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Letters of the week

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Good news, for the moment

It is with mixed emotions that one hears that theatre ticket sales of £586 million are up by 11% in 2013 as compared to 2012.

This is because the backbone of the funding of the arts is from the government, and any excuse to reduce it is welcome. If the theatre is doing so well, then it can be self-supporting. But this is not the whole case. A mere appraisal of the successful shows exposes the fact that revivals are the backbone of this success.

As with the recent release of statistics showing that we are on a wave of success, one has to treat these figures with caution. Conspicuous by its absence is the breakdown of the failures.

It can only be a matter of time before the arts council is told to cut back.

And while the commercial theatre may be successful, one wonders how long it will be before the rental of the West End theatres will be increased to incoming productions to allow for the renovations. And still we do not know the whereabouts of the Restoration Levy.

Enjoy our success while we can!

Robert Breckman FCA
Email supplied


Musicians should take note

With torrential rain continuing to fall across much of the United Kingdom and uncertainty still facing the economy, with cuts continuing to be made both centrally and locally to arts funding, these are challenging times for many of us.

Despite much advocacy work being done to try to explain to government why the music sector is so important in terms of its contribution to the economy, there continues to be a range of policy initiatives that are not always music-friendly.

In music, uncertainty continues around funding for many organisations such as the music education hubs. The Ebacc league tables continue to squeeze music out of the school curriculum. So musicians are continuing to lose work and have their terms and conditions downgraded.

Against this background, never has it been more important to be a member of a professional association such as the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which can look after musicians’ rights.

In 2013, the ISM helped its members win £150,000 in compensation. Claims covered such things as unpaid fees, copyright, holiday pay and unfair dismissal.

Our dedicated in-house legal team dealt with a staggering 472 legal enquiries, with close to 1,000 calls being handled by the legal helpline.

With the growth of zero-hour contracts and the ongoing attempt by employers to reduce terms and conditions, things are only going to get more challenging.

So although the ISM was founded in 1882, I believe it has never been more relevant for the professional musician.

Deborah Annetts
Chief Executive
Incorporated Society of Musicians
London W1C


Credits in the spotlight

Reading Mark Goucher’s somewhat surprising and aggressive overreaction (Stage Talk, January 23) to my letter, I am afraid he misses my point.

The observation I made and maintain is that if someone is jointly credited on a production in The Stage 100 list, then all those key persons should be named together. I apologise if Mark Goucher is, as he claims, solely responsible for the conception of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, although Mark Rubinstein’s family has had a long history with PG Wodehouse through his late father, Hilary, handling those rights and affairs over many years. However, it does not negate the fact that both he and Mark Rubinstein are equally credited as joint lead producers of the production and therefore should have been displayed together in The Stage 100 list and both given due recognition.

If Mark Goucher had an issue with this, then such crediting on the production itself is confusing and should not have been displayed in this way. His remarks to my letter I feel only serve to reflect and reiterate further the confusion and lack of clarity that arose from this year’s Stage 100 for readers such as myself, and which I observed in my previous letter.

Mark Goucher is of course entitled to his own opinion, but I feel there is a need in the future for a clearer editorial explanation at the time of the list’s publication as to how it has been drawn together, and why, if more than one name is jointly credited on a production, only one of these has been selected for inclusion. My reference to the omission of Mark Rubinstein from the Stage 100 was also just one example of a number of significant industry names that I noted who were missing and deserved inclusion. I am sure Mark Goucher might have taken an altogether different opinion had it been his name omitted or Mark Rubinstein’s appearing instead. However, I maintain and stand by my own opinion.

Rupert Bennett-Walker
London EC2Y


Tales of Travers

What an interesting programme The Secret Life of Mary Poppins was (BBC2, December 30, 6.30pm). But it set me wondering about the perceptions we have of the stories we read, or the plays and films we watch.

The programme presenter spoke repeatedly of the “darkness” of the Mary Poppins stories. Well, certainly they weren’t pretty-pretty like the Disney film (which incidentally, I enjoyed on a different level). But, apart from the terrifying old grandfather in Bad Wednesday, I have never found a scrap of darkness in any of Travers’ tales. On the contrary, they are full of magic and laughter and joy. The presenter talked of the lonely, unloved Banks children. What nonsense, I thought. Mrs Banks is dithery but loving. Mr Banks is a little pompous, but underneath quite poetic and takes time to look at a new star in the sky with the children and delight in it.

The presenter saw the Bird Woman as a lonely, marginalised person – but I see her as a rather magical woman, possibly from the same mysterious world as Mary Poppins herself.

Strangely, the programme never mentioned that in the books Jane and Michael have baby twin siblings, John and Barbara, and later a new baby sister, Annabel. The fact of the baby twins is interesting, since PL Travers adopted a baby boy, separating him from his twin brother. Yet this was never touched on.

I would love to know if there are other PL Travers fans out there and whether they find the stories dark, as the programme did, or joyous, as I do.

If our perceptions are so different, how difficult life is for authors and playwrights trying to get their message across.

Kerris Milligan
Bury New Road

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