Thursday 1 December 2011
The UK’s first ‘super casino’ is open for business in the new Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, hard by the Olympic site. The latest survey in the prime minister’s pursuit of happiness statistics suggests that most Britons are fairly happy with life. The Downing Street Christmas tree is revealed to have come from Christmas Common in Oxfordshire, while museum visitor figures show that numbers have doubled in the decade since free admission to national collections was introduced. The boss of Greene King reckons that the current economic crisis makes a visit to the pub a luxury that needs to be savoured.

Friday 2 December
The team working with Ken Russell on a new musical version of Alice in Wonderland are to continue the project with a new director, incorporating all of Russell’s concepts and ideas. Mark Rylance is to return to Shakespeare’s Globe in Richard III next year and a new BBC series is to explore the monarchy through the royal art collection. England get a reasonable draw for the Euro 2012 competition. Martin O’Neill is to be Sunderland’s new manager.

Saturday 3 December
In pot-and-kettle news Charles Saatchi reckons that the modern art establishment doesn’t know good art from bad. Mariafrancesca Garritano, one of the leading lights of La Scala’s ballet company, estimates that one in five of the company’s ballerinas are anorexic.

Sunday 4 December
Edinburgh Zoo’s new inmates – sorry, residents – arrive; they are called Tian Tian and Yang Guang. The National Literacy Trust reckons that a third of children in the UK do not own a book. Joao Havelange resigns from the IOC before the organisation’s ethics commission reveals its findings on his involvement in decades of bribery and corruption; in true IOC fashion the case against him will now be closed. Socrates, former captain of Brazil’s football team, dies at the age of 57.

Monday 5 December
The archbish of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, warns that there will be more riots next year unless the government does something to help those with no apparent stake in society. Martin Boyce is installed as favourite to win the Turner prize. Another record for Heston’s Fat Duck: its norovirus outbreak was the biggest ever found in a restaurant. Ted Hughes is installed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Controversy in Florence over whether the search for a lost Leonardo justifies damaging a Vasari fresco; some experts think the Vasari is on top of the Leonardo. The National Audit Office warns that the London 2012 bill for security could tip the Games over the (latest, current) budget ceiling. And Indian authorities are to raise the Dow sponsorship deal with the Little Baron. Graham Gooch announces he is stepping down as Essex’s first-team batting coach to focus on his England coaching duties.

Tuesday 6 December
Some MPs are questioning the veracity of some, perhaps all, of the economic insights offered by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Edinburgh council has voted in favour of introducing the UK’s first bed tax to fund the city’s festivals. Meanwhile, Monaco resident and non-tax-payer Paula Radcliffe laments the increase in spending on the London 2012 ceremonies as “frivolous”.

Wednesday 7 December
A government-appointed panel has found that the £20 million spent on managing the UK’s forests “delivers benefits far in excess of this”; hence the planned sales of forestry was a big lump of stupid. Two poets have now pulled out of the TS Eliot prize in protest at sponsorship by Aurum Funds, an investment management fund.

Thursday 8 December
Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that full-time employees in the UK work an average of 42.7 hours week; workers in Austria and Greece work the most, another hour a week. London 2012 announce the 8,000 individuals who will carry the Olympic torch. Arts minister Ed Vaizey defers the export of Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus. In Paris the Theatre du Rond-Point is under police protection having become the target of protests from Catholics incensed by so-called “blasphemous” plays. Stewart Lancaster is named as the England rugby team’s temporary head coach. The Little Baron says that LOCOG is living “hand to mouth” in the final months before the Games. Meanwhile, the latest Sport England participation figures show a continuing decline, flushing any last elements of hope for a sporting legacy from the Games into the River Lea.

Friday 9 December
Painter Christopher Le Brun is elected the 26th president of the Royal Academy of Arts. Martin O’Neill wants Sunderland to play like Barcelona; but not yet. The wrestling world governing body has condemned British Wrestling and its policy of bringing in overseas wrestlers and securing them British passports to represent Britain in the Olympics.

Saturday 10 December
Gaby’s Deli on the Charing Cross Road in London has secured a wealth of celebrity supporters in its efforts to survive amid the encroaching national chains. The Institute for Public Policy Research reckons that free childcare would generate millions in tax revenue. Harrow School are in dispute with local residents over a public footpath. In the States it seems The Nutcracker has become the staple Christmas-time entertainment.

Sunday 11 December
Cambridge University is to put Sir Isaac Newton’s papers online, including his annotated Principia Mathematica. The big society’s logical conclusion: Westminster council is proposing to remove benefits from anyone who does not volunteer in the community; and numerous cultural bodies and organisations are urging the same council not to introduce night-time parking charges of up to £4.40 an hour. Amir Khan loses his world titles in a split-decision in Washington. Sports minister Hugh Robertson says that the National Audit Office warnings on the London 2012 budget are wide of the mark. Things continue to go badly for British Wrestling as its Olympic test event draws criticism from competitors about event organisation, the press who find that the British team is not prepared to attend a press conference and the president of the world wrestling governing body who describes British Wrestling’s plans for a wrestling legacy as “totally stupid”.

