Tuesday 1 January 2008
The Fabian Society suggests that the sixtieth anniversary of the NHS, to be marked in 2008, should be commemorated with a public holiday on 5 July. A year in figures, featured in many new year newspapers, helps out with Olympic Price Watch: Britain’s 2007 defence budget, £32bn; the cost of shoring up Northern Rock, £25bn. Tourists visiting the UK between August and October total eight million, down one percent against last year. New anti-smoking laws are introduced in France and Germany. A demonstration takes place in Ryhope, Sunderland in an effort to prevent the demolition of the only listed pigeon loft in the world. Sir Alex Ferguson has a go at the Old Trafford crowd for being so quiet in the game against Birmingham City. Perhaps the players should pay them a bonus?

Wednesday 2 January
John Cage’s Variations VII will get a rare performance at the AV Festival 08 in Gateshead at the end of February. The work is rarely performed, mainly because it involves creating a collage of sound from a wide variety of sound sources, but it should be fun. In the week between Christmas and the New Year some three million tracks were downloaded in the UK. The Titanic Society is calling for the removal of the big wheel currently situated in the grounds of Belfast city hall for the 96th anniversary, on 15 April, of the ship sinking. Choi Yo-sam, South Korean boxer who was hospitalised after defending his WBO flyweight title just before Christmas, dies.

Thursday 3 January
Chinese authorities announce that they will no longer allow the “broadcast of degenerate thinking” on the internet, meaning that YouTube’s days could be numbered for China’s 150 million web users. Mr J Barton is bailed to appear in court on 16 January. Bournemouth millennium flame is to be replaced with an LED globe to provide something a little more environmentally friendly and something that will cost the town council less than the current eight grand a year in gas bills. A new report for the NHS suggests that improved diets could prevent 70,000 premature deaths every year. Tremors in the literary world as Tom Wolfe, doyen of American letters, changes publishers after forty years. Yu Zhifei, chief of Shanghai’s Formula One track, is jailed for embezzling public funds and beer sales in the UK this November, the first since the smoking ban, is down almost 10%. England leading rugby union clubs will be able to spend up to £4m on salaries next season, up from £3.4m at present.

Saturday 5 January
Andy Murray begins the tennis year with a victory in the Qatar Open.

Sunday 6 January
Residents of Aldeburgh, Suffolk wonder who keeps vandalising the sculpture on the beach that serves as a memorial to Benjamin Britten. British army officers are being taken to the theatre and art galleries as part of a new officer development training course. Harbhajan Singh, India’s spinner par excellence, is banned for three matches following allegations of racist abuse of Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds during a test match at the SCG.

Monday 7 January
The RSC’s two-year histories programme unveils a four-day cycle of eight plays. A Scottish landowner becomes the first UK farmer to have EU subsidies withdrawn as a punishment for the killing of endangered species on his land. Anne Frank’s story is to be presented as a musical, opening in Madrid next month. The India v Australia contest continues off the pitch with growing rancour; India are now threatening to refuse to play. Classical music plays catch up with pop: Tasmin Little, one of the world’s top violinists, is to release her next album online with no charge. Michael Eavis says that those wanting to go to Glasto will have to register next month for tickets. A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA suggests that vitamin D may assist cancer survival; the suggestion is that many people do not get sufficient exposure to sunlight to benefit their health. Foreign secretary David Miliband suggests that touring Zimbabwe might not be such a good idea for the English cricket team and it seems that 79% of Australians do not think their cricket team plays in the spirit of the game.

Tuesday 8 January
Plans to legalise the shifting of digital music from one format to another is announced by the government. Potential takers for the fourth plinth installation in Trafalgar Square include Patrick Brill, Jeremy Deller, Yinka Shonibare, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor; works include meercats, a ship in a bottle, a burned out car and, er, nothing. A twenty-year study in Denmark suggests that regular exercise and moderate drinking are ingredients for reduced risk of cardiac disease and rumours abound that the decision to bin SportScotland may well be reversed following support for its existence from sports governing bodies. Steve Bucknor is dropped as umpire for the Perth Test following India’s demands in what is being referred to Down Under as the ‘Bollyline Tour’.


Wednesday 9 January
Dave Brailsford unveils a new British Cycling professional team to feature Nicole Cooke among its leading riders. Six-day cycle racing may also return to London if plans by the International Six Day Organisation come to fruition. A case against JJB Sports brought by Which? magazine means that anyone who bought a replica England or Manchester Utd shirt can claim compensation. Arts Council chief executive, Peter Hewitt, gets a roasting from an assembled audience of acting professionals at an Equity meeting at the Young Vic. Upset by planned cuts, the audience passes a vote of no confidence in Arts Council England. A £20m project to build an Xtreme project in Tower Hamlets could bring surfing to the Thames and the Royal Academy confirms that the Russian exhibition will definitely go ahead; it is scheduled to open on 26 January. Two paintings, one a Picasso, worth £28m are recovered by Brazilian police after they were stolen last December from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art. Philippe de Montebello is to retire as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is the museum’s longest serving director. Sam Allardyce is sacked as manager of Newcastle United. Oscar Pistorius, the fastest man on no legs, is denied access to the Olympics with his prosthetic blades.

