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Theatre leaders sign open letter protesting Guardian’s decision to axe Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner. Photo: The Stage/Catherine Gerbrands Lyn Gardner. Photo: The Stage/Catherine Gerbrands
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More than 100 leading figures from across British theatre have criticised Lyn Gardner’s axeing from the Guardian, claiming the decision will have a “major, negative impact” on the wider industry.

Vicky Featherstone, David Lan, Jack Thorne and Katie Mitchell are among 118 signatories of a letter describing the termination of Gardner’s contract for reviews and features as a “significant, retrograde step”.

“Cutting the contract of the only major critic in the country who champion regional and experimental work will have a major, negative impact both on the capacity of British theatre to release new talent and on the Guardian’s ability to represent the vitality of our national culture,” the letter, written by playwright and academic Dan Rebellato, says.

Gardner’s contract includes 130 reviews per year and 28,000 words of features. She will end her 23-year association with the Guardian on June 1. Last year, the publication cut her blogs deal, under which she wrote 150 blogs annually.

Guardian ends blog deal with Lyn Gardner

In a statement issued last week, the Guardian said it had “decided to look to add some new voices to [its] arts coverage” but that its “commitment to coverage of the theatre remains absolute”.

The letter, addressed to Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, said Gardner’s dedication to her role had been a “key reason why the Guardian has remained a central newspaper for the creative community”.

“If you don’t renew her contract, you will inevitably lose the loyalty and respect of a significant part of your current readership,” it continues.

It describes Gardner as a “standard bearer” of the Guardian’s longstanding interest in bringing to attention “bold, challenging and risk-taking new work”, something the letter warns is under threat by the publication’s latest decision.

The letter’s signatories also include leaders from theatres including the Royal Exchange in Manchester, National Theatre of Scotland, the Lyceum in Edinburgh, Northern Stage in Newcastle, Theatr Clwyd and Chichester Festival Theatre. Signatories also include representatives from independent companies such as Forced Entertainment, Forest Fringe, Slung Low and Filter, and theatremakers including Chris Goode, Bryony Kimmings and Tim Crouch.

Read the letter in full here.

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