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Art Beat

Last week's column ended with a hope that the new Poet Laureate will treat children's work with as much respect as Ted Hughes did. Andrew Motion, Hughes's successor, has yet to prove himself in this regard.

Critics of the notion of a "people's poet" - a concept which seems to have thrown the Government into disarray - seem to have overlooked the fact that we had just that in Hughes. He is, of course, irreplaceable; it would be too much to expect another brilliant poet who could speak to all kinds of reader, is also a supporter of young writers, an advocate of children's creativity, a dramatist and a scholar. But the Establishment seems to have had a fit of the vapours and, rather than take an imaginative leap, appointed a "safe" bet. Let us hope Motion can win those laurels in the most important way: by setting an example as a poet and remembering where the next generation of poets is to be found - among the young.

The National Portrait Gallery is about to mount an exhibition designed to please not only the young, but those whose youth was spent in swearing eternal love for Cliff Richard or screaming their tonsils dry over The Beatles. Icons of Pop spans the decades in 50 photographs, from the chubby, smouldering 18-year-old Cliff of 1958 to a moody Robbie Williams.

The exhibition opens next Friday, June 4 and runs to September 19. A series of lectures associated with the exhibition will also be held. Details: 0171 306 0055.

The Painter's Eye is the NPG's attempt to link science and art, and is supported by the Wellcome Trust Science-Art Project. John Tchalenko filmed artist Humphrey Ocean while he made a double portrait of his observer and his assistant film-maker, Belinda Parsons. This has resulted in a bundle of odd statistics, such as that Ocean glanced 55,000 times at his subjects in 10 working days. Hand-eye co-ordination is made concrete in a model which translates pen movements into a frantic fountain of wires. This exercise may be questionable as science - can any conclusions really be drawn from the methods of one painter? - but is useful as an insight into Ocean's work.

His portrait of Tony Benn is nearby, one of many intriguing works you come across in this fascinating gallery. Seamus Heaney, painted by Peter Edwards, Stephen Fry in a lugubrious portrait by Maggi Hambling, and Auden photographed by Richard Avedon in the New York snow are all within yards. Look out especially for a fine bronze head of Richard Rogers by Eduardo Paolozzi which incorporates figures and architectural details into the face without detracting from the smiling likeness.

Half-term is upon us, and it is not too early to make plans for the summer. If you are a drama teacher who can be free before the end of term and can persuade yourself or a benefactor that you deserve a professional treat, try enrolling for a commedia dell'arte workshop in the south of France between July 4 and 11. There will be sessions on stage presence, masks, commedia characters and structuring a sketch, all explored in the spacious rehearsal room at La Maison Verte in Roujan, an hour's drive from Montpellier.

I have tested the facilities by spending a weekend learning the tango, and if my "salida" isn't spectacular my excuse is that I found the gardens and swimming pool too inviting. Full board and lodging and the week's course, including a public performance, costs pound;350. Visit La Maison Verte's website for more information: Or ring (0033) 4 67 24 88 52.

On Monday (May 31) Britain's top six youth orchestras, winners of Sainsbury's competition, will be given a platform on Classic FM. Sainsbury's Young Classics will be a two-hour broadcast from 3-5 pm, introduced by Jamie Crick.

Listen too to Classic FM for details of the Music Teacher of the Year contest, in association with the TES. The winner will be announced on June 29.

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