to the success of the Olympics in London but that they are not just for the ferrying of bloated IOC officials and sponsors; all sorts of athletes, officials, dope-testing teams and maintenance teams will need to be zipping about. Sepp Blatter says England are arrogant and bad losers. Liz Nichol, the chief executive of UK Sport, says that there are now no excuses for British athletes to fail at the Olympics given that elite sports funding has been protected up to the Games.

Thursday 9 December
Rioting in the streets of London as protestors make their point about planned increases to university tuition fees. Richard Caborn is among a number of former ministers who have their Commons passes suspended for trying to cash in on their parliamentary access on behalf of lobbyists. HMV reports a £40 million loss and is thought by some to be on its last legs. The Arts Council England is to take over some of the roles of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Commission but with only 75% of the MLA’s budget. Health minister Anne Milton is forced to disclose just who is shaping national health policy these days; step forward Unilever, McDonalds, Diageo and Kellogs, among others. The cost to the Treasury for the installation a Christmas tree under the PFI building management deal? £875. Or would have been had permanent secretary Sir Nick Macpherson not decorated it himself rather than cough up the inflated readies. At Tate Britain the traditionally non-traditional tree has no decorations; not a one. The State of Florida pardons Jim Morrison only 41 years after the alleged incident of public indecency even though everyone knows he did it.

Friday 10 December
Some 14 million people tuned in to see Coronation Street flattened under a runaway tram earlier this week. Political parties spent £57 million in campaigning between 1 January and the election on 6 May. Tickets to live screenings from the New York Metropolitan Opera are being snapped up at cinemas all over the UK. Research commissioned by a group of urban councils suggests that the least well off will be the hardest hit by new council budget cuts.

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WOMEN IN COACHING IN SCOTLAND: The first year report on SportScotland’s Women in Coaching programme shows that the pilot is “achieving to some extent” with 20% of the original cohort of coaches dropping out and structural problems hindering the efficacy of the intervention. While coaches valued the support of mentors, a “lack of accountability” for those mentors led to “relationship breakdown” and loss of mentors altogether. Key to the challenge for the scheme managers will be squaring the needs of the coaches and the needs of the scheme as coaches’ individualised plans “allow for personal targets and therefore do not enable the programme to agree on one single definition of success”. Whether any of this is gender-specific remains moot.

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