National Portrait Gallery flushes £3m down the loo, buying a former WC

The former public toilet on Charing Cross Road (Google )
The former public toilet on Charing Cross Road (Google )

£3 million for a toilet may seem steep but that’s what the National Portrait Gallery has spent buying a neighbouring former Victorian WC.

The lavatory on Charing Cross Road, right, closed in the Seventies and later became a West End ticket kiosk before falling into disuse. There may be 1,500 square feet of exhibition space in the cubicles underground. The gallery is closed for renovation and plans to reopen this summer. Work on the ex-lavatory will happen more slowly.

The £3 million was donated by Ukranian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, who gave a total of £10 million and will have a wing named after him. Blavatnik made his fortune in aluminium in the former USSR. He now owns most of Warner Group and a huge home in Kensington Palace Gardens.

Truss still a fan of the Gremlins

Gremlims (1984) (Gremlins (1984))
Gremlims (1984) (Gremlins (1984))

While PM Rishi Sunak was serving food to the homeless and recording a New Year message in No 10, his short-lived predecessor Liz Truss had a quieter festive period. She did make an appearance at her local Greenwich Picturehouse for a special screening of Eighties kids horror classic Gremlins, which included a quiz. It’s clearly a favourite: Truss once compared obstinate civil servants to the creatures from the film in a speech. We hear she bought some popcorn and water.

Myrie gets no encouragement from Humphrys

Clive Myrie (BBC/PA) (PA Media)
Clive Myrie (BBC/PA) (PA Media)

Mastermind star Clive Myrie has settled into the black chair despite a lack of help from ex-host John Humphrys. “I haven’t heard from John,” Myrie reveals, despite taking over the job a year ago. “I’m sure he means well.” Humphrys was known as a spiky BBC Today presenter, and led proceedings on Mastermind for 18 years. While Myrie is happy asking the questions on the quiz, he wouldn’t play himself. “I don’t want to display my ignorance in front of two million people” he told Saga magazine.

Khan makes Arts Council intervention

Mayor Sadiq Khan has appointed a new chair of Arts Council England’s London branch, who will be tasked with saving institutions hit by cuts last year. David Bryan CBE, who has worked with Khan before on diversity, will be in talks with The English National Opera, which fears it may have to move up north. Khan says “culture is vital to the success of our city, but the sector faces huge challenges”.

Playing pool with a cat: celebs welcome 2023

Londoner’s Diary 3rd Jan 23

Kate Beckinsale and cat Willow: Kate Beckinsale players poolwith her cat Wilow (Kate Beckinsale Instagram)
Kate Beckinsale and cat Willow: Kate Beckinsale players poolwith her cat Wilow (Kate Beckinsale Instagram)
Dua Lipa: Dua Lipa at a New Year party (Instagram/dualipa)
Dua Lipa: Dua Lipa at a New Year party (Instagram/dualipa)
Apple Martin, Moses Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow: Apple Martin, Moses Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow in Barbados (Gwyneth Paltrow Instagram)
Apple Martin, Moses Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow: Apple Martin, Moses Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow in Barbados (Gwyneth Paltrow Instagram)
Naomi Campbell with her daughter on the beach in the UAE: Naomi Campbell with her daughter on the beach in the UAE (Naomi Campbell Instagram)
Naomi Campbell with her daughter on the beach in the UAE: Naomi Campbell with her daughter on the beach in the UAE (Naomi Campbell Instagram)

Celebrities brought in 2023 in different ways. Actor Kate Beckinsale played pool with her cat Willow, saying she bought the table for her pet. Popstar Dua Lipa posed at a party in London. Like many of us, she felt it the next day, saying January 1 is always a “write-off”. Gwyneth Paltrow took a snap in Barbados with her children Apple and Moses, whose dad is Coldplay singer Chris Martin. And model Naomi Campbell and her daughter waved at the waves from the beach following a party in the UAE.