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Arts funding doesn’t lead to diverse audiences (your views, May 25)

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I used to work in the arts, in marketing. I now work for Waitrose. In the early 2000s, Arts Council England funded something called New Audiences. It cost £20 million over three years.

I worked on the final report for year three, when there was a focus on cultural diversity and disability. The very depressing conclusion I came to was that, contrary to received wisdom at the time, there were no “barriers to attendance” (price was always a favourite) for either disabled or culturally diverse audiences apart from one: the arts organisations themselves.

I expect it has changed a bit, but the prevailing culture was one of backslapping and self-congratulation about how “inclusive” the subsidised sector was.

In reality, they are run as a club for “people like us” (white, entitled and middle-class, who bear a striking similarity to many of my customers now). Apart from cleaners, catering and security staff, how many black, Asian and minority ethnic people are actually employed in the subsidised sector?

It is instructive to attend a concert at the O2, which isn’t in receipt of any subsidy that I know of. Yet somehow it manages to present events that appeal to the whole population of London and beyond. As in everyday life, people of all backgrounds seem to rub along perfectly happily and there don’t seem to be any barriers to attendance.

It’s funny how, when subsidy is involved, events seem to become more complicated than when it’s grubby old commercial enterprises that are quite happy to sell tickets to anyone.

Richard Whitehouse
Via thestage.co.uk

Diversity fight must expand

Regarding your recent article on diversity in drama schools (‘East 15 heads diversity league table of top drama schools’, News, May 4), the Association of Lighting Designers’ equality committee would like to add that, yes, there is a fundamental problem with diversity in theatre, but this cannot be blamed on the drama schools alone. The issue is greater than this and starts much earlier in the development of people’s careers and needs to be addressed by all practitioners in all areas of theatre.

We at the Association of Lighting Designers are committed to supporting diversity and are proactively working to find ways of making our industry more reflective of our society today. Riz Ahmed spoke in parliament recently about representation and how it is important we all feel represented in our world.

We believe diverse texts should be studied from a younger age across all educational establishments. We also wish to recognise the positive steps that the industry is already making, particularly Tamasha Theatre Company, Kali Theatre, Talawa Theatre Company and Eclipse Theatre Company, which all develop and support black, Asian and minority ethnic playwrights and theatre practitioners.

We at the ALD feel that our actions in showing positive working practices in all areas of the industry is extremely important and we have been trying to champion diversity in our area of the industry, lighting, for many years. Our belief is that we can positively improve representation through cohesive working and hope that putting our energy together is the way forward to help deliver change.

Association of Lighting Designers’ equality committee

Don’t forget David Heneker

Having seen the original production of Half a Sixpence at the Cambridge Theatre in London in 1963, I also enjoyed the revised version staged at Chichester Festival Theatre last summer – it was well structured and presented (with a new book by Julian Fellowes) and had the excellent Charlie Stemp in the lead.

However, at the time I thought there was a slight sidelining of David Heneker, who was mentioned in the CFT programme but not to a great degree. When The Stage announced that the London production will be closing on September 2, it only listed George Stiles and Anthony Drewe as the writers of the music and lyrics (‘Production news: May 4 to 10‘, May 11).

Certainly, there are about seven new songs by them and they have also successfully re-orchestrated the piece, but the majority of the music and lyrics are still taken from Heneker’s original score. I do hope he will continue to get the full recognition he deserves.

Trevor Harvey
Greenacres, Shoreham-by-Sea

Quotes of the week

Anne-Marie Duff. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
Anne-Marie Duff. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock

“I came from a very working-class background and the idea that you could make more of yourself through culture, that it could give you wings, was just phenomenal to me. And I think that’s a real issue now for our young people. I don’t think that they feel that capacity to breathe the way that I did, because it was pre all of the celebrity bullshit but also pre this weird culture of entitlement.”
Actor Anne-Marie Duff (Telegraph)

The underbelly of the play is race, hypocrisy, violence. The reason I’m doing it is that it does feel like ignorance is being empowered today. There’s a belligerent hypocrisy in the government, and sexual hypocrisy as well.”
Actor Marcia Gay Harden on performing in Sweet Bird of Youth at Chichester Festival Theatre (Guardian)

“I do therapy and I think every actor should. Because then you don’t use your work as something to put your shit in. Those characters don’t need it. What they need is for you to be generous enough to go to their shit, in the imaginary realm.
Actor Javier Bardem (Telegraph)

“Even though my 15 years as a professional actress had predominantly been in front of an audience – doing stand-up tours and theatre roles, filming my studio sitcom and various TV panel and chat shows – and I had plenty of experience in rehearsal rooms, this was full-on daunting.”
Miranda Hart on performing in Annie, her first musical (Sunday Times)

“The arts must not be seen as separate from life, they change lives and open minds. When I went to secondary school I was a rebel and if it wasn’t for a teacher spotting something in me I think that rebel would have gone to prison. But he spotted something, he got me into drama. Within six months I was appearing in the West End.”
Labour politician and former actor Michael Maurice Cashman, speaking at Equity’s Annual Representative Conference

“I’ve always been in the business to make a living and I’ve never received anything from the government. I think that all one wants to do with one’s talents is give it to the public. There are things that need supporting, but there are people who are not well off who need money far more than people in the theatre. [It should go] into the National Health Service or looking after people who need looking after.”
Writer Ray Cooney, speaking at the opening night of Love in Idleness at London’s Apollo Theatre

What you said on Facebook

About Stephen Fry’s comments that ‘understudies should be used for depression, not just physical injury’

I feel like it should generally be more acceptable to ask understudies to go on with no questions asked. A lead performance is a highly taxing job – actors should be able to take a break just like anyone in a normal job when necessary, whether due to stress, illness, injury or just need of a rest day.
Maya Witters

About the news that controversial E4 show Stage School will return for a second series

Great news. It was the trashiest piece of rubbish I’ve seen in a long time, but completely addictive TV. The fact it wound up so many acting snobs was very funny.
Andy Rosiak

I watched the first episodes. It had way too many ‘staged’ scenes, excuse the pun. I was expecting more fly-on-the-wall and once a week would have been better than every day.
Maria McDonald Searle

About the Tories promising to continue ‘strong support for the arts’

A massacre on arts funding across the regions thanks to peanut local government funding, uncertain National Lottery funding being used to patch funding, Arts Council funding slashed in the first few years of government, increased push to force arts organisations to beg for philanthropy, slashing of arts subjects in schools and Arts Councils having to absorb library funding. If that is generous, I’d hate to see the Tories when they don’t invest in the arts.
Matthew Jackson

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