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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 26 September 2008
Felix Dennis is set to read from his new book
Felix Dennis is set to read from his new book
Homeless in My Heart finds Felix full of life

WITH an estimated £750 million fortune, some might imagine that Felix Dennis has it pretty good.
But Felix, famed for his role in one of the longest conspiracy trials at the Old Bailey as co-editor of Oz magazine in the 1971, confirmed this week that money does not buy happiness.
Living in his plush pad in Kingly Street, Soho, Felix claimed fame and fortune had left him feeling “homeless in the heart” until he found “redemption” through composing short poems, sometimes five or six a day.
“The thing about poetry is that I don’t have time to get up to no good any more,” he said.
“I literally don’t have time for crack cocaine or any of that stupid stuff I used to do. It has been a redemption in that way.
“The poems cover my whole life, from being born to nearly dying. There are love poems, and ones about animals – I like animals, they can’t argue back – to an ironic take on women’s liberation.”
Felix’s poems have drawn astonishingly high praise from such luminaries as Lord Bragg, Stephen Fry, Mick Jagger and Jon Snow.
Tom Wolfe, the best-selling American author, described him as a “21st-century Kipling”.
His latest compilation – Homeless in My Heart – will be aired next Thursday (as well as October 17) at the Shaw Theatre, Euston. All 500 seats have been booked.
“I still keep an eye on my magazines, though, which are doing well I must say,” he said. “Magazines are a good hedge in bad times. Some of the poems in this latest book are about the financial world, and greed. I think that’s something I have on the other poets. They haven’t got a clue about that world.”
Felix is also planning to plant the largest natural wood, called Forest of Dennis, somewhere in the “heart of England”.
“Entrance will be free to the public,” he said.
“All the trees are all British.
“The event at the Shaw Theatre is free, but I will be asking people to donate a fiver if they can to my forest.”
“Did I mention the free wine?” adds Felix. “It’s all from my own cellar.”

Sir Ian risks mean streets of Soho
to meet rank-and-file

HE might have famously boasted that part of London was safe enough to keep your doors unlocked, but judging by his entourage of burly bodyguards it seems for Sir Ian Blair, at least, Soho is fraught with danger.

With the spectre of the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest, and damaging accusations of racial discrimination at the upper echelons of the Met, the commissioner probably had more important things on his mind than the opening of the new Soho community safety office.
Apparently things are so bad that the only time he gets to himself is when he pops out the yard to get a sandwich. Nevertheless, Sir Ian was keen to put a brave face on things, regaling the audience of rank-and-file bobbies with tales of vice-busting in the 1970s.
In the past he has been charged with having a rather volatile memory, most famously his recollection of the Balcombe Street siege, but that didn’t seem to worry him on Friday.
As officers readied themselves to stand on ceremony for handshakes and brisk pleasantries with top brass, the commissioner’s aides were more worried about embarrassing graffiti, custard pies and importunate beggars.
With the current brouhaha surrounding Sir Ian, you might have expected him to arrive in an unmarked car.
The ribbon-cutting was a low-key affair – local press were told euphemistically that “a member of senior management” was attending – but the decision to walk all the way from West End Central through the bowels of Soho was a questionable one.

Berger night proves to be a classy affair

THE internationally acclaimed critic, artist and novelist John Berger is as cerebral as you can get.

For 50 years he has astounded the intellectual class – as well as the general reading public – with his novels, poems, art criticisms and political activism for the left.
His latest novel, From A to X –
A Story in Letters (Verso, £12.99), has been long-listed for the Booker Prize.
But while his audience listened in awe at the ICA on Tuesday evening as he unfolded his thesis that we are all “prisoners” of the world corporations, one man made it clear he didn’t agree.
After Berger had read mainly from his persuasive booklet, Meanwhile – which states that “across the planet we are living in a prison” – up piped John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, who was sitting in the second row.
He said he had come from the working class where there were plenty of “scumbags”.
He was also an ex-offender so he knew a thing or two about prisons.
But in the past few years 70 per cent of the working class had become middle class so they weren’t in a prison.
“John,” he declared “You’ve got it arse upwards!”
Berger, who does not so much give a talk as a performance, with his Gallic gestures – he has lived for the past 30 years in a French mountain village – shrugs and rolling of the eyes, looked astonished at Bird’s accusation.
Lost for words, he could only say, as far I could make out: “Don’t you understand, we are not free!”
But Bird, wearing fashionable dark shades, wasn’t convinced, and could be heard muttering to himself as he left the auditorium where every seat had been sold.

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