Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dan Clark: a likeable type

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July 29, 2009

Dan Clark: a likeable type

How Not to Live Your Life leapt from YouTube to the BBC. Now we ask if its star, Dan Clark, is the new Rik Mayall


It’s that least definable of qualities, isn’t it? Likeability. There are actors and performers who can blow you away technically but you don’t feel particularly attached to them in any way. Then there are the people who may be doing something a bit half-arsed and shambolic, or not quite reaching their full potential, who nonetheless make you go, “Yes, yes! There’s this thing here, this thing I am liking. This is ringing all my bells — even the one at the very top of the tower that usually goes off only in the event of longboats being sighted off the coast of Suffolk. I like this thing here. This thing is happening to me.”

Last week the new sitcom How Not to Live Your Life transferred from BBC Three to BBC Two. Written, directed by and starring Dan Clark, it centres on an emotionally retarded man-boy called Don Danberry, played by Clark. Since it opened on BBC Three, the show has picked up a week-on-week viewer increase of 10 per cent, kicked off a run on BBC Two with 1.2 million viewers, been commissioned for a third series and optioned by CBS in America.

The US networks are clearly interested because HNTLYL has a novel format, and there is nothing an American TV executive loves more than a format. Essentially, HNTLYL’s unique selling point is that it is comedy string theory: at pivotal points in the action, Dan’s life freezes momentarily and he hallucinates various possibilities of subsequent action. In the first scene of the first episode, he wakes after a one-night stand with his bitchy boss and runs through various reactions (taking pictures of her “for my collection”, running away) before finally deciding on sticking a Post-It note to her sleeping face, with the message “Thanks for the sex. It was good,” appellated with a cheerful tick.

As a show, How Not to Live Your Life is undoubtedly flawed. While the format has the clear appeal of a workable gimmick, the writing feels hurried, the performances are pitched at wildly differing levels and sometimes it just drags. But you can’t help but buy Dan Clark. He has this aforementioned likeability thing. With his narcissistic outrage, silly faces and willingness to be totally emotionally grotesque while still projecting a perverse charisma, he is reminiscent of a young Rik Mayall.

“You’re not the first person to mention this,” Clark says, rocking forward in his chair. We are in what interviewers always refer to as “a private members club” when what they really mean is “we are in the Groucho Club but a bit embarrassed about how pretentious that sounds”.

We are several whiskies into what will turn, the bill reveals the next morning, into double figures. Clark looks more, for want of a better word, “normal” in person that he does on TV, despite having, in his words, “receding hair, crooked teeth and a lazy eye”. Comparing him to Rik Mayall unsettles him a little at first, as if he is not quite sure if this will get him into “trouble”.

“As a child I 100 per cent loved Rik Mayall,” he says, warming to the theme. “I mean, him and Ade Edmondson were the real bone fide stars of their generation — in The Comic Strip Presents Rik is the only thing you look at. He’s just all over every scene. I loved him in Bottom. I LOVED HIM IN BOTTOM! You’re not allowed to say that, are you? Christ, this feels like therapy. But no one in the ‘comedy community’ ever refers to Rik because he’s not cerebral. There’s nothing to analyse. So now you still have Keith Allen and French and Saunders around, and everyone has kind of forgotten that Rik was actually the best one. He must have had an influence on me as great as my parents did.”

Clark sits back in his chair, sadly. He has the demeanour of the last remaining monk, charged with keeping some manner of Rik Mayall-based Christianity alive on the West Coast of Ireland in AD600.

It’s not as if Clark’s mission is going that badly. In recent months his time has been taken up with negotiating those management and optioning deals in America.

“I went into one meeting,” he recalls, “around this table that seats, like, literally 100 people, like in The Hudsucker Proxy. And they made me sit at the top, like I’m some kind of comedy dad. And they go, ‘Dan, what’s your dream? What kind of films do you want to make?’ And I just started giggling in this nervous British manner because I’m more used to being in Blockbusters in Kennington, being asked what films I want to rent.”

At 34, Clark has had a long, tedious and frequently disheartening route to power meetings in LA. From a “straight, working-class” background in Beckenham, Surrey — “all blokes being blokes, and birds slightly less equal, and white trainers and football” — Clark did two years at a performing arts school in Croydon before being thrown out “for not attending lessons”.

Knowing, all the same, that he wanted to be a comedian — a history teacher had given him a box of Roses on the last day of term “for making him laugh”, which obviously set up a fairly ferocious connection between comedy and reward — Clark had made it to the Edinburgh Festival with his first show by the age of 19. It was 1995 and his contemporaries were Russ Noble, The Mighty Boosh and Mitchell and Webb. At the time, however,Clark’s mistake was trying to launch himself as part of a sketch-show trio. “People just don’t book sketch-show trios,” he sighs. “There is not, we soon learnt, a comedy sketch-show trio circuit.”

Clark thought his luck had changed when the sitcom that the trio wrote, Estate Agents, was commissioned for a series on Channel 4. Alas, the next day’s reviews made it clear that, rather that this being the start of a bright future, Clark had in fact staked all his comedy chips on a bit of a dead dog. However much of an optimist you are, it is hard to cast a positive spin on quotes such as “whoever commissioned this should be taken out on a boat and shot in the head”.