Thursday 10 January
The parliamentary culture select committee stops short of recommending legislation to combat ticket touting but warns the various internet exchanges to “clean up their act”. Further up Whitehall the government declares a “compelling” case for investment in nuclear power in coming years. Opponents to the plan point out the £3.4bn government support for British Energy, the £70bn for decommissioning existing nuclear plants and the £20bn it will cost to get rid of the waste. Makes the Olympics look like a bargain. Sir Brian McMaster’s report on the future of the arts in the UK is published. Commissioned by the DCMS, the report suggests “a fundamental change in the way we view and talk about the arts”. Neil MacGregor says that the British Museum will be sending a bust of the Emperor Hadrian to Segedunum at Wallsend in Newcastle for a major exhibition. Manchester Utd’s figures show a post-tax profit of over £42m, just enough to cover the annual interest payment on the loans used by the Glazers to buy the club. Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Everest, dies at the age of 88.

Friday 11 January
Liverpool officially launches its year as cultural centre of Europe with ‘The People’s Opening’ starring Ringo Starr on the roof of St George’s Hall. EMI says that its stars and artists will have to work harder for their money now that times are tight in the music business. Cultural experts review the claims of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct to world heritage status with a trip across the 38m span. The Royal Marines is using “sport, adventure and lifestyle” as part of its recruitment drive; its State of Mind initiative includes free running among its lures. Marion Jones is sentenced to six months in prison following her conviction for perjury.

Saturday 12 January
One hundred British artists sign a letter to The Guardian protesting against plans to change the way the British Council delivers British art and culture abroad. Phil Redmond calls on the BBC to end Grange Hill, the series he created, because it has strayed too far from its original point of engaging the 12 to 16 age group in relevant social issues. Sales of traditional ales in supermarkets are rising while lager sales drop, good news for the increasingly specialised British brewing industry.

Sunday 13 January
The Hollywood writers’ strike continues into its eleventh week and now the Oscars ceremony is in doubt, bringing further financial collateral damage on top of the estimated $1.4bn already lost. A number of arts organisations and venues, including Exeter City Council, are reported to be preparing legal challenges to the Arts Council’s changes to its grant structure. It seems that the South African rugby team is to have its name changed from Springboks to Proteas as part of a scheme to make the game more representative of the nation. Mark Webster, a 24-year-old apprentice plumber, wins the BDO darts world championship. No silo mentality in American sport: banned sprinter Justin Gatlin is to hire banned cyclist Floyd Landis’s legal team for his appeal.

Monday 14 January
The Barbican’s gallery is to run an exhibition to explain human art to aliens. It starts in March. Marks and Sparks is to give a £5 voucher to anyone delivering clothes for recycling to Oxfam. Cambridge University follows its Oxford counterpart with an exhibition to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Milton. Brits wahey at the Golden Globes, with Atonement, Daniel Day Lewis and Julie Christie all picking up awards at a presentation non-event owing to the writers’ strike. Al-Hassan Bangura, a member of Watford FC’s squad, is given a work permit by the Home Office, overturning the original decision to return him to his native Sierra Leone. Daniel Barenboim, Iraeli pianist and conductor, becomes the first person to hold both Iraeli and Palestinian passports. Also reaching for his passport is Andy Murray, who will be returning home from the Australian Open after a first-round defeat. Richard Knerr, whose toy company brought us the frisbee and the hula hoop, dies at the age of 82.

Tuesday 15 January
Plans are published by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to enable seniors to secure grants to organise their own personal development groups, whether that be art, dancing, computing or sport. The British Olympic Association confirms Aldershot as the venue of its 2012 training camp. The BBC will require more central funding if it is to survive, says director general Mark Thompson. Research from Childwise reveals that 79% of children have a television in their bedroom. Guy Hands, chief exec of EMI, explains why he will be sacking one third of the company’s staff and asking the ‘talent’ to work for its money. Another award for Oxford: the Nanford guest house is voted the dirtiest hotel in Britain. A publisher that has produced a run of titles packaged in a box similar to a cigarette packet are being sued by British American Tobacco because they reckon the design is based on their Lucky Strikes branding; minus the ‘this seriously damages your health’ subtitle, obviously. The England friendly against Switzerland on 6 February will not be preceded by a minute’s silence to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of so many of the celebrated Busby Babes; the FA thinks the risk of non-observance is too high. Jason MacIntyre, Scottish and British champion cyclist, 34, is killed by a vehicle while out training in Fort William.

