Drastic arts cuts could devastate the south-west (your views, March 2)
It is devastating to hear that both Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset councils are cutting their arts funding so drastically.
As a world heritage site, Bath is fundamentally reliant on grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The city attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. By cutting grants to showcase theatre arts, the council has shown itself to be an inadequate and poor caretaker of such a globally significant region, doubtless denying itself increased visitor revenue.
The Countries of Culture report highlighted the fact that the previous culture minister, despite false platitudes and a lot of sucking up from Covent Garden and the South Bank, had not rebuked or even discussed with his chums in Westminster town hall the withdrawal of arts funding by Westminster Council.
So what hope for Bath? Will the new minister take up this cause? Sadly, I think we all know the answer to that question.
I’m not surprised about the cuts in Bristol and Bath. I worked at the Bristol Old Vic in the 1960s and 1970s and even then the council’s grant was very mean.
Times are tough, but cutting essential funding to one of the city’s major cultural assets is poor long-term thinking.
Farewell to French’s
It’s a great shame that the Samuel French bookshop is closing (News, February 16) but it’s also a sign of the times. My French’s acting editions up on the shelf have many happy memories in their pages, of plays, places and people.
Having said that, I buy most of my books online now, partly because a lot of what I look for is theatrical stuff that is out of print.
While fully agreeing with Ray Cooney that musicals are dominating the West End (News, February 16), this also applies to theatres across the UK.
Like it or not, we have no choice but to follow our masters in this respect: Joe Public calls the shots.
Rep renaissance across the UK
I was interested to read that Manchester is to have a repertory company again (News, February 23) as well as the new one in Liverpool. I have very happy war time memories of a company at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton.
The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham has had a number of successful seasons but visiting companies from other regional theatres help make up the programme. We are to have visitors from the Coventry Belgrade, Theatre Royal Bath, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Nuffield Southampton, New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Eastbourne Theatres, the Watermill Theatre in Newbury and Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre as well as touring shows from Bill Kenwright.
There are two meanings of the word “rep”. In this article, it is short for “repertoire”: a resident company creates a number of productions and runs them in a season for a period of time. The Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theare work in this way, as do opera companies.
In contrast, “repertory” was the generic term used to describe “reps” such as the Library Theatre (where I worked in the 1970s) and Liverpool Playhouse. Bolton Octagon still works that way, as does Oldham Coliseum.
Birmingham Rep used to run repertoire seasons both in the old theatre in Station Street and, for a time, in the current one in Broad Street. The Arts Council used to give a 25% additional annual grant to cover the costs of running in repertoire.
Repertoire working is still common in the rest of Europe, where subsidies are higher than in the UK.
Quotes of the week
“There’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered – the graveyard. I say exhume those stories of people who dreamed big, who never saw those dreams to fruition. I became an artist because it’s the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
Viola Davis accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress
“I want to play a wide variety of characters on screen – African included – and I’ve been lucky to have done that a few times, but one actor getting chances isn’t enough. All we want is the same opportunities and chances as our fellow white thespian buddies. That includes a shot at lead roles.”
Actor Susan Wokoma (Nylon)
“Acting is imagination more than observation. I could have been locked in a room all my life and still been an actress.”
Actor Isabelle Huppert (Guardian)
“Dancers need more help. It’s the shortest job, the hardest job, and you have so little time to gain the most out of it. It’s ridiculous how they are treated compared with other artists. They are always at the bottom of the pile and they are taken advantage of.”
Dancer Sergei Polunin (Times)
“Man sitting near me at A Midsummer Night’s Dream informs his companion: ‘I saw the original production of this.’ Seems a bold claim.”
Critic Henry Hitchings (Twitter)
“I’m a character actress. Maybe it is more difficult for actors who’ve always played lead roles. But I will turn up and do a small part. I can duck and dive.”
Actor Imelda Staunton (Observer)
“By the time you get to our age, men are not the focus they were. You’ve seen what they’re like, they’re not this fairytale you’re sold when you’re a kid.”
Playwright April de Angelis (Times)
“The obsession with being thin, not taking up too much space and your voice getting higher when you speak to men. It still exists, it’s very pervasive.”
Actor Imogen Poots (Telegraph)
“The international focus of theatre is something I want to push further. I want it to feel like a place that is truly diverse, in terms of voices from all different parts of the world and backgrounds, crossing paths and making work together. A fertile place where you’re always negotiating and celebrating different perspectives.”
Director Ellen McDougall (Evening Standard)
What you said on Facebook and Twitter
This appears to be exploitation. I don’t think the general public is aware of the minimal wages offered in some circumstances, so I will share this article – and hope that it was a typo.
I don’t work in theatre, but have many friends who do, and I’m often astounded at how little they are paid. I have known dancers to work (and tour) for no pay at all. I’ve known a cover take on a leading role in the West End – a character that is on stage non-stop all evening – and receive only £12.50 for the evening’s work. That was barely enough to pay for her dinner, let alone travelling costs. When I asked how the producers got away with it, she replied: “Because they can.” It is disgraceful exploitation.
— Director Dan (@DirectorDan86) February 23, 2017
Some places should be kept alive regardless of the pure economic interest. It’s heritage, stupid.
I was there last month during a trip to London. I always check out what French’s has for my current studies. Such good advice. Will miss the place so much.
I didn’t actually know it existed until the news broke of its closure, which is a shame because it sounds like the kind of place I’d love.
— NT Bookshop (@NTBookshop) February 23, 2017
This is exciting. More repertory theatre returning. And in the north. https://t.co/fHhuo2jEMe
— Rachel Dale (@MissDalesDiary) February 23, 2017