There followed another nine years in the wilderness, with Clark essentially retraining as a stand-up. He has six-frame appearances on My Family and Only Fools and Horses — he is in the background of the Batman and Robin scene, which earns him “64p a year in royalties” — but “it’s quite hard explaining to the taxman that, yes, I am a performer but one of those ones who doesn’t really get paid at all”.

Towards the end of this period of autodidactic comedy retraining, Clark started posting four-minute sketches on YouTube under the title How Not to Live Your Life. BBC Three picked up on them and commissioned Clark to write, direct and star in a six-part series, on the proviso that he could turn it around very quickly. How quickly?

“I wrote the first five episodes in two and a half weeks,” Clark says, fidgeting. “I thought I was going to go mad.”

So here he sits now, with all this likeability and potential and zing. Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh describes him as “a comic Don Johnson for the new millennium. A smooth-faced charmer with a slapstick soul”. His whole future still seems oddly up in the air, not least because he is clearly the biggest thing in the show that is making his name but still looks keenly in need of a co-performer to wrestle with, someone who could match his grotesque energy and silliness beat for beat, sweaty gurn for sweaty gurn.

“Someone said that I should cast Rik Mayall as my dad or my uncle on the show. Get him out of retirement,” Clark says, sitting back in his chair. “Maybe I should. It’s not a bad idea, is it?”

How Not to Live Your Life is on BBC Two at 10pm on Mondays. Series 2 starts in September on BBC Three.

Mass march over Climsland House


Mass march over Climsland House

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Frank Clarke, right, with residents John Green and Sue Cinik, holding fallen concrete

Frank Clarke, right, with residents John Green and Sue Cinik, holding fallen concrete

TENANTS plan to organise a mass march over a lack of repairs to their properties.

Residents of Climsland House, a block of 20 flats in Duchy Street, Waterloo, say Labour-run Lambeth council’s housing firm Lambeth Living has ignored the building for too long.

Frank Clarke, acting chairman of its residents’ association, said: “This place has been neglected for about 10 years.

"The council has done nothing properly. We’ve had bad workmanship. There’s crumbling concrete falling down the stairs.

"It’s a dangerous building to live in.”

He said the block was so fragile that a neighbour who shut his door after returning home this month heard a lump of concrete crash down from the roof.

He said: “There’s bits of masonry falling from everywhere.

"The roof is like a sieve. It’s been leaking for years and got worse and lead to damp in all of our flats.”

This is not the first time that Lambeth residents are threatening direct action against their local authority landlords.

Last Tuesday, the South London Press reported how leaseholders were plotting a mass non-payment campaign over heating and hot water charges that have been increased by an average of 70 per cent.

In May, tenants marched to the town hall in protest over rent rises.

Frank is liaising with other residents’ groups in Waterloo and Kennington that are also angry and want to take a stand against the council.

He said: “We’re planning a march to the housing office.

“Enough’s enough.”

Lambeth Living said some repairs to the property had been carried out last week.

A spokeswoman said: “Officers will continue to make further safety checks because of residents’ concerns.

"All windows in the block have been renewed in the last 10 years.

"A report on the external structure is being prepared and should be completed early next month.

“If the report shows the need for urgent action, further work on the block will then be prioritised.”


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

China Walk Estate TRA coach outing to Clacton Sunday 9th August £6.50

Dear Neighbours
The China Walk Estate TRA has organised a coach outing to Clacton on Sunday 9th August and there are four places left!
The coach departs from outside the Lambeth Walk pub on the corner of Lambeth Walk and Lambeth Road at 8.45am - sharp!
We can expect to return around 8pm or soon after.
The cost is £6.50 per person and needs to be paid asap.
If you are interested, phone Daisy Moore on 020 7207 4628 as soon as possible.
Happy outing!
Best wishes

Ethelred Children's Centre Programme - Autumn 2009

Monday, 27 July 2009

Parenting TV vox pops today and tomorrow

Dear Friends,

(apologies for mass posting)

I'm a director, working on a new Channel 4 parenting series featuring Jo 'Supernanny' Frost (made by Outline Productions) and I'm doing some camera tests for parenting vox pops.

If any one fancies being filmed as a favour - it will take about 15 minutes in Kennington today and tomorrow, please let me know. This is non-broadcast, so don't be shy!

I'll ask you (and your kids if possible) about eating, sleeping, worries .... in fact any handy parent tips you think others should know...
I'm interested in all ages, backgrounds, experiences.

Please call or email me with your name and number and when you could be available today and Tuesday.

Many thanks

Chloe Thomas
07971 405 257

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Hard lessons for rising labour star

London Evening Standard


Hard lessons for rising labour star

Nicholas Cecil, Chief Political Correspondent

Eleven years ago, at the age of 17, Will Straw found himself being marched to Kennington police station by his father.

Home Secretary Jack Straw turned in his son, a pupil at Pimlico School, for allegedly selling cannabis to an undercover reporter. Will was cautioned by police and his father said he had learned a tough lesson.

Later, as president of the Oxford University Student Union, Will led a campaign against the Labour government's plans for top-up tuition fees.

After gaining a 2.1 in philosophy, politics and economics, he worked in the Treasury from 2003-07 before heading across the Atlantic.

