Diary: Prunella Scales going out fighting - with ads versus arts broadside

Dotty may have given the gimlet eye to her last Tesco receipt but the eccentric scourge of supermarkets made sure she will not head for the nursing home without having recorded a few tart observations.

Prunella Scales, one of luvvieland's leading ladies, doesn't bitch about one of television advertising's most successful campaigns. Only that the money lavished on it bears little comparison to that spent on the arts.

After 70 commercials stetching over ten years, Scales has clearly found that, when it comes to adding to her bank balance, every little helps.

"I'm personally grateful to advertising," she confesses. "It helps fund the other work I do, especially in the theatre."

As for the Tesco scripts: "They are extremely good, very well written." But ... "Their perfectionism worries me sometimes," she frets in Samples of One, a newly published book on the grey market by the Millennium agency.

"I remember one of the early commercials - we were filming in a store until about 1am. The director had had 26 takes on the last shot. I said something to the producer about the cost to the client. She said: 'Of course, you're used to broadcast drama aren't you, darling? Don't worry, we can afford it.'

"I think it's almost obscene that on something like Jane Austen, you'd be lucky if they could afford six takes to get it perfect."

So who must take the blame for so much government cheese-paring when it comes to investment in the arts?

Scales, a lifelong socialist, has no doubts that Margaret Thatcher is the culprit: "I could argue that she did more to the fabric of life in this country than anyone since Adolf Hitler."

Blimey! Anybody saying such a thing in Dotty's hearing might have expected a bagful of groceries around the cranium.

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