Row Z edition 54; dateline 3 May 2011

The boat that Guy sold
The many people who enjoyed watching two young men with an idiosyncratic approach to life and language refurbish a fire-damaged narrowboat in the television programme The Boat that Guy Built will be interested to hear that Reckless, the boat in question, is up for sale. Whether they would be interested in paying the £41,500 being asked by Tollhouse Boat Sales in Crick is less certain. Sideliner did a quick online comparison and reckons in the current market a 60-foot 1995 traditional narrowboat on which “further works are required” should be setting you back a good few grand less than that, and you could expect to find the mattress still there when you took delivery.

Lucky London lottery winners
“Quelle surprise”, as they say in France. There will still be tickets available for the London Olympics after the initial ticket application process is complete. With seats at the back of Earl’s Court to watch Iceland play Chile at handball priced at £20 per person it’s not hard to see why. Preliminary rounds of the skeet in Woolwich anyone? Or taekwando at the Excel arena? They won’t be able to give away tickets for some of these events come the day so shouldn’t someone with a sense of perspective make the decision to drop prices for the duff sessions of the dull sports before payment is actually taken from everybody’s Visa card? Once they get it, these bankers, they never let you have it back. And £6 to put the bloody tickets in a bloody envelope? Stone me. That’s Seb’s free seats at all the prestige events paid for right there.

Boys will be men on England’s greensward
The infantalisation of senior cricket goes on apace with Yorkshire selecting 15-year-old Barney Gibson to keep wicket for them against Durham UCCE. This makes Gibson the youngest person to play first-class cricket and makes horribly public the state of the club game in this country. For some years now it has become normal to see whey-faced youngsters turning out in senior teams as clubs fail to find 11 fit and willing men on a Saturday afternoon. Quite how this stacks up in safeguarding terms has yet to be explained but in terms of development it’s a death knell. How long before the entire third eleven, bar the skipper, is made up of schoolboys while the men who would have, could have, should have played are getting on with some DIY or taking herself to the shops? With no drinkers in the team there will be no socialising (and who wants to debate the finer points of their doosrah with a 13-year-old anyway?) and it will get even harder to get a side out next week. Short termism. Vicious spiral. Myopic NGB. Discuss.

Owzat? And have you got any ketchup?
And while we’re on about the wonderful world of cricket, the work experience lad was vastly amused on reading the scores from the first round of the Clydesdale Bank 40 (no, nor us) to discover that in a game against Scotland (don’t ask) the visitors opening batsman GI Maiden was dismissed caught Mustard, bowled Onions. All we need now is to find a South African called Berger and plot when their side meets Durhamshire and the boy will be able to wet himself all over again.

Is it because I is functionally illiterate?
It will surprise no one that the editor of The Leisure Review is struggling to see eye to eye with the latest PR company to enter the sport and leisure lists. Sparing the blushes of the “unique lifestyle PR agency” by not naming them, it was perhaps unlikely that, being “innovative, young and cutting-edge”, the two young ladies involved would actually endear themselves to a man who thinks fuddy-duddy is a compliment. However, our man in a cardigan is essentially fair-minded and it was actually their execrable written English in support of a company selling football to fat, lazy office workers that caused him to murmur “excruciating copy” and impale their release on his spike. Just one example from a piece which at 409 words was overlong by about 400: “But worry not, there’s an after work form recreational exercise that’s dominating the London scene, exercise that embraces the outdoors, doesn’t interfere with your social life and costs considerably less than a gym membership. It exists in the form of...” and their principal is named. Far be it from us to undermine a company who say they “promote and support British entrepreneurs” and whose “promise is straight forward and consistently effective public relations with guaranteed results” but that kind of copy, ladies, is guaranteed to achieve only one thing: a very annoyed editor who won’t use your stuff.

Bugs get bunnies proper poorly
As IMSPA “launches” itself on the sport, leisure and culture industry’s professional body market (3 May apparently but watch this space) Sideliner has spotted an immediate win and a potential new market for the Loughborough body formed by merging ISPAL and, significantly, ISRM. It seems that in Los Angeles health officials have traced the cause of illness among more than 100 people visiting the Playboy mansion to Hugh Hefner’s hot tub. The offending whirlpool was harbouring legionella which, though doubtless unpleasant for the victims, does represent a marketing opportunity for the body which under one of its former guises sold pool plant operator’s courses around the globe. It’s hard to imagine that IMPSA couldn’t find a PPO tutor prepared to rough it in LA for a few days while they train up a bunny or two in the finer points of hand dosing.