With a Fulbright Scholarship, he gained a masters in economic policy management at Columbia University in New York before moving to Washington, where he worked for the Centre for American Progress think tank.

While in America, he remained a governor at Henry Fawcett Primary School in Kennington.

Seen as a future Labour star, he is committed to the school where pupils have about 40 first languages and a high proportion come from deprived backgrounds.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The people's history

The people's history

Tristram Hunt looks at the struggle for liberty in Britain

As the cavalry of the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry sheathed their sabres and wiped down their sweating horses, St Peter's Fields echoed to the groans of the near 700 wounded and dying. "The sun looked down through a sultry and motionless air," recalled Samuel Bamford, "over the whole field, were strewed caps, bonnets, hats, shawls, and shoes, and other parts of male and female dress; trampled torn and bloody ... All was silent save those low sounds, and the occasional snorting and pawing of steeds."

  1. A Radical History of Britain
  2. by Edward Vallance
  3. Little, Brown,
  4. £23
  1. Buy A Radical History of Britain at the Guardian bookshop

Today, in Manchester, plans are afoot to commemorate the 1819 "Peterloo massacre" of reformers and democrats with a sculpture outside the GMEX Conference Centre (to replace the existing demure blue plaque). At the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Putney, thanks to the Guardian's 2006 competition to celebrate Britain's radical heritage, a new interpretation centre now explains the significance of the 1647 Putney debates. In King's Cross, the British Library has recently hosted an exhibition by Linda Colley on the history of liberty, while Lewes in East Sussex is this year almost entirely given over to championing the life of Thomas Paine. Something is in the air when it comes to Britain's radical past, and now we have Edward Vallance's interesting primer to help guide us through.

Vallance's admirable ambition is to abandon the left's traditional predilection for narratives of glorious failure. Instead, he wants to explore how progressive movements have succeeded and does so both by examining British radicalism in its specific historical contexts and by "evaluating the enduring power of the idea of a 'radical tradition'", reinvented for each succeeding age. From the outset he is rightly alive to the tensions between English and British strands of radicalism. Nowhere more so than in the Magna Carta, "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot," in Lord Denning's words (a man well versed in the power of arbitrary authority). But as Vallance points out, this historic charter so beloved of Tony Benn was "a document forged as England stood on the brink of civil war; after a mere ten weeks, it was a political dead letter". What is more, the document which defenders of English (and then British) liberties cited from the 13th century onwards as defending legal due process and equality before the law was the 1225 version sealed by Henry III, not by wicked King John on the fields of Runnymede in 1215. And even that charter, as the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Act has most recently revealed, has never proved very effective at countering the will of princes or parliaments.

Indeed, it was King Charles I's arbitrary abrogation of power in the 1630s which first saw a sustained revival in Magna Carta studies led by the jurist Sir Edward Coke. And Vallance - as a historian of the 1688 glorious revolution - is at his sharpest in the 17th century. These chapters, following a quick canter through the peasants' revolt and Kett's rebellion, constitute the intellectual hub of the book as Vallance picks through the political thought of Britain's most philosophically fertile era. With a confident, scholarly touch, he reaffirms the significance of Leveller radicalism in the English revolution and the centripetal role of the Putney debates. In the Leveller pamphlet "Agreement of the People", he suggests, "the notion of inalienable, natural rights was, for the first time, being publicly recognised". And whether it is Lilburne, Overton or even Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers, Vallance impressively explores the vital interstices between their political and religious radicalism.

On into the 18th century and Vallance is equally interesting on the radical genesis of Paine and the political legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft. One of the great strengths of this book is a consistent and insightful treatment of female radicalism both in terms of women's involvement in radical politics and the broader battle for gender equality, concluding with suffrage.

But by the time we reach the Chartists and the 19th century, Vallance's footing is less sure. There are no clangers and the set pieces - the Tolpuddle martyrs, the Newport rising, the 1848 rally on Kennington Common - are done well enough, but with an almost total reliance upon secondary sources the book begins to take the tone of a well-trod chronicle. In contrast to his confident investigation of 17th-century political thought, no such light is shed upon Owenite, Chartist or Labour radicalism - or, indeed, counternarratives of liberal and Tory radicalism. Instead, we have a steady procession of names and events which then seeps into the 1900s with a highly perfunctory chapter covering the entire century - the Attlee administration being dispatched in a few crisp sentences. The exception to this is a highly sympathetic, even panegyric, investigation of the Pankhurst clan and their place in the struggle for the vote.

Perhaps most startling though is the parochialism of the study. Even amid the civil war (which formed part of a pan-European phenomenon), British radicalism often displayed a markedly internationalist sensibility. There is no mention of the abolitionist campaign or the anti-apartheid movement, nor British influence in the formation of the Pan-African Conference, the Indian National Congress and the broader anti-colonial agenda.

More debilitating is the tell-tale sign of academic infection. In contrast to the great radical accounts of British history by Christopher Hill and EP Thompson, there is an off-putting tendency here to luxuriate in self-conscious discussions of historiography and genealogies at the expense of the history itself. Vallance's laudable ambition was for this chronicle of "the men and women who fought for our freedoms" to inspire us to rise like Shelley's "lions after slumber" and continue the struggle. But the prose rarely matches the urgency of the subject matter, and rather than taking to the streets, one wants to retreat to the seminar room.

