Row Z edition 37; dateline 30 October 2009

Bibacious Ben
So keen is culture minister Ben Bradshaw to appear a man of the people he has allowed himself to be profiled in the winter edition of CAMRA’s magazine, Beer. For those not versed in the politics of ale, some of Bradshaw’s claims may seem counter-intuitive. “We do have to face up to the fact that we have an alcohol problem in this country,” he says, then offers: “I think real ale and real cider, community pubs and CAMRA itself are part of the solution.” Quite right, Ben. Make the lager louts drink Old Peculiar. That will stop them getting drunk and vomiting in the High Street every Friday. Or speed the whole process up. [The seven or eight of you who read both Beer and The Leisure Review may have noticed that the former carries an article on beer bars on railway station platforms, a subject covered – we think better  – in these pages some time since. That’s the last time we pitch them an article idea! - Ed]

Legacy committee: military intelligence
It’s a very old joke indeed  – and therefore much loved in this office that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms; an oxymoron if you will. And we think we have spotted a truly oxymoronic activity stirring in the bowels of the London Assembly under the guise of their snappily titled Economic Development, Culture, Sport and Tourism Committee (their caps). It seems this bunch of worthies are directing their laser-like scrutiny to the ‘Role of the New Olympic Park Legacy Company’ (their caps again) and their investigation is to be  “specifically focussed on the benefits and constraints of the new model for governing the Olympic legacy”. It seems that “Following the evidence sessions the Committee [them again] will publish a report commenting on the decision-making and accountability frameworks regarding the legacy use of the Games in December 2009.” All of which will add precisely nothing to the chances of any Stratford youngster being in Rio in 2016, any London pensioner being one iota fitter, stronger or just happier, or any lad or lassie in the Highlands of Scotland feeling anything but antipathy towards the whole monolithic, self-aggrandising process. Seb mate, you’re losing it and more importantly you’re losing us.

Khan you believe it?
While only a curmudgeon would pour scorn on the idea that Muslim Amir Khan’s forthcoming fight with orthodox Jew Dmitry Salita might do something to reduce tensions between their respective co-religionists in various parts of our troubled world, it is exceedingly difficult – when you occupy the moral heights only available at the back of the stands – to find any credence in the idea that boxing has some “higher tradition”, some sporting ethos that means it is more that two people hitting each other for other people to howl at and bet on. Before any fans of the pugilist’s art come over all Sport England and write to the editor Sideliner is constrained to quote New Yorker Salita who denies that the fight has any significance beyond its own four rope barriers: “It’s just two guys punching each other.” Quite.

Tae Can Do it: all the way to 2012
Sideliner still fondly remembers the day (in 1981 was it, dear?) when Tae Kwan Do tried to join Dundee University’s sports union and the well-established karate club sought to block them. A somewhat esoteric debate about the difference between the two sports rapidly developed into rival claims of their efficacy and so seamlessly into two young men squaring up to each other in the university’s board room. Bloodshed was only avoided by the intervention of a judo black belt and the representative of the women’s hockey club.  The would be incomer was rejected in favour of a quiet life for all. Now it seems Sport Taekwondo UK is taking revenge for the intervening decades of hurt and, in conjunction with the UK Talent Team (a collaboration between UK Sport and the EIS), has instigated a scouring. Rather than grow their own 2012 medal hopes, the kicky-punchy people have launched Talent 2012: Fighting Chance, which “endeavours to mould an Olympic taekwondo gold medallist from the cream of British martial arts talent”. Or, put in terms a karate aficionado might understand, they are mugging every non-Olympic sport that involves kicking and/or punching in pyjamas of whatever talent they have in the fond hope that learning to hit people in different ways will mean podium places for Team GB.

Shufflebang grows faster
The recent claim by American football that it is the fastest growing sport in the UK is fallacious on two counts. First, it is not a sport; it is light entertainment with violence. As such it is more akin to cage fighting, Gladiators and The Sweeny than it is to, say, modern pentathlon or canoeing. Second, shufflebang is growing more swiftly. The apprentice has both invented the game and is the coach, owner and star player of Northern Shufflers, the country’s premier team. When the work experience lass started her team, Bang Lightning, the sport grew by 100% in a week. Much faster than gridiron.

Fore! Cough back to Augusta
Tri Golf looks like fun. Sideliner has met golf development professionals and they look and sound just like all other SDOs. Some golf clubs are working really hard with and for their community to open up the game. But golf remains a metaphor for exclusion and excess, and by inviting a sport which so readily excuses sexism and racism and is populated by the privileged and the monied to join the Olympic family is akin to inviting Uncle Ernie* to baby-sit. Monsieur Rogge and his cohorts would have done better to include squash, which while not exactly the most obvious candidate to be called the ‘game of the people’ does at least have a top echelon drawn from places as diverse as Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia and France. And England, of course.
*Clearly a reference to The Who’s ‘rock opera’ Tommy and not an allusion to any other person called Ernie; or Uncle.