Wednesday 16 January
Stephen Kinnock, head of the British Council, is arrested by Russian officials as part of  continuing harassment of British Council operations in Russia, all part of worsening relations between Russia and the UK. The National Theatre announces a programme featuring new works by Michael Frayn, Howard Brenton and David Hare. St James’ Park announces the third coming of the Geordie messiah: Kevin Keegan is named as manager of Newcastle United. The National Audit Office puts the boot into the private finance initiative; it seems it’s a fantastic way to waste tax-payers’ money.

Thursday 17 January
A £3m appeal is launched to fund the repair of Westminster Cathedral. Audiences for West End theatres have risen by ten percent in 2007 to 13.6 million. Musicals led the way, up by 19%, while non-musical plays were up by 1%; ticket sales for opera and dance fell by 8%. HMV and Waterstones post record sales for a pre-Christmas period.

Friday 18 January
UK cinema audiences spent £904m on tickets in 2007, an 8% increase on 2006. Plans for a redesign of Parliament Square in London to make it more pedestrian-friendly are revealed. It should all be sorted by 2012. Lewis Hamilton signs a five-year deal with McLaren-Mercedes worth £35.8m. What a stroke of luck for him that we forced him to move to Switzerland with our constant pestering. The Russian rowing squad could be banned from the Olympics having lost seven members to doping offences in the past year. Geoff Miller is appointed chairman of selectors for the England cricket team.

Saturday 19 January
Is Kev under pressure? Nowts apiece against Bolton. Meanwhile, Americans and Arabs argue over who will own Liverpool FC and Australia lose the third Test to India at the WACA.

Sunday 20 January
Home secretary Jacqui Smith tells The Sunday Times she wouldn’t feel safe walking in London at night whether in Hackney or Kensington. Apparently she meant to point out that she would feel fine in Peckham because that’s her manor. Seventeen-year-old Marcus Willis is sent home from the Australian Open for insubordination (or something similar) under Ruthless Roger’s new regime at the LTA. “He was really in the last-chance saloon,” says Rog.

Monday 21 January
The Lake District National Park launches a campaign to persuade fund-raisers to scale back on the Three Peaks Challenge, which takes in Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 24 hours. It seems that Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport, is right behind Number 10’s plans for a Sino-British sporting alliance mooted during The Broon’s recent trip to China. However, other sports personnel are thought to be somewhat cooler, given China’s record on training methods. Michael Scott has been confirmed as the performance director of British Swimming. The IOC changes its stance on gambling following lobbying from London. Where once hosts had to “prevent betting”, now it has only to “protect the integrity of the sport”.

Tuesday 22 January
British names aplenty in the Oscar nominations list, including actor Julie Christie 42 years after she won the best actress statue. Universities have failed to distribute over £3m in bursary funding designed to attract the less privileged to higher education. Novelist and some-time stand up comedian, A L Kennedy wins the Costa Book Prize. BBC 3, the TV channel that brought us Two Pints of Lager… and other gems, is to focus on social networking principles as it searches for an audience. Pub property company JD Wetherspoon blames the smoking ban for its scaled down plans for expansion. Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe tells the culture committee that British athletes should not take funding for granting, pointing the finger at Marcus Willis, recently returned from the Australian Open with an LTA footprint on his backside.

Wednesday 23 January
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) publishes guidance on the built environment’s relationship with health. It urges local authorities to promote walking and cycling as viable transport options. Cookery lessons for children at school could be followed by cash incentives for people to lose weight, suggests health secretary Alan Johnson. Randy Lerner, American owner of Aston Villa, has offered the National Portrait Gallery a donation of £5m, the largest private donation it has ever received. Liu Qi, head of the Beijing Olympic organising committee, orders the clearance of undesirables from the streets of the city to make it nice for visitors. Closer to home, the Belgian Olympic committee has banned its athletes from any political comments when they attend the Games.

Thursday 24 January
Peter Hain resigns over the issue of contributions to his campaign for deputy leadership of the Labour Party (how much would it have cost to get him a chance of winning?) and the subsequent reshuffle sees James Purnell hopping from the DCMS into Mr Hain’s old job at the Department for Work and Pensions. Andy Burnham moves from the Treasury into the Purnell seat. “It’s my dream job,” says Mr B. Geoff Thompson, chairman of the FA, is to step down five months early to give Lord Triesman the chance to get a good run up for his new post.

Friday 25 January
The Mary Rose Trust gets official word that they have been awarded a lottery grant of £21m to build a new museum for Henry VIII’s flagship. It will be the last of the big lottery pay-outs before funds head for the Olympics. It seems the number of schools boasting gun clubs and rifle ranges is on the increase following Richard Caborn’s ministerial support for the sport of shooting last year. Andy Burnham kicks off his culture role declaring himself “a strong believer in the BBC”.

