West End performer Peter Karrie has resigned his title as honorary fellow at Aberystwyth University due to its alleged “cruel” and “appalling” treatment of staff at its on-site professional performance venue.
In a letter to the vice chancellor, Karrie claims that the suspension of Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s two senior members of staff by the university, which owns the venue, was heavy handed and unwarranted.
Karrie, who has previously performed in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, said: “My reason for such an out-of-character action [resignation] is to protest at what appears to be your extraordinary determination to ruin one of the finest arts centres in the country.”
“I am unable to support any regime that can treat their staff in such a cruel and appalling manner,” he added.
The performer, who has also appeared as Jean Valjean in the West End’s Les Misérables and Che Guevara in the first UK national tour of Evita, later goes on to claim that vice chancellor April McMahon has behaved “more like some kind of Army General effecting a military coup”.
Earlier this year, the centre’s director Alan Hewson and operations manager Auriel Martin were suspended, amid allegations that the university was attempting to restructure the venue.
It was claimed that the university was using health and safety reasons for the suspensions, while trying to retrieve the space – which includes a 312-seat theatre, 80-seat studio and 1,250-capacity concert hall – for academic use.
At the time, a spokesman for Aberystwyth University said it was “wholly committed” to the use of the arts centre by the public and there were no plans to reduce public access to the venue.
In response to Karrie’s resignation, the spokesman said: “The university regrets Mr Peter Karrie’s decision to resign his fellowship without having taken the opportunity to discuss his concerns with the university beforehand.”
He added: “On July 5 the university announced that [deputy director] Louise Amery had been seconded to the role of director of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre following the retirement of former director, Mr Alan Hewson.”
He said the post for a new director would be advertised widely.