• Tristram Hunt's biography of Friedrich Engels is published by Penguin.

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Lost Zoo of Walworth remembered, 175 years on

The Lost Zoo of Walworth remembered, 175 years on

Published on: 21/07/2009
Ref: 5952

Man and giraffe in England

A corner of South London is this weekend celebrating the 175th anniversary of one of the least known, but perhaps most colourful, chapters in the history of the capital. In 1834 arguably the greatest attraction in the country at the time was formally opened in Walworth, in the shape of a 15 acre exotic zoo.

It housed not only elephants, rhinoceroses and leopards but also the first giraffes ever seen in the UK. As well as the zoo, the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens also hosted spectacular shows that incorporated large scale scenes of historical events, such as the eruption of Vesuvius or the Siege of Sebastopol. These were popular shows of the day using specially constructed sets and special effects such as fireworks, or burning ships which were part of naval battle re-enactments. One recreation of the city of Rome covered 5 acres.

The venue was so popular that it once drew crowds of up to eight thousand visitors a day and over 500,000 people came to see one spectacular during its first 100 days. Its music hall could hold over 12,000 people and put on concerts of up to 1000 performers.
However, by the late 1840’s the popularity of the zoo was beginning to fade, and the animals were sold off, the music hall was destroyed by a fire, and the park was finally closed in 1877.

Judy Aitken, Heritage Operations and Collections Manager at Southwark Council, said
"Walworth isn't exactly the first place that springs to mind when you mention exotic animals, but that's precisely what it was during the heyday of Surrey Gardens. This borough was once home to something that rivalled anything else in the country at the time."

Councillor Lewis Robinson, executive member for culture, leisure and sport at Southwark Council said
“It’s quite amazing to think that this part of Southwark once held some of the first wild and exotic animals to be seen in England. Not only that but it was also the site of some spectacular shows. We’ll be honouring that Victorian spirit this weekend when we put on a series of events to mark the 175th anniversary of the zoo.”

Southwark Councillor Caroline Pidgeon was instrumental in getting this piece of local history honoured in this way. She added
"It is fantastic that the whole community will be coming together this Saturday to celebrate the historic Surrey Zoological Gardens, where giraffes first roamed in England! I am delighted that through artwork and history boards in the park, the great history of this area will continue to be shared for future residents of West Walworth."

Notes for editors Where: Pasley Park, formerly Surrey Gardens, off Manor Place, London SE17
When: Saturday 25 July 2009 from 12pm to 5pm.
What: Stalls, displays, performers, tours and entertainment, all free.

Councillor Lewis Robinson, Councillor Pidgeon and Judy Aitken are available for interview.
Pictures of the animals and the zoo are available from Southwark Council.

Artifacts from the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens can be seen at the ‘Lost Southwark’ exhibition currently showing at the Cuming Museum on Walworth Road until 29th August 2009.

Surrey Gardens was developed in the 1950's and remains today as Pasley Park.

For interviews and images, please contact Darell Carey at Southwark Council Press Office on 020 7525 7307.

Girl in a blue loo do

The Sun News
Investigation ... Alison Minards

Investigation ... Alison Minards

Girl in a blue loo do

THIS is the teenager at the centre of the police orgy investigation.

Alison Minards, 19, snapped on a four-hour shopping spree, faces a quiz from senior officers over claims that a girl had sex with FOUR cops in a pub toilet at a leaving do.

She has been a civilian detention officer at Kennington nick in South London for just four months.

'Appalled' ... Sir Paul Stephenson

'Appalled' ... Sir Paul Stephenson

But Alison has been off sick since the probe was launched into the antics of around 30 drunken Met Police staff at the nearby Pineapple pub.


The Sun reported claims of how a WPC in her 20s performed a sex act on her PC lover in the packed bar.

Four colleagues then allegedly went to the loos for a sordid romp.

Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson is said to be "appalled by the disturbing incident".

Other high-ranking officials fear mobile phone footage of the free-for-all could tarnish the force.

Sniffling into a hankie on the doorstep of her parents' home in Streatham, South London, Alison initially denied she was employed by police.

She shrugged and said "not me" when the allegations were put to her, but admitted to being off with flu.

On Wednesday she drove with her mum to shop in Croydon until 7pm.

Returning to her car, she referred The Sun to Scotland Yard.

The Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards has been unable to quiz her as she is off ill.

All seven said to be involved face accusations of disrepute and may be forced to resign.

The 29-year-old officer allegedly pleasured in the pub says on a social website that he has bought a house with his girlfriend.

He adds: "All going good, driving fast police cars, chasing people and fighting people. Perfect job!!!"

Staff at The Pineapple refused to comment.

Locals claim police who drank there were "a law unto themselves".

One man said: "We had a peep through the window. It was like something out of a film."

Scotland Yard said: "Firm action will be taken if it is proved standards have not been met."

Girl police worker in orgy shame

The Sun News

Girl police worker in orgy shame

The Pineapple pub in Hercules Road just round the corner from Kennington Police Station in south London.

