You could go a whole lifetime in local government (heaven forbid) and never achieve the honour of a mention in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs, so it was with great joy that back at the start of 2010 I made my debut (and not for corruption or as a result of Ugandan discussions).
In case you missed it, the opening show at the then brand new Nottingham Contemporary featured two artists, David Hockney and Frances Stark. When it snowed in January a skylight leaked a little as the snow melted. Lord Biro (of this Parish) passed this information to Private Eye as some kind of new sensation in the art world. They saw some humour in it, what with Hockney’s painting ‘The Bigger Splash’ being the star of the show and ran a story. Oh how we laughed.
Except the leak was nowhere near Hockney’s paintings, it was in the gallery showing Frances Stark’s work, none of which had titles affording any leak related humour.
With nothing better to do on the bus one morning – and forgetting what my Mum told me about not sticking a knife into the toaster when it’s switched on – I emailed the Eye to point this out, suggesting that they were stretching the facts to fit their joke, that the leak they described did not exist.
Francis Wheen came back to me (at Ian Hislop’s request, he said) and we had a little back and forth which ended when Mr Wheen check-mated me with a photo. The photo on the left. A photo the existence of which shot my goose. A photo they ran in the next issue.
Alongside a piss-take of me.
I was delighted and Eye readers came out of the woodwork and out of my past to congratulate me on this dubious honour.
Then I thought little more of it until, unexpectedly, and with the especially commissioned cartoon that tops this page …
The Rotten Boroughs Awards 2010.
DENIAL OF THE YEAR
Nottingham city council communications supremo Stephen Barker scathingly dismissed an Eye story about a leak in the roof of the city’s new multi-million pound gallery, yards away from David Hockney’s painting A Bigger Splash. Then admitted there was a leak, after the Eye produced a photo of a bucket collecting rainwater.
Private Eye. Issue 1279. 11th January 2011.