The Evening Standard has ended the contracts of its two theatre critics after a combined 27 years due to “necessary cost cutting”.
Henry Hitchings Tweeted to say that he is leaving the paper after a decade, while Fiona Mountford has had her contract cut after 17 years in the role.
Hitchings confirmed that the paper will still be continuing its theatre coverage.
He told The Stage: “It’s bitterly disappointing to lose my role at the Evening Standard.
“I’ve written about theatre for the paper since 2009, I’ve worked with some great people, and I feel I’ve learned a huge amount, but I appreciate that these are challenging times for newspapers everywhere, and I’ve never assumed that my position at the Standard was something that would last forever.”
He added: “To dispense with me and Fiona Mountford simultaneously is a swingeing change, but I can confirm that the paper will continue its [theatre] coverage. As for my personal relationship with the theatre: I’ll still be going.”
I’m sad to say that after more than ten years I’m leaving my role as theatre critic for the Evening Standard, as a result of necessary cost-cutting. It’s been a pleasure to have this opportunity, and I’m certainly not about to stop going to the theatre!
— Henry Hitchings (@henryhitchings) June 4, 2019
Mountford tweeted: “I am very sorry to say that after 17 happy years as theatre critic, I will be leaving the Standard in July as a result of necessary cost-cutting. It’s been a blast.”
I am very sorry to say that after 17 happy years as theatre critic, I will be leaving the Standard in July as a result of necessary cost-cutting. It’s been a blast.
— Fiona Mountford (@FionaLondonarts) June 4, 2019
A spokesman from ESI Media, owners of the Evening Standard, said that the newspaper will be bringing more of its arts criticism in house and that it “will be announcing a new critics line up in due course.”
The statement said: “As we confirmed last month, we are reviewing the Evening Standard editorial teams and processes, working with managers to agree on the most efficient structure going forward.
“As the consultation process is still live, we can’t discuss specifics relating to individuals, but as part of this process, we can confirm that we will be bringing more of our arts criticism in house. The arts department remains a key part of the Evening Standard’s editorial agenda and we will be announcing a new critics line up in due course.”
The cuts follow news in May last year that Lyn Gardner was having her reviews and features coverage cut from the Guardian after 23 years.
Gardner said of the latest cuts on social media: “Insane thing about @EveningStandard decision to dispense with experienced arts critics is that one of the things that makes London a great city is all the theatre and arts on offer. @George_Osborne may need to cost cut but austerity of arts coverage will only damage ES.”
Insane thing about @EveningStandard decision to dispense with experienced arts critics is that one of the things that makes London a great city is all the theatre and arts on offer. @George_Osborne may need to cost cut but austerity of arts coverage will only damage ES
— lyngardner (@lyngardner) June 4, 2019
Other members of the industry said it was a “sad day” for theatre criticism, while playwright Simon Stephens said: “A theatre culture without a searching and robust critical culture atrophies. It leans towards self-congratulation. The news that the @EveningStandard is abandoning its theatre criticism, while presumably continuing its nauseating awards evening, is a real blow.
“The fact that on top of @lyngardner leaving @guardianstage we are now losing @henryhitchings and @FionaLondonarts from mainstream coverage is serious for our art form. I might not read reviews of my own plays but I know when our critics are serious-minded and these two are.”