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Editor’s View: Preston venue case shows the value of speaking up and sharing stories

The exterior of Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre The exterior of Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre
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To anyone who lived through the early 1990s, the phrase “It’s good to talk” is synonymous with an iconic BT advertising campaign. The adverts featured the late Bob Hoskins and centred around the concept of ‘reciprocated confidences’ – the idea that by sharing information we all benefit.

As a telephone company, BT used this concept to illustrate why people should have a nice long chat on the phone, but it’s a principle that can also be applied to journalism and its role in facilitating the exchange of information and ideas within a community.

In this week’s front page story, it emerges that – separately – a number of producers have all been experiencing very similar problems with the same theatre: Preston Guild Hall.

When the first of these producers, Bill Kenwright Ltd, came forward with complaints that the theatre was being slow to pass on box office receipts from its touring production of Blood Brothers, it was perfectly possible that this was an isolated incident and was reported as such. But, soon after publication, other producers came out of the woodwork with very similar complaints and it begins to look like a pattern of behaviour.

Stories like this often develop this way. For example, when The Stage runs a story about a tour collapsing or encountering problems, it is very rare that only one individual suffers – nor that the incident is isolated. But until that one person steps forward and tells their story, others are often nervous to stick their heads above the parapet, or have convinced themselves that their’s is an isolated incident.

A similar psychology prevented stories of workplace harassment from emerging before they did: victims in isolation were fearful of speaking out, and they questioned themselves rather than the perpetrators.

We live in a world in which we are now constantly asked to share our opinions of everything from restaurants to plumbers. If you want to employ an electrician, you can use Checkatrade, if you want to book a hotel room you can use TripAdvisor.

The Stage can help play a similar role in theatre: the producers coming forward to speak to us about their less-than-ideal experiences at Preston Guild Hall are helping other producers make more informed choices about whether they are prepared to take their own shows there. If they do, they know the risks and they do so forewarned and forearmed.

As Bob Hoskins said: it’s good to talk.

Alistair Smith is the editor of The Stage. Read his latest column every Thursday at thestage.co.uk/author/alistair-smith

Producers’ claims against Preston venue near £100,000

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