Theatre in Wales

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A Report Which All Will Welcome     

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It has to be admitted that, as a general rule, the Reports of House of Commons Select Committees do not make for light reading. The latest from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which was published on 23rd March and which can be downloaded from the UK Parliament Site and which we summarise this week, is no exception, but it is a little more readable than most, perhaps because of some of the more barbed comments which is makes.

Comments such as

We were dismayed that the West End did not come to the table with more detailed proposals for how the money would be handled in an appropriate, transparent and accountable manner

and

If a local village hall children’s playgroup has to go through the full process for a Lottery award, why should the renovation of large commercial theatres be treated any less rigorously?

or

(Referring to agency fees on tickets) He told us that “we have not yet discovered, as an industry, …the way not to wash that dirty linen in public.” Obviously not.

and, on the same matter, "this blatant rip-off ", or, on the matter of actors' wages

it is a scandal that one of the nation’s key cultural activities is in such a state that, at least in part, it relies on professional performers and technicians to pay such a high price by earning such low wages

and others of similar ilk help make it more than usually readable. Do we detect the caustic wit of the Committee's chair Sir Gerald Kaufman in these comments?

The theatre world at large will welcome the Report, although the commercial sector (especially West End) perhaps less than the subsidised. It does a number of very important things:
• it reaffirms the value of public subsidy of theatre, not only in financial terms but also in terms of the cultural value to the UK;
• it demands that the DCMS restore the £34m its stand-still three year funding strategy takes away from ACE;
• it urges that funding be allocated to the maintenance of theatre buildings, including those in the amateur sector;
• it emphasises the value of drama in education and of youth theatre, and demands that youth theatre be protected from cuts;
• it warns against a return to stop-start funding;
• it demands that the arts remain one of the National Lottery "good causes";
• it suggests that any public subsidy for the maintenance of theatres in the West End should come from Heritage sources and not ACE;
• it says that commercial theatres which wish for public subsidy should (a) go through the same process as any other sector applying for funding, and (b) offer something to the public in return;
• it recognises the importance of new writing and the need for it to be subsidised;
• it urges higher wages for actors and backstage staff; and
• it demands that ACE should apply success criteria more rigorously to the clients it funds.

In other words, it speaks a lot of sense! It is a Report that the whole theatre world will welcome, although perhaps the West End will not be as pleased as the public sector.
Department of Culture Media and Sport (download t  
web site
: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmcumeds/254/25403.htm#a1
Peter Lathan
e-mail:
Sunday, March 27, 2005back

 

 

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