Fruity . . . Pineapple was leaving do scene

Previous1 of 2Next

A WPC and a girl police worker had sex with FIVE coppers during a drunken orgy at a leaving do.

First the pretty constable in her late 20s performed a sex act on her cop boyfriend in a packed bar.

Baying cops were said to have filmed it on mobiles.

Then a 19-year-old civilian took four boys in blue in their 30s to the boozer's loo for a marathon sex session.

An internal investigation has been launched into the incident at the Pineapple pub in Vauxhall, South London. All seven, who were off-duty, are accused of bringing the Metropolitan Police into disrepute.

The teenager, who appears on Facebook in a skimpy black bra, works with the officers at Kennington nick.

Sources said she had been drinking all night and readily admitted consenting to sex with the men. Gossip about the women has spread like wildfire through the force.

One envious cop joked: "Everyone wants to know if they're available for Christmas parties this year.

"People were bewildered as the WPC pleasured her boyfriend in the bar. Then the civilian went one better by taking four guys into the bogs. It was scandalous."

It is understood no complaint has been received from either woman and none of those involved is suspended.

Last night the 19-year-old refused to comment at the home she shares with her parents in South London. She said: "I'm off work ill with flu. I don't want to talk."

Scotland Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards is investigating and the Independent Police Complaints Commission has been informed.

If the matter is proved the six police officers could all be made to resign.

Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson is fuming over what he called a "disturbing incident".

A Yard spokesman said: "The Met expects officers and staff to act with the utmost professionalism and integrity."

Police denied the antics came to light because they were filmed on cops' mobiles.

  • DO you know the women involved? Call The Sun on 020 7782 4103 or email

  • First picture of teenager at centre of Scotland Yard orgy investigation

    First picture of teenager at centre of Scotland Yard orgy investigation

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 12:38 PM on 24th July 2009

    Alison Minards faces questioning over the leaving party last month

    Alison Minards faces questioning over the leaving party last month

    This is the 19-year-old teenager at the centre of a police orgy investigation.

    Alison Minards, a civilian detention officer at Kennington police station, faces questioning from senior officers over a Met leaving party in a pub last month.

    A WPC in her 20s is alleged to have performed a sex act on her PC lover in the packed bar at the Pineapple pub in Kennington.

    Another four officers in their 30s then reportedly had sex with a woman in the toilets.

    One officer said: ‘It was scandalous.’

    Sources said the women had been drinking throughout the evening and it is understood that no complaint has been received and no one has been suspended.

    Miss Minards, who has been off sick since the probe was launched, refused to comment on the matter at her parents’ home in South London.

    She said: ‘I’m off work with flu. I don’t want to talk.’

    The male officer involved in the sex act in the bar wrote on a social website that he has recently bought a house with his girlfriend.

    According to The Sun, he added: ‘All going good, driving fast police cars, chasing people and fighting people. Perfect job!!!’

    The alleged sex party took place at this Pineapple pub in London

    'Disturbing': The alleged sex party took place at this Pineapple pub in London

    The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, is said to be angry over what he called a ‘disturbing incident’.

    Some of the officers, all believed to be from the same south London police station, reportedly filmed the incident on their mobile phones.

    Scotland Yard said everyone allegedly involved was off duty at the time and confirmed an inquiry into gross misconduct, which can lead to dismissal, is now under way.

    Jack Straw's son among dozen school governors removed by Lambeth


    Jack Straw's son among dozen school governors removed by Lambeth

    Nicholas Cecil, Chief Political Correspondent

    Cabinet minister Jack Straw's son Will is one of a board of governors who have been dismissed at a London school.

    Will Straw, a former pupil at Henry Fawcett Primary School in Kennington, was one of 12 governors removed by Lambeth council. The town hall has had ongoing concerns over financial management and the standards of teaching at the school. Headteacher James Walker is also understood to have been suspended.

    Will Straw today said he had had little to do with governing the school in the past two years as he has been living in America, studying for a masters degree in New York and working for a think-tank in Washington. He returned to Britain a few months ago. He said: "It's frustrating following this sad period from 3,000 miles away."

    Children's Secretary Ed Balls had to approve the decision to replace the governors with an interim executive board. Councillor Paul McGlone, Lambeth's cabinet member for education, said: "Officers found that the standard of education was falling year on year. The governors didn't respond appropriately and we exercised our legal right to replace them."

    Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey defended Mr Walker, who had been back at the school in Bowling Green Road for just eight months after being ill. She said: "I feel that he has not been treated in a way that would generally be considered to be justified and when the governors supported him, they got rid of them."

    An Ofsted report in 2006 praised the headteacher for "good leadership" but judged the 350-pupil school's effectiveness to be only "satisfactory".

    Lambeth council could not confirm this morning whether Mr Walker had been suspended. A spokesman said: "We had major concerns regarding the governance of Henry Fawcett School. We have established an interim executive board who are taking steps to ensure pupils receive the high standard of education they deserve."

