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Arts Council England sees no opposition between relevance and excellence – your views (April 18)

Simon Mellor deputy chief executive for arts and culture. Photo: Philippa Gedge Simon Mellor, deputy chief executive, arts and culture, Arts Council England. Photo: Philippa Gedge
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With reference to your article ‘Arts Council: Relevance not excellence will be new litmus test for funding’, while I’m pleased to see my speech being reported on, the headline doesn’t reflect what I said.

At the Arts Council, we see no opposition between relevance and excellence. They can and should complement each other. In the future, we believe more and more funders are going to want to invest in organisations that can demonstrate both. It will no longer be enough to produce high-quality work: you will also need to demonstrate that you are facing your communities in ways that they value.

I would also like to stress that we’ve made no decisions yet about what will be in our new strategy and what our criteria will be for future funding. We encourage readers to take part in the next stage of consultation on our new strategy which opens in June.

Simon Mellor
Deputy chief executive, arts and culture, Arts Council England

So the Arts Council is to favour relevance. Was Romeo and Juliet ‘relevant’ when it was written? Were Blithe Spirit or Follies ‘relevant’?

I have never, nor do I ever wish to, exit a theatre, saying: “Well, at least that was relevant.” I want to come out saying: “What a breathtaking, high-quality production that was.”

Steve Lee

Value of regional and local theatre

Nottingham Playhouse’s Adam Penford: Star names boost regional theatre, but that’s not the full story

Adam Penford’s closing sentiment in his column on regional theatre, struck me as a very balanced and sensible view: “We’re all striving for the same thing: ensuring regional theatres are relevant, vital and flourishing in order to endure these testing times.”

Regardless of the debates between London and local theatres, the competition between rival venues and whether or not regional theatres are a training ground for the West End, the point Penford makes is a salient one. We should be valuing and promoting the very best for our regional theatres if we wish them to survive.

As a local Midlands girl, I have fond memories of performing at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton as a child. My sister, Aimée Fisher, has since gone on to work professionally in the West End in Les Misérables and Wicked. Though we share the same passion for theatre, we have chosen very different routes. We are both grateful for the role regional theatre has played in our lives and the way it has shaped our potential career paths.

However, I am hoping to contribute to the theatre industry in a very different way from my sister. As a third-year student at the University of Warwick, I am researching the interplay between the community and regional theatres, using the Wolverhampton Grand as a case study. I am conducting two surveys for my dissertation and would be delighted if readers of The Stage could respond to them:
• What does your local/regional theatre mean to you?
• How valuable is regional theatre to theatre industry professionals?

Both surveys close on April 26.

The wider the participation and engagement, the greater the validity of my research. I am hoping my research paper will be both exciting and useful to the Wolverhampton Grand as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.

Chloë Fisher
University of Warwick

Olivier Awards’ TV coverage

The excellent ITV television coverage of the Olivier Awards was, sadly, marred by the way it dealt with the tribute to those who had died during the year.

Unfortunately, the producers concentrated on camera shots of the singer Beverley Knight and long shots of the Royal Albert Hall’s interior, rather than on what was important – the names and photographs appearing on the screen.

If Knight had been placed stage left, it would have given the cameras a clearer view, which should have been a priority for the coverage. As it was, the clarity of the images was affected by the two spotlights on the singer and it was often impossible to make out what was appearing on the screen.

It was a sad moment in what was otherwise a great evening.

Trevor Harvey

As a regular theatregoer, I always look forward to the Olivier Awards and am pleased they are getting exposure on TV. However, I do find it incomprehensible that the ceremony is given such a late-night broadcast – an earlier slot in the TV schedule would help the industry, by encouraging more people to go to see musicals, plays, ballet and opera.

I always find the memorial section, remembering and reflecting on the invaluable contribution made by those who have died, a very moving part of the event, but I felt this year’s TV coverage was extremely insensitive.

I also find it infuriating that many categories are crammed into quick acceptance speeches: all aspects of theatre, ballet and opera should be properly celebrated.

Richard Muddiman
Email address supplied

Olivier Awards 2019: the winners in full

Merry evening

In December 2015, I wrote to The Stage about the financial problems of English National Opera and the London Coliseum: “A better use of the Coliseum would be for it to become the home of operetta.”

To this end, I recently saw ENO’s The Merry Widow, a sumptuous production full of magical music, lovely costumes and delightful choreography. Richard Thomas’ witty, updated lyrics and Max Webster’s stylish direction added to a fun evening out. Let us have more!

John Beveridge
London N2

Quotes of the week

Vicky McClure. Photo: Shutterstock

“If you are really talented, but don’t have the money, you won’t find your way through, whereas this other person who can act, who has money galore, can pay their way through it. All actors are fighting the same battles, but if you are born into money it is easier.” – Actor Vicky McClure (Times)

“Ever had a meeting about an idea so bad you start to suspect it’s a cover for someone burgling your house?” – Playwright Lucy Prebble (Twitter)

“What Ian McKellen is doing for theatres around the country is extraordinary. Not only did he regale our packed house with stories, poems and charm for more than two hours last night, but he then stood at the door holding buckets for donations.” – Nuffield Southampton Theatres artistic director Sam Hodges (Twitter)

“I suppose he [Simon Callow]coaxed me out of my shell. He would shout at me about my lazy and disorganised mind, throw books… At the time I was scared to say I wanted to be an artist. I was scared of how that sounded. That it was naff or a cliché or corny – that it wasn’t realistic. He would say: ‘Be an artist.’ He came to my plays and gave me feedback, which could be incredibly near the knuckle.” – Actor Gwendoline Christie (Guardian)

“I am grateful that mine and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows are back in London this summer. All the casts and creative teams look tops. Tim Sheader’s Jesus Christ Superstar is a proven success. The Evita poster is a stunner. But, no, I shall not agree to change any words, even the naff ones.” – Lyricist Tim Rice (Twitter)

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