Monday 12 December
In Edinburgh it is now time for a photocall for some jet-lagged pandas. The latest event in the lamentable story of Battersea Power Station is another developer in administration. Jonny Wilkinson announces his retirement from international rugby.

Tuesday 13 December
In Switzerland they may have found evidence of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle. The UK is to lose art treasures worth £65 million because funds could not be raised to keep them in the country. Mary Portas reckons that market stalls could be a key part of regenerating the high street and laments the rapid growth of supermarkets. The parliamentary public administration select committee says that no one has any idea what the big society is all about. Could the British Olympic Association be about to snub the BBC’s sports personality ceremony in protest at the all-male shortlist?

Wednesday 14 December
The prime minister announces a £400 million initiative to assist “chaotic” families with the aim of ending “the responsibility deficit”. Roger McGough is appointed to the post of president of the Poetry Society. A group of athletes gather to deplore the media’s coverage – or lack of it – of women’s sport. The British Horseracing Authority bans 11 individuals for a total of 66 years following an inquiry into corruption. Barnet FC reckon that they are to leave Underhill at the end of the season. The Home Office concedes that its original estimate of how many security staff would be needed for the London Games was a “finger-in-the-air exercise”.

Thursday 15 December
The Ministry of Defence says that although they will be deploying a war ship in the Thames during London 2012 there will still be a party atmosphere. A Paris museum buys a Charlotte Bronte manuscript for £690,000 in London and Banksy has loaned a sculpture to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Remember the prime minister’s £400 million initiative to assist “chaotic” families? It survives less than 24 hours before someone points out the funding is to be found from existing budgets, meaning it doesn’t really exist, and that the government is expecting councils from whom it has slashed funding to contribute a further £675 million to make it work, meaning the whole thing is little more than a pre-Christmas press release. Peterlee’s Apollo Pavilion is given Grade II* listing.

Friday 16 December
The Acceptance in Lieu scheme, whereby HMRC can accept artworks in lieu of tax, will have raised almost £20 million during the 2011/12 tax year. Cycling campaigners urge the government to take measures to address the rise in the number of cyclists killed on the roads. American Vogue is to put 119 years of back issues online, charging £1,000 a year and thereby highlighting the excellent value represented by The Leisure Review. British tourists are apparently making a beeline for Denmark thanks to the Sarah Lund effect (that’s The Killing for those of you who don’t do subtitles). The government will not be sparing youth services from cuts to their budgets even though a new government strategy for teenagers is in the offing. Speaking to a gathering of Church of England clerics, the prime minister calls for a return for Christian values as a cure for almost every ill the nation faces. Eastleigh council is to buy the Rose Bowl cricket ground for £6.5 million. Christopher Hitchens dies, aged 62, in Texas.

Saturday 17 December
The Kennet, one of England’s finest chalkland rivers, is currently dry. Jonny Wilkinson has extended his contract at Toulon until 2013. Kim Jong-il, Dear Leader of North Korea, dies at the age of 69, officially of overwork; his claim to sporting greatness was secured by the 38 under par score he signed for at the end of his first round of golf, the first round played on North Korea’s first golf course, still, presumably, a world record.

Sunday 18 December
Welsh musicians are going on strike in protest at the amount of airplay given to Welsh music by BBC Radio Cymru. In Scotland gamekeepers are disgruntled at the number of deer being shot by stalkers pursuing the per-head fee during the current deer cull. Stratford-upon-Avon is apparently getting all geared up for the 2012 festival of Shakespeare that will accompany the London Olympics. There’s plenty of rich people in China these days and it seems they are all keen to spend their money on art. The latest plan for Battersea power station: a mixed-use development including a new ground for Chelsea FC. Playwright, dissident and politician Vaclav Havel dies at the age of 75.

Monday 19 December
It’s Christmas week and news of any kind is thin on the ground but the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate announce that they are to renew their sponsorship deals with BP in the face of environmental opposition [see TLR letters page]. The Commons public accounts committee reveals “specific and systematic” failures within HMRC, along with dodgy tax deals with big companies that cost the British taxpayer billions of pounds. Dominic Cooke, artistic director at the Royal Court, will step down in 2013. The legal appeal to prevent Brent council closing six libraries is defeated at the court of appeal. It is 160 years since the death of JMW Turner and the new Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate [see TLR features passim] announces an exhibition of 95 Turner drawings in 2012. Having fallen into line with the Taylor Report in 1994, the Scottish Premier League has agreed that safe standing areas can be introduced to grounds. Judy Murray is appointed Britain’s Federation Cup captain.