    Adam Cooper: 'Being a sex symbol is all an act, isn't it? Part of the job'

    The Independent
    July 24, 2009
    Adam Cooper: 'Being a sex symbol is all an act, isn't it? Part of the job'
    By The Big Interview by Christina Patterson
    On stage he's the sex symbol of British dance, partner of choice for Sylvie Guillem and Darcey Bussell, and star of a new West End show. But off stage he's less convincing

    This charming man: dancer, choreographer and director Adam Cooper

    In my first encounter with Adam Cooper, he's handsome, sexy and charming. "Shall we dance?" he says, and I find myself lost in a reverie, humming a happy tune that has me recast as Deborah Kerr to his Yul Brynner, spinning around in jewel-coloured silks as feisty governess to the offspring of a king. In my second encounter with Adam Cooper, I feel that a governess might be an improvement. "This is the lady from The Independent," says the PR to a pasty-faced guy in a tracksuit. The pasty-faced guy doesn't even look up.

    The first encounter, it's true, was with a poster at Kennington tube. There he was, looming out at me, as I set off in search of the draughty hall, tucked away on a South London council estate, where he's rehearsing his new show, Shall We Dance. The second encounter was in a brief break between dance pieces.

    Moments later, however, he's on the stage, whirling and twirling a gorgeous young woman to the chords of that jaunty Richard Rodgers song, clasping her to him and wrenching her, finally, into a long, lingering snog. Really quite steamy for 5.30 on a Tuesday afternoon. Really quite charming. And all at the flick of a switch. All in that micro-moment of moving from a seat to a stage. This, I guess, is what you call performance.

    "In dance you can perform," he says. "In sport you can't. I loved the expression of dance. I loved the fact that I could become something." I have asked him, a bit wildly, about sport, because the man who has finally – after talking to the set designer, and chatting to his colleagues, and having his photo taken, which involved a brief, energising glimpse of a highly toned torso – plonked himself down next to me and tucked into a biscuit, has such an air of the ordinary bloke about him that talking about sport feels almost compulsory.

    Perhaps it's because he has so often been compared with David Beckham. The pale Englishman who became a sex god, the guy with the London accent and the surprisingly soft voice. I don't know what David Beckham is like away from his Calvin Klein ads and his Hello! double-page spreads, but I can tell you what Adam Cooper is like away from his leather trousers and his tights. Boyish. Business-like. Matter-of-fact.

    So, he's doing his job, and I'm doing mine, and I've learnt the plot of his new show (guy searches for love all round the world and finally finds the right girl, who, presumably, I've just glimpsed) and the fact that it came about at the suggestion of impresario Raymond Gubbay, who had been offered the entire Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein) back catalogue for somebody to create a dance show to, and the fact that Cooper finds doing the choreography and dancing "really hard" because he's "a bit of a control freak". I've learnt that "the emotional pull of a scene" matters more to him than being "a perfectionist from a technical point of view" and I've suggested that the show, which is built up of six different styles of dance, ranging from Russian folk dance to New York jazz and Viennese waltzes must be a way of drawing together almost every aspect of his extraordinarily wide-ranging dance career and been told that "it does and it doesn't", because it has no contemporary dance in it, and no strict ballet, and no singing which he also now does.

    And so far, I'm thinking this is a guy in a track-suit with a show to sell, and it's quite hard to see in him the smouldering principal man that Sylvie Guillem requested as her partner at the Royal Ballet, and that Matthew Bourne turned, in his radical Swan Lake, into a gay poster boy, the guy who is as comfortable as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet as he is as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls or as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

    It's quite hard to see the artistic intensity that drove him to the top of one of the most challenging artforms in the world. It's quite hard, in fact, to see the passion. Which is why I end up asking him about sport. And yes, it turns out, this jack of all artistic trades and, extraordinarily, master of them, too, did indeed play sport: badminton, squash, football, cricket. "If I was ever going to be a sportsman," he says, "I wanted to be a decathlete, because I'd get to do everything. I think that's just the sort of person I am. I get bored if I'm doing one sort of dance, or one sort of project, and I like to switch and change all the time."

    This is not a standard aspiration in the ballet world. Ballet dancers, according to the conventional wisdom of a rigidly conventional world, emerge from the womb dreaming of pliƩs and arabesques, tutus and tights. They are happy to sacrifice their childhoods, and their lives, for that moment when an artistic director will anoint them as a Romeo or a Spartacus or a swan. They are happy, like the little mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, to spend their lives (metaphorically speaking) walking on knives. Some of them, like Carlos Acosta and Agnes Oaks, both of whom I've interviewed in the last few months, have been products of a Soviet-style system that bundled them off to boarding school ballet boot camps. No wonder it feels, in Cooper's words, "kind of a love-hate thing, their everything, and their biggest enemy."

    "I feel incredibly lucky," he says, "that I've managed to do what I've done and have a completely normal life, and been able to have all these other things that I can call upon as well. I think that's one of the reasons I felt like I never fitted in in the ballet word, because until I was about 16, it was all a laugh." And that, you suddenly realise, is the key to Adam Cooper, to his phenomenal versatility, his lack of airs and graces, and perhaps even, off stage (as I've just witnessed), of grace. This is the son of a teacher and a pianist in Tooting who, as a four-year-old, danced around the living room after watching Fred Astaire on telly. This is the boy who started tap and ballet at seven at the (marvellously benign and Cockney-sounding) Jean Winkler School of Dance, but who kept a bit quiet about the ballet. It's the boy who went at 11 to the Arts Educational School in Chiswick where he studied not just ballet, but modern dance, acting, singing, stage fighting and jazz.

