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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 21 November 2008

Mark Field - ideas for the BBC
Mark’s blueprint for the Beeb

IN the wake of the Jonathan Ross/ Russell Brand row, Mark Field has piled into the BBC with his own blueprint for a remodelled Beeb.
Despite decrying the way the story turned into a political-football in Whitehall, the Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster has been unbridled – calling for a scaled-down BBC and licence fee to match.
On his website Mr Field wrote: “My view is that an overall level of below £100 is quite sufficient for an annual licence fee in the multimedia age. My recommendation is that the BBC should do far less but concentrate on what it does best.”
But less of what exactly?
Well with Mr Field at the helm, there would be no Radio 1 (“an absurd anachronism in a modern age”), no
Radio 2 (“its mission to become ‘edgy’ speaks more eloquently than I can about why it should no longer be funded by the public purse”) and a cull of all regional news operations (“which impose a stranglehold on the notion of a diverse and independent local news offering”).
Echoing more conventional criticism, Mr Field also accused the BBC of “chasing ratings”, and called for an end to “low quality, populist material” produced for lucrative overseas markets.
Perhaps quite generous given the majority of Tories (privately) think the BBC is a liberal conspiracy that stands in direct opposition to their free-market creed.

Monty Python star celebrates life of Brien

THE life of Alan Brien, ­journalist and broadcaster was celebrated by friends and relatives on Wednesday at the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden.
And they heard Monty Python star Terry Jones reveal the artistic debt owed to Alan.
Before reciting one of the author’s favourite poems – My Beloved Compares Herself to a Pint of Stout by Paul Durcan – he said playwright Sir Arnold Wesker gave Alan the credit for turning the Roundhouse, Camden Town, into an arts ­venue.
Terry Jones said Alan told Sir Arnold the Roundhouse had been bought by a ­property developer who did not know what to do with the old engine shed.
So Alan asked Sir Arnold if he could persuade him to give it to Centre 42 [Wesker’s arts group].
“It was Alan that made the Roundhouse an iconic building for the arts,” he said.
His widow Jane revealed that although Alan was struck down by a rare form of dementia called Lewy Body disease, he was always brave, stoical and cheerful, calling his hallucinations “free cinema”.
Biographer Valerie Grove, who lives in Highgate said: “We were both from the north east and people from the north east always get on with each other.
“He had such a large presence, and I have never known anyone to be able to hold a table’s ­attention like him.
“In the 1960s, my economics master insisted I read the Statesman every week and I was able to recite from memory a column he had written.”
She read the passage, which typified Alan’s wit: “I remember noting, when I first came to London, how often the names of stores in the ads sounded like the baby-talk of the Nanny Mafia in Kensington ­Gardens – ‘Don’t be so Selfridge, Master Fortnum. Eat up your Harrods, and then you can have a Gorringe. I know a child once died of the Whiteleys after too many Burberries.”
Those celebrating Alan’s life were also treated to Bloomsbury folk singer Bob Davenport singing two traditional songs from the north east and a version of William Blake’s Jerusalem.
Among the crowd was writer Paul Johnson, Observer film critic Philip French, his son, crime writer Sean French, author Deborah Moggach and illustrator and writer Posy Simmonds. They headed to the Garrick club to listen to trad jazz by Highgate’s Wally Fawkes and Ian Christie.

Hats off to pioneering GP

A COLLECTION of hats from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, which belonged to one of Britain’s first female GPs, Doreen Mary Tillotson, are going on sale at Bonhams next month.
The collection included hats by renowned designers Christian Dior, Graham Smith and Philip Somerville – one of the Queen’s appointed milliners.
Ms Tillotson’s granddaughter remembers how elegant her grandmother looked.“It was always great to have granny sitting there beside me, always looking elegant in one of her many flamboyant hats.
“I remember on many occasions being called upon to race down to Leicester city centre with one of her hats in order to provide a timely defence against the gusts of wind that had an unfortunate ability to coincide skill of with her hurried exits from the hairdressers,” she said.
Dr Tillotson attended Leeds medical school, at a time when few girls entered higher education.
In 1929, at the age of 24, she started a village practice.
Given only six months by male counterparts, it continued through the Second World War.
She was vice-president of Save the Children until her death aged 101.


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