Miriam Margolyes has cuts to arts funding on her mind. The actor, who has appeared in everything from Blackadder to Harry Potter is currently starring in Me and My Girl at Sheffield's Crucible. "I think about that a lot," she said recently. "The answer is to never let up – to keep insisting that the arts are not peripheral, but absolutely central to the economic and spiritual life of the nation. Protests are essential: the squeaky wheel gets the oil."
Giles Kristian is not the obvious choice as author of a series of historical novels set in ninth century Viking Britain. Back in the early 1990s, Kristian became the lead singer of boyband Upside Down and, when his 15 minutes of fame ended, he became a model. However, having signed a deal with Transworld, he's proof you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. His third novel Raven: Odin's Wolves is just about to be published and having had a spell at producing music for a movie marketing company, he's hoping to lend a little big screen glamour to the launch. From January 28 to 30, Kristian will be filming a trailer to the book at Murton Park in York. Shot in a replica longhouse, amongst furs, ale horns and a roaring hearth, Kristian hopes the film will persuade even the most reluctant of readers to pick up a copy.
East is East was one of the surprise hits of 1999. The low-budget comedy of a Salford fish and chip shop owner and his family scooped a host of awards and now the long-awaited sequel, West is West, is about to be released. Fans of the original will be able to get an exclusive sneak preview of the film, which sees George Khan take his teenage son Sajid on a nostalgic journey back to Pakistan at the National Media Museum prior to its nationwide release on February 25. The film, which will be introduced by Bradford actor Aqib Khan, who plays Sajid, will be shown on January 15 and while tickets have sold out, the museum has a reserve list in case of cancellations. For more details call 0844 856 3797.
We may have to wait another 12 months before watching the Christmas classic The Wizard of Oz again, but the for those who need a fix of the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion a little sooner, West Yorkshire Playhouse may be able to help. The Leeds theatre is producing a brand new version of The Wiz, the modern adaptation of L Frank Baum's original this summer and is looking for cast members. Open auditions will take place on January 29 and the team are particularly looking for singers, dancers, jugglers and those who can play a musical instrument. Those taking part in the production, which will run from June 24 to July 16 must be 16-years-old or older, and to book an audition slot call 0113 213 7700.
They say first impressions last and Paul Iles, who taken over as chairman of Northern Broadsides, has no trouble remembering when he first saw the company's artistic director Barrie Rutter on stage. It was on a school trip to a National Youth Theatre production of Henry IV Part One and Iles admits he was "stage struck" even then.