    Cooper's parents, it's clear, lived and breathed the arts and assumed that their children would do the same. "We had music all the time," he explains. "We were either singing or playing instruments. I played the violin, recorder, drum kit. We used to sing in the choir – the church choir and a philharmonic choir. And of course we were in pantomimes, singing and dancing, and then there were plays." And this was outside school. No wonder, unlike the hot-housed Soviets, he didn't have a burning ambition to succeed in any particular area. His jazz teachers told him he should focus on jazz, the head of dance told him he should focus on contemporary and the ballet teacher told him he should go to the Royal Ballet School. In the end, he did, because, he says, "my brother had gone and I thought, well, if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me". He never expected to get into the company, so "that was a kind of bonus".

    Within four and a half years of joining the Royal Ballet, Cooper had risen to the top rank, and was performing with Sylvie Guillem and Darcey Bussell. At first, the excitement, and the sweet smell of early success, kept him going, but the lack of autonomy soon began to rankle.

    "What people don't realise about being in a ballet company," he says, "is that you have no say whatsoever about what happens in your career. I remember one tour when two of the leading male dancers were injured, so myself and another guy around my age filled in for them, and we never got any thanks for it. At the end of the tour, I was so disillusioned that I mucked around in a performance of Swan Lake and came on as a bearded goblin."

    No wonder he warmed to Matthew Bourne, whose dance company, Adventures in Motion Pictures, started in 1987, aimed to revitalise the form with a subversive marriage of the classical and the contemporary. In 1995, Bourne created a radical new version of Swan Lake and Cooper starred in it. This time, he came on not as a bearded goblin, but as a mysterious stranger in leather trousers, and a male swan. The show, which has distinct homoerotic undercurrents, became cult viewing and a set work for the A-level dance syllabus. It also featured in the film of Billy Elliot, with Billy (played by Cooper) as the adult swan. And it changed Cooper's life.

    Returning to the Royal Ballet, and forbidden time off for another tour, Cooper felt he could no longer cope with the conventions, and bossiness, of this hierarchical world. More importantly, perhaps, he had glimpsed alternative possibilities for dance.

    "Matthew seemed to be shaking up the dance world," he says, "and you can absolutely see real sexy dancing on stage." You can say that again. Cooper was already used to playing broodily sexy, dangerous figures – bastards, in fact – at the Royal Ballet. It was while playing Macmillan's Mayerling ("a drug-addled debauched prince") that he first felt a spark with fellow Royal Ballet dancer, Sarah Wildor, who is now his wife. But it was Bourne's Swan Lake that brought the dance sex god to a wider audience, and Bourne's Swan Lake that sealed his decision to leave the Royal Ballet and set up on his own.

    So did, er, being a sex symbol change the way he felt about himself? Cooper laughs. "Not at all," he says. "It's an act, isn't it? The person that people become fans of, or fancy, or fantasise about, and feel they have to write into, is not the person I am. I think I'm quite level-headed, and I think I always know that. It's just part of the job."

    And "the job", clearly, is what matters. It's getting bigger every day. Since leaving the Royal Ballet, Cooper has choreographed and starred in West End shows, including On Your Toes, and Singin' in the Rain. In September, he will star in Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale in Japan and, in November, in a new production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas in Salford. "I just want new experiences," he says firmly. "I want to do straight plays. I want to do film."

    Yes, Adam Cooper, adoring husband, doting father of a 10-month-old daughter, and dance superstar, is indeed "level-headed". He's the ordinary bloke who makes being brilliant at ballet, and dance, and choreography, and music, and singing, and business, seem ordinary too. He's brilliant, in fact, at pretty much everything. Except, perhaps, charm.

    'Shall We Dance' runs at Sadler's Wells until 30 August.

    Thursday, 23 July 2009

    Four police 'had sex with woman in pub' lavatory'


    Four police 'had sex with woman in pub' lavatory'

    Mark Blunden

    Six police officers and a civilian police station worker are facing the sack over an alleged drunken orgy at a south London pub.

    An investigation is being held over claims that two women, a WPc and a19-year-old civilian, had sex with between one and five male Lambeth officers at a leaving party.

    Scotland Yard said everyone allegedly involved was off duty at the time and confirmed an inquiry into gross misconduct, which can lead to dismissal in serious cases, is under way.

    The sex party is said to have taken place last month at the Pineapple pub in Kennington, near Waterloo station. Some of the officers, believed to be from Kennington police station, reportedly filmed the incident on mobile phones.

    It allegedly began when the WPc, who is in her late twenties, performed a sex act on her boyfriend in the packed bar area. Four other officers in their thirties are reported to have had sex with the civilian in the pub lavatory.

    Sources said the woman had been drinking through the evening and apparently consented. It is understood no complaint from either woman has been received and no one has been suspended.

    The civilian worker last night refused to comment about the allegations at her parents' home in south London.

    She said: "I'm off work with flu. I don't want to talk."

    The Pineapple pub did not return requests for a comment.

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson is said to be angry over what he called a "disturbing incident".

