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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 19 September 2008
Maybe West Words is bucking the trend

WESTMINSTER City Council doesn’t make newspapers but if it did it would probably be the best newspaper in the world… to borrow the hook of one of television’s less nauseating advertising campaigns.

Or so we thought, until spying a copy of West Words – the council’s staff publication, which is obviously not faring too badly in these circulation-choking times because its already on issue number 35.
You might have thought the Tory council would have marched to the beat of their spiritual leader across the river who scrapped City Hall’s paper the Londoner, branding it a “propaganda sheet”.
Staff papers are never really going to be organs of truth and objectivity, in fact most make the Murdoch press look like the embodiment of balanced reportage.
But with headline promises of Your Voice Results: Special Edition (see inset), maybe West Words is bucking the trend?
So what do the 3,000 odd staff really think of their totemic employer? Well it’s all hard-hitting stuff. A whopping 84 per cent think the council is “a strong leader in London”, while 74 per cent “enjoy the job”.
To be fair, there is some criticism, apparently “many hours are lost chasing problems with slow PCs and we could do more to help staff with their work/life balance”.
No mention though of the naturally rigorous sampling procedure or the hundreds of disgruntled staff in the community protection department who are being forced to use fingerprint scanners to clock in and out of work.
If I was chief executive Mike More, I’d be a little worried I might be developing a Messiah complex or at least angling at Jim’ll Fix It’s throne.
On the five main priorities – a decent environment for all staff, better IT services, more dynamic management, higher staff expectations and better leadership – Mr More has made a number of personalised promises. Whether it’s replacing BlackBerrys with the latest smartphones, rolling out mentoring schemes or finding new offices, it seems Mr More has all the answers.
We are eagerly awaiting the next issue to see if these promises are being delivered. Something tells me they will be.

Jim aids mayor’s charity drive

OSCAR-winning actor Jim Broadbent and television presenter Katie Derham joined the Lord Mayor of Westminster Louise Hyams to launch a fundraising drive for her chosen charity For Dementia.

Mr Broadbent, who won acclaim for his role as the husband of writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch in the film Iris, has close affiliations with the charity since his mother died from Alzheimer’s in 1995.
For Dementia was founded in 1995 to push forward admiral Nursing, piloted in Westminster, as an initiative inspired by the experiences of family carers.
Councillor Hyams said: “I would like to highlight the excellent work carried out by For Dementia as the charity is very close to my heart. From my experience of my mother’s dementia, I know that specialist nursing and good practice in dementia care can really make a difference to the quality of life for sufferers and their family carers.”

Tribune in need of unions’ help

IS the Labour Party about to lose its soul?

The left-wing weekly Tribune – which for more then 70 years has played host to Labour luminaries such as George Orwell, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot – faces closure.
It is based in a grand Victorian house in Arkwright Road, Hampstead, once the family home of the flamboyant conductor Thomas Beecham.
The giant union Unite, the magazine’s largest shareholder, has failed to follow up on investment promises made back in March.
Journalist Geoffrey Goodman,
ex-industrial reporter for the Daily Mirror, told Diary: “Basically they need a load of cash immediately, something in the region of £120,000. Tribune appears to have been let down by the unions. For it to go down now, on the eve of the Labour Party conference, would be very damaging psychologically. I don’t have a solution but perhaps some partnership can be made with the New Statesmen?”

Centre of revolution, at least for a few days

THE revolution might not be televised but it seems the stage is still a hotbed of dissent.

The Soho Theatre is calling on all wannabe firebrands, comrades and tub-thumpers to join them for their three-day mini-festival Acts of Resistance.
Their slogan is “three days of agitation, propaganda, dissent, politics, argument, debate, revolt and revolution.”
Not exactly X Factor and a Pot Noodle then. As the credit crunch strengthens its grip, perhaps the crisis of capitalism really is dawning and Soho can be the wellsprings of a new world order.
A fantasy perhaps, but nevertheless, with performances from South African, German, Belarusian and Sudanese theatre groups we can all be brothers in arms for three days at least. Highlights include Monde Wani’s acclaimed one-man show The Rivonia Trial – the story of Nelson Mandela’s trial and imprisonment on Robben Island. Mr Wani plays all the characters from Mandela himself to the president of the apartheid regime Hendrik Verwoerd.
There will also be a special workshop for actors and directors who want to learn how to make hard-hitting, issue-based theatre.
It is being hosted by the grand-sounding Derik Uya Alfred Ngubangu – the artistic director of Kwoto Cultural Centre in the Sudan.
For the finale, a panel of actors and directors from around the world will discuss the age-old variation on a theme: can theatre change anything?
Acts of Resistance
runs from September 25 to 27.
For the full programme go to www.sohotheatre.com

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