Row Z edition 40; dateline 2 March 2010

Or are you just pleased to see me?
This column’s coaching correspondent was in the office recently discussing the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games with the former arts development worker who edits At the Arts End. Essentially the debate revolved around whether having four ice-shrouded totem poles rising priapically into the Canadian sky could be called “a cock-up” in the pages of a national sport, leisure and culture magazine. Looks like it can.

Sideliner is not used to being upbraided so when TLR’s managing editor rang to insist that an error [his words] in last month’s column be corrected the lairy graphic designer whose desk is closest to Sidey’s office very nearly had recourse to a bullying helpline. It seems that a source even closer than our own to the project working group that is preparing to bring us the new chartered institute for the sector had contacted the magazine to offer a “correction”. Contrary to vile rumour, we now learn that the Privy Council did not knock the application from the ISRM/ISPAL axis “into the long grass”. In fact  the response was more like a gentle leg glance that barely got off the square. Picture, if you will, fielders – one from long leg (ISPAL?) and one from cover (ISRM?) – casually swooping in to scoop up the ball and lob it back to the wicket-keeper without the scorers being troubled and you will get the true tenor of the response. And if you can stretch the analogy just a little further add to your mental picture a bunting-caparisoned tea tent full of industry leaders applauding the fielding team’s aplomb. In short, without the imagery, we have it from the most unimpugnable of sources that the Chartered Institute of Sport is on track, in sight and just around the corner.

Simon says: “Er. No.”
Although it has been a while since High Wycombe Wasps refused to play at Stockport Sharks in case they got their knees muddy, their pusillanimity and priorities have once again been thrown into stark contrast by the announcement that Kiwi hockey star Simon Child has decided to return to New Zealand rather than play in the forthcoming World Cup. Child’s decision relates to the security situation in host country India and a specific terrorist threat to the tournament. Child, who was voted player of the tournament in the under-21 World Cup last year, is the only member of the Black Sticks to choose to return with reports quoting him as uttering the under stated observation that the “heightened security did not create an ideal high-performance environment.” England, ranked sixth in the world, are drawn in Group A alongside Australia, Spain, Pakistan, South Africa and the hosts.

Tories promise smoke AND mirrors
“Government funding for sport will be cut drastically after the forthcoming General Election, whichever political party comes to power”, and you heard it here second as we picked it up from the Sports Journalist Association’s report of their recent event where nearly 100 journalists and invited guests from sporting bodies quizzed minister for sport Gerry Sutcliffe and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat shadows, Hugh Robertson and Don Foster. Of the four it was Conservative MP Robertson who offered the most insightful comment, confirming that Cameron’s Blue Army “plan on merging funding agencies UK Sport, Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust to cut spending”. Good luck with that, Hugh, but you won’t mind if we file it alongside all the other structurally impossible, attention-seeking idiocies being uttered by the old-Etonian cabal at the centre of your party, do you?

Drawing a veil

This month we shall refusing to shake hands with the following former bosom buddies:
Snowsport GB slipping into oblivion just weeks before their raison d’etre and biggest opportunity, the Winter Olympics; any Sotonian singing “Pay up Pompey, Pompey pay up”; soi-disant professional body ISRM opening up its membership to anyone with a pool plant operator’s certificate; Tiger Woods doing the hardest thing, faking sincerity; the pack of half-truths offered by agent Mike Burton to get his client Andy Powell out from under when all around him thought he’d drunkenly driven a stolen golf buggy up the M4; David “Call me Dave” Cameron’s Britain’s Got Talent audition as a latter-day equivalent to Mr Memory – the music hall act from the Kenneth Moore version of The 39 Steps – who, as it happens, got shot from  the stalls.


At the Arts End

Sit down for your rights
Despite being descended from a man kicked out of every pub in Southampton’s docklands for preaching socialism, Sideliner is torn by the dispute at the National Gallery in London. The gallery’s gallery attendants are striking for more pay and claiming that many of their number have to take second jobs to survive while the bosses are “receiving an unfair proportion” of the available salary budget.  Sidey would be in Trafalgar Square with a placard now if it weren’t for the sneaking suspicion that sitting in a nice, quiet, warm room and occasionally admonishing posh school children to pipe down is something many a homeless street dweller would do for free, let alone £6.45 per hour.

There, but for the grace of God
“In Vancouver where we set our scene, two viewpoints somewhat alike in dignity,” said Shakespeare – Archie Shakespeare, that is, this column’s freelance snapper and malaprop – and he had a point. In the latest of our series ‘It’s happened abroad, will it happen here?’ we bring you word from fair Canuckia where one open, honest (and slightly dull) native by the name of Mark Leiren-Young is skriking in electronic print about an 88% cut in British Columbia’s public spending on the arts. We quite liked the Winter Olympic opening ceremony but he refers to it in unflattering terms saying: “All the singing, dancing, drumming, pretty costumes, exotic designs and fancy words being intoned on the loudspeaker by Donald Sutherland is what government funding bodies call ‘arts and culture’, and this would be the part of the provincial budget the Liberal government recently decided to brutalise.”  Will this happen when 2012 rolls around? Don’t be daft! A Liberal government is as likely as someone sticking a great white head in a wood near Warrington and calling it art.

Pink pages
With businesses of all hues and kinds going to the wall it seems somewhat draconian of Camden Council to raise rents for shops such as Gay’s the Word by 25%. Independent bookshops – indeed bookshops in general – surely deserve a little more consideration than the bog standard chains that continue to homogenise our high streets? Especially bookshops managed by people of the calibre of Uli Lenart, who is quoted as saying, “25% is mental. We’re booksellers not magicians!” Given its status as the “country’s only gay and lesbian bookshop”, and with celebrity supporters such as Simon Callow, the shop may yet beat the council’s heavy-handednesss

Left justifying your existence
At one fell swoop the arts development department – department, mark you – at Sheffield City Council has justified its combined stipend, at least in the eyes of this column. It is not just that are we impressed by the fact they got Harold Pinter to pen a poem called Laughter to put on the wall of the newly refurbished Crucible theatre, nor that in previous years, as part of their Off the Shelf reading and writing festival, they persuaded Benjamin Zephaniah, Jarvis Cocker and Carol Ann Duffy to write a few words for them. It is not even the fact that for eleven years poetry and lyrics have been affixed to everything from a student hall of residence to a riverside industrial building that makes this project stand out. No. It is the name of the scheme that caught our eye, Text in the City. Worth every penny.


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