    A Met spokesman said: "Officers from our Directorate of Professional Standards are investigating an allegation of gross misconduct involving several officers and staff from Lambeth borough."

    He would not say how the alleged incident came to their attention.

    Friday, 17 July 2009

    Cameron shows his soccer skills but how does he shape up against the other premier stars Obama, Blair and Brown?

    Cameron shows his soccer skills but how does he shape up against the other premier stars Obama, Blair and Brown?

    By Sara Nelson
    Last updated at 7:58 AM on 15th July 2009

    When they’re not commanding countries or heading up the opposition, these political leaders like nothing more than a kick-about with the boys.

    Tory leader David Cameron donned his shorts today to race across the turf with youngsters at the London Active Communities Urban Stars project in Kennington.

    And last night U.S. President Barack Obama leapt at the opportunity to show off his skills as he headed a ball at the Oval Office after hosting the MLS Columbus Crew soccer team.

    Conservative party leader David Cameron
    Conservative party leader David Cameron

    Ball skills: David Cameron gets competitive in Kennington today

    U.S. President Barack Obama

    Showing off: President Barack Obama heads the ball as he hosts a vist by the MLS Columbus Crew soccer team last night

    President Barack Obama tosses a soccer ball as he poses for a picture with members of the Columbus Crew soccer team

    Keeping hold of the ball: President Obama tosses the ball in the air as he poses for pictures

    While Obama and Cameron seemed at ease with the sport, the same could not be said for Gordon Brown or the former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    The Labour leaders have looked awkward and out-of-breath as they tried to prove their sporting prowess in the past.

    Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was pictured inappropriately suited-up on the pitch at the Mile End Stadium in east London in 2005.

    In the same year, Tony Blair managed to take off his jacket, yet still failed to impress with his dribbling skills at a training session at the Yue Tan Stadium in Beijing, China.

    Tony Blair
    Gordon Brown

    Cameron shows off football skills

    Cameron shows off football skills

    Conservative leader David Cameron showed off his football skills during an impromptu kick-about at a sports project in south London.

    David Cameron playing football at Lilian Baylis Old School, Kennington, south London
    Mr Cameron was supporting a project to tackle youth crime through sport

    Mr Cameron was visiting the London Active Communities Urban Stars scheme in Kennington.

    He was joined by celebrity athletes including ex-world number one tennis player Boris Becker and Olympic gold medalist Daley Thompson.

    Later, sports stars delivered a report on tackling violence to Downing Street.

    Mr Cameron said he was "delighted" to take part in a project and said it was important to give young people a positive outlet for their energies.

    He added: "Sport - especially team sport - offers exactly that, so we have to do whatever we can to make sure sport is more accessible to them."

    The display of football prowess was a first for Mr Cameron - better known as a keen cyclist and tennis player.

    However, he was not the first front-line politician to show off his soccer technique to the cameras.

    As chancellor in 2005, Raith Rovers supporter Gordon Brown was pictured with a ball at his feet while declaring he would back any Football Association bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

    The soon-to-be prime minister Tony Blair also took part in a memorable ball-heading session in 1995 with the then Newcastle - and future England - manager Kevin Keegan.

    Moscow Olympics decathlon champion Daley Thompson - who had completed a seven-day cycle ride from Manchester - led a delegation including Mr Becker, golfer Gary Player and Argentine rugby player Hugo Porta to No 10.

    They handed over the Breaking the Cycle of Violence report, commissioned by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which calls for investment in sport to tackle youth crime, anti-social behaviour and gang violence.

    The report was received by Richard Taylor, the father of murdered teenager Damilola Taylor who is also the prime minister's special envoy on knife crime.

    Daley Thompson said the Conservative leader was able to see for himself how sport can make a positive impact.

    He added: "Our report shows how sports initiatives can be designed to meet the challenge of urban youth violence and I was delighted that I had the chance to explain this to him."

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2009/07/15 08:25:13 GMT

    © BBC MMIX

    Vauxhall City Farm: Visitor Packages

    Thursday, 16 July 2009

    Summer holiday & other youth programmes: Capoeira Scene

    Dear Parents and Young People,

    We are delighted to bring to you 2 new youth programmes. We hope you will be able to attend at least one of these and BRING A FRIEND TOO IF POSSIBLE:

    1. Capoeira Scene (Kennington) 7-11 year olds & 12-16 year olds. £1 per session
    A capoeira martial arts programme which includes self defence, music, dance and culture will run for at least one year.

    Starts Monday 20th July 2009.

    2. The Capoeira Film Project: (West Norwood) 11-16 year olds. £1 per session
    A mix of capoeira martial arts, drama and film-making. We will make a short film which will be shown to the community. Click here to find out more about the capoeira film project (part of Lambeth Summer university) and enrol on this course.

    If interested in this project, please note these dates as the link contains mistakes:
    10am - 3pm Every Thursday and Friday for 4 weeks
    30th & 31st July, then 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21st Aug 2009
    27th Aug: Group trip to Thorpe Park
    3rd Sept: Film showing at awards celebration event

    We hope to see you this summer and beyond. Please contact me with any queries.

    Pass this message around please.

    Best wishes

    Albert Izibili
    Service Coordinator
    Youth Scene

    T: 07984 878 981