Letters of the week

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ENO subsidy is more than fair

Can the financial figures for English National Opera quoted in The Stage really be correct (News, January 17, page 2) – that it receives £17.08 million from Arts Council England?

In the last year, when ENO performed 115 shows, would that not amount to a subsidy of £148,521 for each performance? Or, to put it another way, since ACE’s ‘core funding’ yielded ticket sales of 188,000, would that not amount to a subsidy per ticket of £90.86?

Goodness me, couldn’t many cash-strapped, grant-reduced provincial theatres and arts centres do with some of that ridiculous profligacy?

Dudley Russell
Acorn Entertainments Ltd
Email address supplied


School campaign gathering pace

Last week was critical for the campaign Bacc for the Future to save creativity in schools, with two debates in parliament. In the House of Commons debate on January, the education select committee came out in force against the government’s English Baccalaureate qualification proposals.

Conservative MP and chair of the education select committee Graham Stuart admonished the education secretary Michael Gove for his lack of “coherence”. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg opened the commons debate by saying, “The government’s plans… will undermine our future economic position”. He continued to issue warnings about the EBacc in speeches all week.

To cap it all, a fabulous editorial in the Times Educational Supplement published on January 18 likened the EBacc to the poll tax and said the EBacc policy is “under siege”.

On behalf of Bacc for the Future, I want to say a very big thank you to those who have been backing the campaign to save creativity in schools.

Coordinated by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the campaign now has more than 42,000 petition signatories and more than 100 organisations supporting its cause, including the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Brit School and BPI.

So, if you or your organisation have not yet joined Bacc for the Future, please do so and of course sign the petition at www.baccforthefuture.com.

Deborah Annetts
Chief executive
Stratford Place
London W1


‘Lack of fringe’ whinge a bit off

We often hear comments about the lack of Off-West End venues in London.

Looking at your calendar (November 8, 2012, page 34), I note the Print Room, Catford Broadway Studios, Theatre503, Rada Studios, Landor Theatre, Southwark Playhouse, Gate Theatre, Jermyn Street and Studio 1 at the Arcola Theatre.

The previous week there was the Finborough, Blue Elephant, Studio 2 at the Arcola, the Maria at the Young Vic, Camden People’s Theatre and the Union. That’s not forgetting the Bush, Battersea Arts Centre, Hammersmith Riverside Studios, the King’s Head in Islington, Barons Court, Greenwich, Polka and many more.

Perhaps we are not so badly off as we thought we were.

Tudor Williams
Brymore Close


Do you recall the Sherry stars?

I am looking to contact old pros who may have worked on the halls with, or have known, the Sherry family.

My grandfather, Harry, was the second oldest of the Five Sherry Brothers. The four ‘Sherina Sisters’ also worked on the halls before marriage. After the war, Dan and Jim Sherry backed shows and worked together as an act, as did younger brothers Peter and Sam. They retired in the mid-1950s, before Sam’s late-life resurgence of fame.

Harry’s sons Pete and John followed them into the business as the Two Conroys, and then as the Nelson Brothers, touring the hotspots of Europe until 1959. Harold Nicholas called them “the best acrobatic dancers I’ve ever seen… after us”. They left the business in 1959.

In 1987, going to see my cousin in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Ambassadors, I had the pleasure of meeting the stage doorman, Danny Gray. He told me about working with my family 50 years before. I would love that kind of opportunity again – a memory, a story, a laugh.

I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, and my dawdling has recently caused me to lose two very old links.

Ivan Sherry
66 Allen Ave
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4M 1T4


Glover’s kind act not forgotten

Eddie Elmhirst’s regret at not writing to thank Max Bygraves for his kindness (Stage Talk, September 13, 2012, page 8) has spurred me to action. In the early 1980s I was a volunteer at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s. I saw many actors and international artists at first hand, and their treatment of those helpers like myself was illuminating – and not always to their credit. I found the very best were often the most appreciative.

One extremely cold evening, wrapped up against the chill wind, I was doing front of house duty in the draughty entrance to the Great Hall in Queen’s University. Julian Glover was playing a one-man show of Beowulf. I was still sitting at my desk during the interval when Mr Glover suddenly appeared with a warm glass of mulled wine for me. “You must be absolutely frozen,” he said, and then was gone.

I much appreciated his kindness but was astounded that he had even noticed me. Unable to thank him adequately at the time, I was too shy to write to him afterwards to express my gratitude. I will never forget his thoughtfulness.

Avril Brown
Email address supplied


Frankie lucky to be Alma’s mate

Having seen Channel 4’s  excellent Frankie Howerd – The Lost Tapes documentary [aired New Year’s Day, 7pm] I had hoped mention might have been made of Alma Cogan’s part in the resurgence of his career.

Cogan was famous within the profession for her concern for fellow performers’ careers, and Howerd himself, in his autobiography, mentions the boost he received from her when she featured him as her chief guest on her Startime – Alma Cogan Introduces show on June 27, 1962. I have this on audiotape, and at one point he thanks her for encouraging the rapturous reception he is given by the audience. That TV comeback immediately preceded Peter Cook’s decision to offer Howerd the celebrated season at the Establishment Club.

Cogan also featured Howerd and Shirley Bassey as her principal guests in the pilot episode of her projected comedy series The Secret Keepers, which never materialised. Her fans have been trying to locate that tape for 50 years. Might it have been found among the Frankie Howerd Lost Tapes?

John Cohen
North Gate
Upper Hopton
West Yorkshire