Choice, Cuts and a Challenge

7 Comments

4.4% cut in their funding

At college this weekend one of the things I came away with was how fortunate I am with the amazing and world-class theatre I have literally on my doorstep. Hearing colleagues bemoan the state or lack of theatre in their own countries or locations within the UK was actually quite a wake up call that I should be VERY thankful for what I’m privileged to see.

Take the next three nights;
I’m off to see an experimental piece of theatre  at the Southwark Playhouse. Sunday at the Centre of the World. This is conveniently on my way home from work. This will be my first time there despite its location ( I desperately wanted to see Company there last month but could not get to it unfortunately)
Friday night I’m off to the “bastion of brilliance” that is The National Theatre to see Greenland. A new piece of collaborative writing which I’ve heard mixed reviews and thoughts on.
On Saturday I’m off to The Royal Court, one of the  most important theatre’s in the world, to see another new piece of writing, Simon Stephen’s Wastwater.

Last week I was in the West End seeing the fabulous musical Betty Blue Eyes and I’m fortunate that where I live has a thriving and vibrant amateur theatre that puts on a varied season of 9 plays a year.

I used to live just outside of Bath and likewise when there I was so fortunate to take advantage of what’s on at the Theatre Royal and it’s smaller venues the Ustinov and The Egg.

Growing up I was often at the Trinity Arts Theatre and looking back, productions I saw there certainly impacted me positively and could well account for my love of theatre now.

The Wonderful National Theatre

Life’s short and so I’m taking full advantage of my current location to make the most of seeing all this theatre. I’m also saddened that so many of my college colleagues are not in such a fortuitous position as I, especially others within the UK.

As the cuts loom large over the theatre world, I know that many venues simply won’t be able to survive, I suppose it’s the old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” and so I can only encourage you all to support your local theatres be they amateur or professional. To those that don’t have access to the quality and variety of theatre I’m so fortunate to have here in London, do consider a trip down here too, a recent family member took a week off work and spent a week in London seeing a different piece of theatre each night. While perhaps not ideal, it certainly makes sense to make a “pilgrimage”!

I wrote the above earlier on today and saved it ready to tweak and then publish, on my journey home I read THIS ARTICLE in the Evening Standard telling us what the damage is for the arts. A good response also in today’s Standard is here. Truly shocking is all I can say, cutting the Royal Court and National Theatre’s grants is nonsensical. So what did I do, other than write a blog moaning about them? Well I decided to put my money where my mouth is and become a member/friend and donate to The Royal Court, National Theatre, Cardboard Citizens and English National Ballet all of which have suffered in the art cuts. If you value the arts as much as I imagine you do if you’re reading this blog please consider supporting an arts association close to your heart – or one of the aforementioned which are of international importance.

Those of us that are spoilt for choice can’t afford to be complacent.

I’m truly thankful for all the British Theatre has given me, and trust that it continues for current and future generations despite the difficult times ahead.

English National Ballet in action

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7 thoughts on “Choice, Cuts and a Challenge

  1. I feel fortunate too but lack the funds to go and see all I’d want to, let alone donate. I have to make do with taking students up so I can get the ‘free’ ticket!!

  2. I’ve always felt that if I could afford to live in London I probably wouldn’t be able to afford to live, so although my half dozen or so trips per year can be a complete pain, I’m actually satisfied being where I am in the Midlands – though I may eventually move to Stratford.

    Watching the cuts unfold today, I wasn’t too surprised that the big boys – the NT, RSC, etc, were cut at around 15% because, bluntly, they’re better placed to attract more sponsorship. -11% seems about average for several other companies. Much as I love their programme, if not the venue, I can’t see why the Barbican has got 108% increase, though I’m pleased the Arcola has got 100% increase. But what’s the Almeida (-33%) done wrong, other than to be sited in a fashionable part of Islington? BAC (-11%) surely deserved a boost, and the Soho (-17.6%) is criminal. It’s been a while since I’ve been to ICA, but given that they have a new AD and I gather were turning themselves around, -36.8% is crazy.

    Looking closer to home, Malvern Theatres has been cut completely. Never a favourite venue of mine but the nearest venue for many touring productions, especially as Birmingham Rep is dark for 2 years as it gets redeveloped. Third Angel, an experimental company in Birmingham has been cut completely.

    More generally, I’m still in shock that Shared Experience have lost all their funding, Out of Joint are down 28% and Red Ladder down 33%. Forkbeard Fantasy and Trestle have also been completely cut.

    On the positive, I’m thrilled that Bristol’s Tobacco Factory venue and Propeller have now got funding.

    I am of course unbelievably angry that any of this has happened. Prior to the cuts, the arts cost just 17 pence per person per week. For every pound spent by ACE, VAT (prior to its rise to 20%) on West End tickets alone returned 2 pounds to the treasury. Yes, I know ACE doesn’t fund the West End, but plays transfer, writers and directors cut their teeth in smaller venues. Investing in arts returns a profit so if anyone says the money would be better spent on hospitals, schools, etc, the answer (alongside a Keynesian ramble) is that it isn’t an either/or scenario.

    Of course it’s not just ACE. Local authorities have also been cutting hard, which is also short-sighted and very damaging, but I’ve raged enough – except to say that if you live in Somerset, you have my condolences.

    There is good theatre being produced in the provinces and by touring companies, so don’t just follow Dominic’s advice and go to London; have weekends away in major provincial theatre cities – even you Londoners!

  3. I am one of the less fortunate. The lovely Ayr Civic Theatre is now a landscaped area and the Ayr Gaiety boarded up with promises to reopen still unfulfilled. We have had councillors who have told us that school halls and a large sports hall are suitable replacements for productions. I love theatre in a variety of locations but the acoustics and lack of basic lighting or even plug points has led to reduced (almost zero) events outwith that of local amateur theatre companies and a very unsuccessful professional pantomime. We are lucky to have the Glasgow theatres (e.g. The Citizens, the Tron, and the Pavilion) but these are 30+miles away and Edinburgh theatres (70+ miles)… not easy nights out when work beckons in the morning. Our local area was previously not very well served with work by tours of large/important productions but we are now in a cultural desert excluded from works which can enthuse, and improve the standards of local companies through example. Entertainment and quality of production in the local area is reduced or stagnates… less people go… councillors can claim that their decisions to close theatres were correct.

    • Calum, I wasn’t deliberately ignoring Scotland, although I’m too far south to have any emotional attachment to any theatres north of the border. My comments were just a knee-jerk reaction to the ACE cuts which took over my twitterfeed yesterday morning and had me at level 6 all day. If I look east rather than west to the Midlands, my own county of Shropshire could desperately use an organisation like the NTS. I don’t think I want to live in interesting times, but I hope some innovative solutions are found for all our sakes.

  4. Thanks all for the replies.

    I too am perplexed by some of the decisions. Especially the Barbican.

    I hadn’t had a chance to digest all the info when I wrote the blog, I’m pleased the Arcola has had its increase, especially since it’s recent move to its new site (which I must get to).

    Calum I really do feel for you. Likewise Debbie, I totally understand too.

    The lack of rhyme or reason as to how these cuts have been made is what’s worrying. How are companies to know what they need to do to get funding? The second article I linked to in yesterday’s Standard shows up some of this absurdity.

    Weekends/trips out in provincial theatre towns are also a VERY good idea Anna!

  5. Pingback: Life Ain’t No Musical – Cardboard Citizens/ACT NOW – Review « Theatre Thoughts Blog

  6. Pingback: Cardboard Citizens « Theatre Thoughts Blog

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