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It’s time to shake up theatre governance (your views, November 15)

English National Opera, the Old Vic and Shakespeare's Globe have all faced board-level challenges. Photos: Andreas Praefcke (Coliseum)/John Wildgoose (Globe) English National Opera, the Old Vic and Shakespeare's Globe have all faced board-level challenges. Photos: Andreas Praefcke (Coliseum)/John Wildgoose (Globe)
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In challenging times like these, great theatre organisations need strong governance (Editor’s View, November 8).

UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre are steering this essential conversation as part of a new Cultural Governance Alliance founded by Clore Leadership – a collective of agencies, organisations and advocates working together to champion, share and promote best practice in the governance of culture.

The CGA was formally launched at Governance Now, a national conference bringing arts and culture professionals together to discuss how the UK’s cultural institutions are governed (and how boards are selected and run).

More resources will follow soon, and meanwhile the CGA is calling on all cultural organisations – including theatres – to take action and join the alliance. For more details, visit culturalgovernancealliance.org.

Cassie Chadderton
Head of UK Theatre

Too many arts organisations expect trustees to be free. This was fine in the days when boards were full of well-meaning lawyers and accountants drawing down hefty pensions. Today some of the best people are entrepreneurs and freelances, still very active in the workplace, often with portfolio careers. They need paying.

Tom Harvey
Via thestage.co.uk

Rising costs at the Factory

While the cost of the Factory in Manchester has soared by £20 million (thestage.co.uk, November 8), the Hope Mill Theatre struggles to survive as an independent venue, with no support from the local council.

Cost of Manchester’s Factory arts centre soars by £20 million

We need to look at the bigger picture and support an independent home-grown talent pool that supports the local arts community.

I fully support the Factory, but I feel the local council’s vision is blurred – it needs to consider supporting what is already on offer.

Joseph Houston
Hope Mill Theatre
Via Facebook

This is a very exciting venture, but I hope this quote is fulfilled, especially for local talent: “The Factory will provide space on an epic scale for artists to make extraordinary work and be a global meeting place, where everyone is invited to take part.”

I’m excited to see the changing look but do wonder if the money might have been better spent on current venues and smaller new ones.

Barry Evans
Via thestage.co.uk

Don’t ignore New York

To those who complain about too much coverage of New York theatre (Letters, November 8), there are only two major theatre producing cities in the world – London and New York – and for The Stage to ignore the latter would be a dereliction of duty.

As to New York theatre being too expensive, British theatre professionals can join the Theatre Development Fund (which runs the Tkts half-price ticket booths), giving access to advance online booking for discounted tickets for about 300 events, with Off-Off-Broadway shows for $9. So much rewarding theatre can be seen in New York at affordable prices.

Richard Andrews
Via thestage.co.uk

What goes up must come down

In commenting on performance starting times, West End Producer might also have mentioned curtain-down times.

When I was at English National Opera many years ago, research showed audiences were as concerned about getting home after a show as being on time for the start. People relying on National Rail said the critical factor wasn’t catching the last train, but the penultimate one at about 10.45pm, to get home at a civilised time. Shows ending after 10.30pm risked a chorus of crashing seats as audiences ran for the station.

Operas generally run longer than plays, and much has also changed since that survey – not least with the Night Tube and a better night bus network – but it’s still just as well to consider when a show comes down as when it goes up.

Don Keller
Via email

Dress Circle

I have had dealings with Dress Circle for at least 40 years and purchased all my theatre CDs there. But I’ve had great difficulty contacting the company since it moved from Covent Garden to Watford: the telephone number is never answered, letters and emails are ignored.

I have always wanted to support this long-standing company but have serious concerns about the lack of communication. Have other customers experienced the same problem?

MJ Branfield
Chandler’s Ford

ATG ticketing

Mark Cornell (Big Interview, November 8) stressed ATG’s desire to improve the customer experience. Recently I spent half an hour on the phone at 7p per minute to book seats at my local ATG theatre in Aylesbury. The theatre does not list a local number for its box office. I was assured by a recorded voice every few minutes that “my call was important” and “staff are aware that you are waiting”.

May I suggest that ATG considers giving out direct box office numbers for local theatres and stops charging customers while they wait?

And don’t get me started on ticketing fees, which added 18% to the ticket’s face value.

Peter Kettle
Via thestage.co.uk

Quotes of the week

Winsome Pinnock. Photo: Bronwen Sharp
Winsome Pinnock. Photo: Bronwen Sharp

“I think it is really important [for emerging writers] to be allowed to fail and not be written off too quickly – that they are given the opportunity to develop and mature. It’s the writer that’s interesting – what they have to say and what they represent. So when you find these writers, you’ve got to give them absolutely every opportunity to develop the ability to tell the stories that haven’t been told. ” – Playwright Winsome Pinnock (speaking at a panel celebrating 10 years of Papatango at City Hall in London)

“The West End and theatre in general still feels like something that isn’t particularly accessible to a working-class audience. It feels like a very formal thing to do, which a lot of people find intimidating – me included.” – Actor Jessica Barden (i)

“People shouldn’t put themselves in danger in an effort to make great art. Our emotional well-being is paramount to artistic life. Looking out for people is the gig – it’s what makes a good director.” – Director Blythe Stewart (Twitter)

“Especially with ballet, if we don’t open ourselves up and evolve with the times, we’re not going to be relevant and people aren’t going to be interested in coming. I understand becoming a character, and that not every time you step on stage has to be some amazing political statement, but I also think we have so much room in classical dance to grow.” – Dancer Misty Copeland (Guardian)

“So surprised to see absolutely no publicity, press or PR for last Thursday’s @HamiltonWestEnd education matinee. A vital, small step in the right direction to make the show what it’s meant to be – inspiring. But instead complete silence other than a few cast members’ social media posts. Are the show’s producers ashamed? Or trying to keep it a secret? If 1,500 kids saw it for free/cheap, I’d be shouting from the rooftops. It’s a PR dream. Unusual and unnerving.” – Director Alex Packer (Twitter)

“In theatre you get an immediate reaction. When you’re filming you’re not sure if what you’re doing is funny. It was quite a challenge finding the right level. And that was every day. Every scene.” – Actor Paul Ready on filming Motherland (Guardian)

“Some companies who have publicly promised to give #YesOrNo answers to actors are still not doing this! It just feels like there’s a real lack of respect.And that’s sad.” – Actor Jade Anouka (Twitter)


Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

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