Rise up, BW, its time for a pint
It always grieves the Row Z team when public houses go bust but then it grieves us more when they are badly run. With Cameron and his cronies turning the screw on the very people for whom the vast majority of pubs perform a significant cultural role, some, surely unintended, collateral damage is being done to one of our leader’s many bêtes noire, the PubCo. Sidey was cock-a-hoop to hear that Lloyds Banking Group has effectively called time (geddit?) on the Waterside Pub Partnership (WPP), which was set up to milk the relationship between pubs and canals and rivers. The joy was made even less confined by the news that British Waterways (BW), originally a 50% stakeholder in the chain, carried no liability, having had its original investment in WPP written off in 2008/09. In fact, having bought 10 of the top-performing pubs in the partnership from WPP, BW are sitting pretty. The serendipitously named James Lazarus of British Waterways reckoned: “We have every confidence that the waterside pubs have a bright future, and we are very pleased to have acquired the 10 best pubs from WPP.”

Drawing a veil

This month we shall be behaving as a national newspaper sports’ editor faced with a report on the Women’s Super League :

London-centric luvvies loudly wondering when Michael Sheen’s The Passion will transfer to the West End; talk of the globalisation of snooker which is a parlour game not a sport; table tennis, that’s another one; the oh-so-safe line-up at the Sport & Recreation Alliance’s first conference; the good people of Daventry campaigning against proposals to dig a link from the Grand Union Canal to their town’s centre; the note of surprise in everyone’s voice when it was announced that the Olympic slalom course would be used by the public before the Games; the Ryder Cup in 2014 being given to Gleneagles, where geographical inaccessibility vies with social exclusivity as a barrier to attendance; the complete lack of Welsh clubs in the Heineken Cup semi-finals and the absence of French teams from the final, bless; the £10 million being put into student sport by Sport England to get students, (mostly young, mostly middle income, mostly active) more active in the most transparent attempt to get somewhere near their legacy target.


At the Arts End

Banging donk, or what?
The Manchester International Festival of all things cultural and extreme looks all set to be a massive success this July despite rather than because of some of its marketing. The official brochure, which online at least is a thing of beauty, belies all the festival’s claims to be “accessible” in its use of the most pretentious descriptions imaginable. Sidey is no snob but are the people of Urmston and Eastlands going to be drawn to something explained thus: “Each will explore the ephemeral aspects of art, focusing on an idea or situation that both establishes and erases itself in the same instance”? When the event boasts Jonny Vegas, Snoop Doggy Dog and Victoria Wood in its line-up perhaps extending accessibility to the invitation may have been appropriate.

Failing to plan is planning to create?
“Artistic vision and leadership is at the heart of every successful theatre company, yet how is this best manifested in the increasingly diverse work of building-based, producing theatres?” is a question we often ask ourselves here at Row Z and it’s one taken up by Arts Council England, whose response is to issue a set of guidelines on how to recruit artistic leaders. The document speaks of structures and models, strategy and policy, organisational missions and shifts in the landscape. It was at this point that the posh kid on an internship arranged by her dad stopped reading and asked the obvious question: “What has this all to do with creativity?”

Where is Peter Reid when you need him?
We were intrigued to hear not only that Bath University has an artist-in-residence but also that Janek Schaefer, a sound artist, musician and composer apparently, has created a mixed-media installation in a changing room in the college’s sports training village. His microphones have picked up the sound of people in what Schaefer views as a “place of transition where people prepare, plan, reflect, celebrate or commiserate”. It is interesting to note that he also explored individuals’ understanding of what it means to bring about “change”. When it comes to grasping work of this kind we find ourselves quoting Schaefer himself: ““There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”

Straws in the wind? Of Saints and Seagulls
It may only be on the south coast and only in the third division but evidence accrues that “the national game” may be returning to its former soubriquet “the beautiful game”. Both teams about to be promoted from the football league’s third tier have achieved the feat by playing a brand of football which aspires to beauty. Described by one pundit as a “charismatic aesthete”, Gus Poyet has managed a Brighton and Hove Albion team which takes risks, keeps the ball on the floor and at least attempts the “stylish passing game”. Meanwhile, following them up and playing to over 20,000 people at their Premiership-quality home ground, Southampton, schooled in elegance initially by Alan Pardew, look more than a long-ball side. Meanwhile, at the head of affairs, Arsenal, the doyen of football-playing football teams, puncture Ferguson’s hubris and leave the door ajar for Chelski to take the top tier title. Even the reportage is assaying elegance.




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