Saturday 26 January
Dame Kelly Holmes suggests that a modern PE kit could improve the engagement of teenaged girls in physical education. Boxes containing previously unseen rolls of negatives of photographs taken by Robert Capa are discovered in the US. In the FA Cup Havant and Waterlooville take the lead twice against Liverpool before their hopes are dashed.

Sunday 27 January
Can it really be true that some farmers are fitting pedometers to their dairy cattle, monitoring the data by computer and working out when best to milk? Andy Burnham’s on a roll now. He tells the papers that fans should have a place on the boards of football clubs and that practitioners and artists should be involved on the boards of arts organisations, museums, etc. At a conference in Cannes music industry bigwigs ponder the future of their sector, suggesting that giving music away might be the best way to engage a new customer base. Niels de Vos, chief executive of UK Athletics, tells BBC Five Live that he would like to see drugs-related cheating become a criminal offence in the UK, taking the lead of the French and Italian authorities’ involvement in cleaning up professional cycling.

Monday 28 January
Lindow Man, one of the British Museum’s prime exhibits, is to be sent on a long loan to the Manchester Museum. McDonalds is among the first organisations approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to provide equivalent A-levels for their staff. The Office of National Statistics latest outpouring on UK spending suggests that modern households now dedicate almost one fifth of their weekly spending to leisure goods and services. A short list of five artists, including Rachel Whiteread and Mark Wallinger, to provide the Kent countryside with the South’s equivalent to the Angel of the North is published. General Sports Entertainment buys Derby County FC, making the club the fourth in the Premier League club to be owned by American investors.

Tuesday 29 January
Stephen Smith, winner of the UK’s biggest lottery jackpot, says he would give every penny of the £19m back if he could swap it for good health. The White Cube in Hoxton is named the fourth-best gallery in the world by Flash Art magazine. The newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party warns its readers that any attempts to use the Olympic Games to discredit the Chinese government will be doomed to failure. While a German airline launches fights for nudists, the hotel chain Travelodge tells British MPs that cheap air fares are damaging British tourism. British Swimming is to lose its head coach, Ian Turner in April. He’s off to a job in New Zealand, leaving the pre-Olympic preparations in limbo. The IAAF suggests that there is no reason why Dwain Chambers should not be allowed to compete in the British indoor athletics trials but UK Athletics remains adamant that he will not be permitted to run. Lambeth Council gives planning approval for the expansion of the Oval cricket ground despite the objections of the Health and Safety Executive, which points to the risks presented by a local gas repository. Any leaks from that, they reckon, and the new hotel and 5,000-seat stand could be blown into Westminster.

Wednesday 30 January
Manchester’s finest, the Hallé Orchestra, celebrates its 150th anniversary. Jason Harborow, head of the Liverpool Culture Company and the man who was at one time responsible for delivering this year’s Scouse festival of culture, is to receive a £230,000 pay off to leave the post from which he has been on sick leave since September. It seems that the cost of the 2012 aquatics centre has trebled to some £214m.

Thursday 31 January
Fabio Capello names his squad for the first of many friendlies. The walking exhibition of the tattooist’s art that is Mr D Beckham is not on the list. And if you’re not on the list…In 2006 GPs in the UK issed over one million prescriptions for obesity-related drugs, a seven-fold increase on the 1999 figure, at a cost to the NHS of £47.5m. The art world’s favourite secretive street urchin, Banksy, is backing Ken for mayor, donating work along with twenty or so other artists to raise money for Ken’s re-election campaign. Prince Charles wades into architectural debate once again, railing against skyscrapers. The national press pick up on Horticulture Week’s concerns regarding the deadline for planting on the 2012 project; you can’t plant in summer, seems to be the gist. Rogan Taylor, Liverpool John Moores University’s ‘Doctor Soccer’, launches a scheme to buy back Liverpool for the fans; 100,000 ‘member shares’ at £5,000 a piece. “I believe it is do-able,” says Mr Taylor.


the world of leisure
January 2008

18 January: Lewis Hamilton signs a five-year deal with McLaren-Mercedes worth £35.8m. What a stroke of luck for him that we forced him to move to Switzerland with our constant pestering.


23 January: Cookery lessons for children at school could be followed by cash incentives for people to lose weight, suggests health secretary Alan Johnson. Randy Lerner, American owner of Aston Villa, has offered the National Portrait Gallery a donation of £5m, the largest private donation it has ever received.


24 January: Peter Hain resigns over the issue of contributions to his campaign for deputy leadership of the Labour Party (how much would it have cost to get him a chance of winning?) and the subsequent reshuffle sees James Purnell hopping from the DCMS into Mr Hain’s old job at the Department for Work and Pensions. Andy Burnham moves from the Treasury into the Purnell seat. “It’s my dream job,” says Mr B.

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