Row Z 39: dateline 29 January 2010

Spell it like it is
The old bloke that does the garden when its not knee-deep in snow has spent rather too long in front of his portable television of late but Sideliner decided not to reprimand the old chap when he offered a weather-related example of the lazy London-centricity of television journalists. It seems the BBC woman who looks like Natasha Kaplinsky but isn’t was being particularly po-faced about the first new-year dump of snow. Her colleague, branded a weather correspondent for the duration and also brittly female, was equally intense as she linked to men standing in fields in snowy bits of Britain. The thing that made the gardening gurner spit his tea was the young ladies’ insistence on calling the A628 from just north of Sheffield to the village of Tintwistle “the Woodhead Path”. Proof that both young ladies, and an entire newsroom of broadcast professionals, were perhaps not paying full attention was the appearance behind the pair of a graphic confirming the foolishness.

R.I.P.s off
So farewell then, Susan Greenfield, latterly director of the Royal Institution but now jobless, homeless and a bit cheesed off.  It seems Baroness Greenfield, to give her her Sunday name, has been made redundant from the job of running the 200-year-old charity “dedicated to connecting people with the world of science” and has been evicted from her grace-and-favour Mayfair flat into the bargain. The RI’s governing council may need all of its reservoirs of “discovery, innovation, inspiration and imagination”, not to mention a little alchemy, to get out of the pickle they seem to have created for themselves by making a woman redundant and citing as one of the reasons the parlous financial position she is supposed to have created. As the most powerful woman in British science is quoted as saying, “Redundancy is supposed to be about the post, not the person.”

Must try harder
Parkies and plumbers – or authentic members of ILAM and ISRM past and present to give them their proper denotation – will be drawing a sigh of relief at the news that the Privy Council have knocked the Institute of Sport into the long grass. Word on the sport, leisure and culture street is that the men and women who sat – or possibly stood – in judgement on the Peter Mann-inspired application for one institute for the sector returned it with sufficient queries in the margins to keep Pete, Sue and Sean busy for a few months yet. With neither organisation having as many members as The Leisure Review has readers, their chances of answering the first question, the one that deals with predicted membership numbers, seems remote.

Perfidy, thy name is woman
Here at Row Z we have taken a vow of silence on all matters relating to the professional bodies that purport to serve the leisure sector. The situation regarding the on-then-off-again-then-on-again merger went beyond parody a long time ago and, given that no one in the sport, leisure and culture sector seemed terribly interested in what these organisations were spending Sport England’s money on anyway, we decided to leave it lie. But then there was talk of the creation of a chartered institute for sport, applications to the Privy Council for their benediction and Ralph Riley being moved upstairs to become plumber without portfolio which left his beloved IBRM (sic) in need of a new chief executive. It is this process that has drawn Sideliner back, like a dog to its own sick. If either of our readers knew how close the ISRM and ISPAL came to having the same chief executive, consecutively if not concurrently, you would be catatonic with either shock or awe; or maybe mirth. Rumours abound – and we give them no credence, of course – that the leader of the Berkshire end of the ISPAL-ISRM axis was among those considered for the post. One version of the story has it that the head parkie applied, was interviewed and appointed but, having been offered counsel on the implications of jumping ship at this stage of proceedings, decided that it was perhaps not the most sensible of moves. Another version is that she was headhunted and, having been begged to accept the post, demurred for the good of the industry. It would be funny if so much time, the health and energy of some good people, the goodwill of an industry looking for leadership and hundreds of thousands of pounds aimed at bringing the two together (two now that the National Association for Sports Development has been disappeared) had not been so cavalierly wasted along the way.

Jennie says, “Help me, Rona”
Welcome, welcome, welcome indeed to Sport England’s new chief operating officer, Rona Chester. She looks like a good sort, used to work at Sotheby’s, has no apparent interest or experience in sport and can add up like a bastard. Perfect for the new dawn of our “world leading community sport system”. Sideliner remembers when Roger Draper boasted the selfsame job title and if ever there was a man “as flash as a rat with a gold tooth” it was the current chief executive of tennis. Rona in contrast takes a modestly engaging photo, is currently FD at the Law Society and has the Row Z vote of confidence. Perhaps she can work out where that £20 million really went; and why?