Storm in a tinnie
We are indebted as ever to our friends at Australasian Leisure Management (a title that is an antipodal homage to the delightful Liz Terry’s flagship we think) who reassure us that knee-jerk reacting is not the preserve of our own educational administrators. It seems that a South Australian schoolgirl was injured while windsurfing on a school outing (perhaps their version of Sport Unlimited) and her family sued. Appeals followed but even when the education minister, Jane Lomax-Smith, warned that “all sporting and outdoor activities conducted by the (education) department that contain a competitive element” would need to be reviewed if the family won, the courts said damages were in order. Dr Lomax-Smith (and couldn’t you just guess she would be a “Dr”?) was miffed: “The decision has significant ramifications for the curricula offered to students in South Australia and the mode of their delivery,” she said, continuing: “The outcome of such considerations, should the decision stand, may see the cessation of many of the activities currently undertaken in our schools.” And she listed sports including tennis, football, cricket, netball, dance and even bushwalking as being under threat. Notwithstanding the confusion caused when Sidey read that last one as ‘bushwhacking’ and wondered if that’s why they are like they are when they get to Earl’s Court, this is clearly outrageous. The good doctor should focus on delivering sport safely and well, and stop whining on about having been slapped on the wrists. It’s not as if she had to pay the damages herself and she clearly hasn’t been sacked. Yet.

Sidey says Vote Craig
As a favour to the cat, the crockery and the graphic designer whose desk is nearest Sideliner's office could all readers please cast a Strictly vote on Saturday night? Craig from Corrers is being got at. He's not very good - apparently his voltas were those of "a donkey with piles" - but he is being scoffed at, bullied and given low marks whilst funny Phil Tufnell and the twinkly little offspring of  John Hollins are given an easy ride, because they give it a go. Because they work on the BBC, you mean, Len. Sidey's other half wants Craig to get to Blackpool, his home town it seems, and Sidey is keen to avoid domestic disharmony so if you all vote, we'll all be grateful. His brother was Shakespeare when Dr Who and Martha Jones went back to defeat those witches, you know. And he was in Shameless.
Drawing a veil
This month we shall be cocking a deaf ’un to all mentions of: the abject failure of the UK BingoLotto idea which worked so well in Sweden; the All Blacks’ coaching team’s rotational policy – they’ll still drub the Welsh; F1;  Andre Agassi’s attempts to sell his book; Kevin Pietersen as food critic; or fashion icon; UK Sport venturing onto You Tube with its ‘vodcast’; Ben Bradshaw’s Beeb bashing: Steve Redgrave as Sport England’s 2012 Sports Champion lending his weight “to ensure London 2012 leaves the lasting sporting legacy of a world-leading sport system”.


At the Arts End

So farewell then One and Other after one hundred days of wonderment. At the back of the stalls we certainly wondered what it was all about and even sent our southern stringer to take a look at Antony Gormley’s ‘work’. On the early evening in question the plinth was occupied by what seemed to be a bloke in a frock – a pantomime dame, perhaps – doing what our theatrical colleagues might call ‘mugging’. It looked crap. Some people attended, many more passed. And then a truly dramatic and engaging piece of street theatre occurred: hundreds of people on motorbikes entered Trafalgar Square in formation from the fourth plinth corner, sounding their horns and blowing on whistles, did two sides and left. Gay bikers for Boris Johnson? (Be fair the whistle is about as gay an identifier as a pair of leather chaps.) Motorcyclists against the bomb? Who knows? Does it matter? It looked and sounded like a piece of genuine outdoor community engagement that annoyed some and angered others but at least had people talking if not thinking too deeply about its rationale. Like One and Other.

Radio 4’s The Media Show on 21 October chose to give up a significant chunk of its broadcast to the culture secretary, Ben Bradshaw, who did his best to convince the listener that he was something more than a fly-by-night political hack settling old scores and courting the populist vote by commenting on any and every ripple on the surface of the media pond. To be fair, he had almost made a dent in Sideliner’s antipathy and was going off air with every pot plant, stapler and dirty mug still in its place when the interviewer simpered: “One last question, minister: Strictly or X Factor?” Rather than treat this sad little sally with the disdain it deserved, the soon-to-be shadow minister for probably not much simpered: “X Factor. Sorry.” Chump! And we do mean that à la Mandelson.

Mayor Johnson can’t resist generating column inches and his appointment, against the wishes of the selection panel, of his pal Veronica Wadley to the post of chair of Arts Council London has created a tsunami of comment and reportage. Sideliner admits befuddlement that this little local difficulty should obsess so many national media outlets. It is, when all is said, done, shouted and put in strong letters to the papers, only a regional post. Has it got anything to do with the parochialism of the capital’s cultural community by any chance? As the Geordie from Big Brother – also always staged in London – so often says: “You decide.”

In stark contrast, The Leisure Review Christmas Cultural Cavalcade will this year be moving north and settling on Manchester as its venue of choice.  A local guide has been commissioned to create a bespoke tour of the city’s cultural highlights with the working title: “Narrow boats, not narrow minds”. The tour will commence at Piccadilly station on the morning of 16 December and follow the Rochdale Canal to Castlefield taking in the city’s gay village, at least one museum, the John Ryland’s library, the Hilton Tower and the roman fort that gives the destination its name. Industrial heritage, open spaces, architecture and archaeology, followed by a spot of lunch in a community-based social venue and the opportunity to visit some of the city’s listed* buildings in the afternoon or take a study tour to the area of the city centre whose regeneration was initiated by an IRA bomb. As places on the cavalcade must be limited, only members of the TLR First 500 are guaranteed a place, which is to say “subscribers only”.
*Listed in the Good Beer Guide

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