Tuesday 20 December
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary publishes its report on the summer riots and recommends that plastic bullets and water cannon should be considered as part of the solution in any future incidents of unrest. Freud Communications, the comms firm headed by Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, wins the competition for a £1-million-a-year contract to promote public health, although its other clients include snack and fast food firms. The former home of the National Union of Mineworkers in Sheffield, notable for its brick mural featuring the face of a miner, is to be turned into a casino. A Barbara Hepworth sculpture is stolen from Dulwich park in south London, presumably for the scrap value of its bronze rather than the its massive value as a work of art. The FA finds Luis Suarez guilty of using racist language and bans him for eight games, along with a £40,000 fine. Still with football, Huang Jungie, a Chinese referee, admits fixing matches, including a friendly involving Manchester United.

Wednesday 21 December
The Crown Prosecution Service has recommended criminal charges against John Terry over allegations of racist language against Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea’s match against QPR in October. Meanwhile Liverpool FC has not waited for the appeal process to overturn the FA’s findings, kitting out its squad with T-shirts bearing Luis Suarez’s image before its latest fixture and issuing an aggressive statement attacking the character of Patrice Evra and the FA among many other things. The new planning regulations – or rather absence of regulations – will allow supermarket companies to increase their retail space by 50%, according to some reports. An article in the British Journal of Nutrition calls for a tax on sugar-based drinks to prevent obesity. Kensington Palace [see TLR features passim] will be holding an exhibition of the dresses of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Thursday 22 December
Blacks Leisure, the outdoor clothing behemoth, is wobbling amid predictions of its imminent collapse. The Hunterian Museum is resisting suggestions that the skeleton of Charles Byrne, a man originally from County Derry who stood 7ft 7in and died in Charing Cross at the end of the 18th century, should be removed from display and buried. A proposed art sales levy to be introduced across Europe to support current artists will threaten London’s status as a world art sales centre, according to the big auction houses. Paul McGrath says that Liverpool’s support for Luis Suarez was shameful. Meanwhile the FA has appointed Heather Rabbatts, a former deputy chair of Millwall, as one of two new non-executive directors. And, even more meanwhile, Cav wins the BBC sports personality of the year award and immediately blows any chances of a career in after-dinner speaking.

Friday 23 December
Hart in Hampshire is named as the best place to live in England by a Halifax survey. Patrice Evra is being bombarded with racist abuse on Twitter.

Christmas Eve through to New Year: a quick run through
The first English sparkling wine made by a proper French champagne house will be going on sale soon. Labour reckons that the new planning (lack of) regulations will facilitate the loss of playing fields and sports grounds. Some 300 hunts take place on Boxing Day, suggesting that much of what hunt supporters said about the anti-hunting legislation has proved to be erroneous, although they still want to reverse it. The UK is now behind Brazil in the world economic output top ten; Brazil is now sixth with the UK seventh. Some disquiet regarding the number of unpaid interns employed within arts and sports organisations. Similar disgruntlement that the Olympic torch relay will not visit England’s most deprived ward, Jaywick Sands in Essex. The Little Baron says that London 2012 will not create a “siege city”, despite the troops, the warships, the surface-to-air missiles and the enabling laws allowing police to enter private property to protect the interests of Olympic sponsors. Projects to promote and support the protection of rare and endangered species are under threat from funding cuts, according to Scottish Natural Heritage. In Italy the culture minister has to deny that the Colosseum is falling down. It seems that the investment by Northern Ireland Screen is paying off with Northern Ireland experiencing a boom in film-making. It also seems that local authorities that are planning to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee will be doing so in what one might term a cost-effective manner. English Heritage is spending £500,000 on protecting the Hamperley prisoner of war camp in Durham. Former Great Britain rugby league centre Martin Gleeson is banned for three years following a failed drugs test; Hull FC has also been sanctioned for involvement in the cover-up. There are plans to require NHS personnel to question patients about their lifestyles as part of a health-improvement initiative. In Coventry a 10-metre-tall puppet of Lady Godiva is taking shape in time for the Olympics. In Sheffield the recession-inspired flight of property developers has left plenty of space for artists to thrive. The FA waits until the last day of the year to release a 115-page report on their findings on the Luis Suarez issue; Liverpool are this time taking “the necessary amount of time to read, digest and properly consider” the judgement in contrast to their initial apparent enthusiastic support of racism in sport. Andy Murray has appointed Ivan Lendl as his coach.


the world of leisure
December 2011

Sunday 4 December:
Joao Havelange resigns from the IOC before the organisation’s ethics commission reveals its findings on his involvement in decades of bribery and corruption; in true IOC fashion the case against him will now be closed.



Thursday 8 December:
The Little Baron says that LOCOG is living “hand to mouth” in the final months before the Games. Meanwhile, the latest Sport England participation figures show a continuing decline, flushing any last elements of hope for a sporting legacy from the Games into the River Lea.

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