Boom and, indeed, boom
The staff team at Row Z are spared the soul-searching prevalent in many newsrooms, with Sideliner deciding what and how things are written up before passing it up to the editor of The Leisure Review for publication. However, it seems that the editorial sensitivity meter must be set to ‘high’ at TLR Towers because when one partner at a recent event offered a humourous view of one of our major agencies it didn’t make the final cut. Suffice it to say that since someone told Sideliner about the dilemma and it involves a very old joke this is what you can’t read elsewhere: “How many people work at Sport England?” goes the feed. “About half of them” goes the punchline. There now, Mr Ed; that didn't hurt did it?


Drawing a veil
This month we shall be treating as a Little Orphan Annie all mention of: the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s capitulation to the forces of “health and safety” – or should we say “insurance” – which means no Bonspiel this year, again; the video games lobby’s claim that the “complex problem-solving techniques” and chance to develop “strategies for consensus-building, regulation of competition and restorative justice” offered by Grand Theft Auto and the like make playing computer games endlessly “a transformative cultural phenomenon” for our young people; Martin Johnson picking Kiwis, crocks and rugby league rejects, all called Hape; the 2012 Paralympics being shunted off to Channel 4 where people will pay them as much heed as they do American Football; the French rugby website that challenges its customer “Rugbyman ou pas, bravez le retour du froid” in an attempt to sell them lycra long johns at too many euros the pair; Gary Neville’s middle finger.


At the Arts End

Will there be legacy? Who’s to say?
The arts establishment still struggles to make headway with the Cultural Olympiad and as yet have still to appoint anyone to a post described as “the big arts job of the new decade” – emphasis needed on the “the” presumably and a faux Yank accent to boot. With the generality of luvvies believing that all the Olympics has done for them is steal funding, whoever gets the job will indeed have a job on their hands. However, those with a foot in the pro-Olympic camp will doubtless counter that already £5.4 million has been allocated to the production of 12 pieces of public art and a further three to a disability project. Interestingly, for those with an eye on the 2012 legacy debate, Stephen Blakely, described by the Observer as “a veteran of the struggle to create a cogent national arts festival”, is quoted as arguing that: “It is ruinously stupid to think about creative legacy as a starting point. What you should do is think about how to create something absolutely wonderful first.” Whether or not your effort creates any kind of legacy, he goes on “is for the public and for history to decide”.

It’s a slippery slope
Nobody could object to The Archers’ corporate bad boy, Matt Crawford, making the most of his time in prison or to his helping fellow inmates with their reading and letter writing. Cavillers, however, were given some ammunition when Crawford, jailed for his part in a serious fraud, told his long-suffering paramour, Lillian, that he has been helping “colleagues” with basic financial planning.

But is it art?
Even at Olympic level the sport of ice dance is perilously close to not being one, a sport that is. But when it is used as the basis for some extended C-list celebrity humiliation it definitely becomes a form of, admittedly base, entertainment. The first night of the latest series of Dancing on Ice, when it finally did come, could under no circumstances be compared to the ballet, the opera or any other artistic form that takes an extra article when referred to by the aficionado. But it did raise some interesting aesthetic and even ethical questions all centring on a woman’s lower leg. Heather Mills, for it was she, is taking part in the programme to garner publicity. For her charity, of course, not herself. The glittery people who were neither ‘skating’ nor ‘judging’ made much of her bravery, commitment and bad leg. And she was definitely pretty ordinary. Not many of the celebs could skate so she wasn’t alone there but she completely failed to express any emotion or do anything attractive with any other part of her body. Strictly not ice DANCING.  Did she get the deserved push? No. Is it fair? No. Will we watching again? Well one Ms S Davies is still there, just, so yes. But we’ll be shouting at the TV if this positive action continues. After all, it wasn’t deployed for the black contestant who surely faces more everyday discrimination than the woman whose biggest daily problem seems to be how to spend Macca’s millions on ugly clothing.

Dream on
Confusingly for some the 2009 TS Eliot Award for Poetry was awarded in January to Cornish-born, 57-year-old Phillip Gross. Straws having been drawn, the job of researching his work, titled Water Table as it was “inspired by the Bristol Channel”, went to the modern apprentice who declared his favourite to be Fantasia on a Theme from IKEA. Gross sees it for what it is – “it’s just a shed” or “square box” – but he also captures the seductive other-worldliness of the interior where customers follow the “waymarked route at shuffling shunt round each turn like a ghost train at a seaside fair”. Very Prufrock, we thought.

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