4th August 2000 at 01:00
Happy Birthday, Queen Mum! If you think celebrating with womble Guardsmen a couple of weeks ago was quite enough, think again. Today is the lady's actual centenary and the National Youth Orchestra will be marking their patron's special day at the Proms this evening. The Albert Hall concert will include Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks and Elgar's Cockaigne, both pieces played at Robert Mayer children's concerts to which the then Queen took the young princesses in the 1930s.

The NYO's summer course is at Wycombe Abbey until August 12 and visitors are welcome, by appointment, to see them at work. The orchestra will also take part, on August 12 in Proms Millennium Youth Day, a Millennium Festival event, supported by the Millennium Commission. Two concerts played by nine national youth music ensembles, involving nearly 1,000 young musicians from all over the UK, will include two world premi res - by Philip Wilby and Paul Hart - and conclude with a performance of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. The whole programme will be broadcast live on BBc Radio 3. Proms tickets: 020 7589 8212; NYO: 0117 960 0477 At last - some good news for arts funding to warm up this chilly summer. An extra pound;100 million will be allocated to the arts over five years with a promise of particular attention to arts in education. Perhaps All Our Futures, the inspiring report published by the National Advisory Committee for Creative and Cultural Education last year, is slowly bearing fruit in the bureaucratic domain.

There are few details so far, but 12 "creative partnerships" are to be set up in deprived areas in April 2002 to ensure that "every schoolchild living in the Partnership area gets an innovative and sustained programme of artistic and creative opportunities through working with artists, cultural organisations and the creative industries." Terrific. Let us hope this plan really does make a difference and that more areas will be added to the original 12.

There is, after all, more than one way to be "deprived". Meanwhile, for teachers too fatigued by Sats, league tables and the rest to read All Our Futures in full, the National Campaign for the Arts will be publishing a summary in September. For information on this and other activities of the NCA: 020 7333 0375 Arthur Miller, vociferous advocate for arts funding and the 20th century's most significant playwright (according to a National Theatre poll last year) was in town last week. He's so much studied in British schools that it would be a useful and pleasurable holiday exercise to catch up with two contrasting current productions and perhaps read his revealing autobiography, Timebends (MethuenMinerva). All My Sons, an early play revived at the National Theatre, about a businessman father who has caused the deaths of US war-time pilots by selling faulty engine parts, pits personal against social responsibility. Mr Peters' Connections at the Almeida theatre before a UK tour, is the 84-year-old playwright's latest work and is more dream-like, less well-structured and contemplates mortality. What keeps him working? The magic, he says, of ating all the parts himself, then getting a director, actors and audience all to collaborate in the process: "That can't be rationalised".

Both these productions are reviewed on the new TES rolling news website, Tickets: NT: 020 7452 3000, Almeida: 020 7359 4404 It may be holiday time, but for some children the thought of going back to school in September already holds terrors. These are the victims of bullying. Theatre has often provided a means of dealing with this ever-present problem and there are two more projects on the horizon. The first is a revival of Philip Ridley's immensely successful play, Sparkleshark. The original National Theatre production is to tour from October 9, beginning at Derby and taking in Edinburgh and Cardiff and many towns in England into spring 2001. Ridley himself suffered at school and his play is a funny and moving tribute to the power of storytelling as a weapon against the bullies. For information: 020 7263 9877 In an ambitious collaboration designed both to combat bullying and celebrate the languages and cultures of England and Japan, TIE Tours is working with a Japanese team to create a script. The resulting play and an associated workshop will tour both countries next year. For information send an SAE marked "bullying pack" to TIE Tours, Holloway School, Hilldrop Road, London N7 OJG.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe begins this weekend and In Touch Theatre Company from Leicester will be there with two shows. A Box Full of Journeys was commissioned by two Leicestershire primary schools to help with the "journey" and "contrast" components in the key stage 1 geography curriculum. Actordirector Trudy Harris says "the audience are swept from country to country as they become spice sellers, rainforest animals and weary travellers" and the press release goes further, challenging children to "land on the Eiffel Tower, go tobogganing in Switzerland and see the sights of America", and to travel "faster than Phileas Fogg". In Touch's other show is a comic version of Shakespeare's most famous play, Shamlet - which may require an even more vivid imagination. Venue 123, Rocket at South Bridge Resources centre, until August 10.

Sixty young people from Taiwan, New York, Berlin, the Czech Republic and Greenwich and Lewisham are working to create a new performance as part of the spirit International Youth Theatre Festival. Spirit Connected is intended to celebrate the different cultures of the young people on the large theme of their "journey through life". The Deptford Albany, August 8 and 9, 7.30pm. Tickets: 020 8692 4446.

West London is the place to be between August 26 and September 10 for people keen to see art in the making. In Richmond, 125 artists and craftspeople will open 71 of their homes and studios to be visited free under Open Studios Arthouse. See - and buy at less than gallery prices - paintings, jewellery, sculpture, ceramics, glass, textiles and photographs. For information: 020 8332 0534, or visit the "events" page of the relevant website: Heather Neill

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