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Tag Archives: National Theatre

Government must continue to invest in the arts says National Theatre boss Hytner

National Theatre boss Sir Nicholas Hytner has a message for new Culture Secretary Maria Miller and it’s one she doesn’t want to hear.

Hytner will tell her that a Government that slashes arts budgets and demands that  that organisations like the NT go cap in  hand for private funding, is a Government that is squandering the nation’s theatrical heritage.

He has pointed out that the National and other institutions like the British Museum and Tate are good at finding backers simply because they have the bedrock support of the Government in the first place.

Ms Miller, part of a Coalition that has already cut arts council budgets by 30 per cent, has incensed arts leaders by demanding that they become “better askers” and find private companies and philanthropists to stump up the readies

But the National has already seen a cut subsidy that amounts to 15 per cent in real terms over the past four years. Hytner fears that more cuts could spell the start of long-term decline.

He has a point. Imagine you’re a multi-millionaire do gooder seeking to lavish a large sum of money on a worthwhile institution. I suspect you’d be far more inclined to reach for your cheque book if a place was already endorsed by the Government with a solid cash investment.


Danny Boyle leads fight against cuts to regional theatre funding

Olympic opening ceremony masterminds Danny Boyle and Stephen Daldry are pushing prime minister David Cameron to guarantee sustained investment in the arts.Image

With government grants to the Arts Council slashed by nearly a third, they fear many regional theatres could soon be facing serious problems and in some cases even closure.

They are demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister to press their point. Oscar-winning film director Boyle says  they plan to ask for “modest but sustained investment in the arts”.

He says it was theatre that inspired the internationally acclaimed Olympic opening ceremony.  Yet the same government that lavished praise on that extraordinary achievement is continuing to cut funding for cultural organisations.

Boyle, who started his career at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and went on to direct hit movies like Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, points out that the nation’s regional theatre audiences is huge. Equal in number he claimed to those attending football matches.

The message was clear. Regional theatre is under threat like never before and it must not  be allowed to die.

His plea comes just weeks after National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner, spoke of threat to theatres outside London posed by  cuts from The Arts Council and local authorities.

Sidelining the arts in the English baccalaureate will damage Britain’s creative potential says Lloyd Webber

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber – a regular Clive Conway Productions performer –  is among leading figures from the arts who are warning that pressures on pupils to attain the English baccalaureate could destroy Britain’s creative economy. They say the Government’s decision to exclude arts subjects from the core qualification for 16-years-olds will have a devastating impact on the country’s cultural life within a generation.

Julian Lloyd Webber

Lloyd Webber, who described the decision to sideline the arts in education as “crazy and bizarre”, lent his voice to the protest highlighted in today’s Guardian. Other vocal opponents of the move  include the potter Grayson Perry, National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner, architect Lord Richard Rogers, playwright Sir David Hare and Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota.

They fear that arts subjects will become marginalised  unless their importance is recognised and they count towards the Ebacc. At present the qualification which was introduced in 2010 requires pupils to achieve GCSE grade C or above in English, maths, a language, two sciences plus either history or geography.  Music, art, drama and design subjects do not count and the take up level in those subjects is already in decline.

Despite an insistence from the Department of Education that the Ebacc does not prevent any schools from offering GCSE’s in arts subjects, the fear is that the arts will become an elitist middle class pursuits less and less readily available to state school children.

Alan Bennett and the new play that takes a pop at the National Trust

Alan Bennett and the new play that takes a pop at the National Trust

I was fascinated to hear that it is the quiet horrors we all experience while visiting National Trust properties that prompted Alan Bennett to write People, his latest play for the National Theatre.

 In an essay for the London Review of Books, Bennett  describes his irritation that paying noticeable attention to any room in a National Trust property is instantly rewarded by being set upon by a volunteer guide. We all know the feeling, don’t we. You lean forward to study a fireplace and Wham! there’s an over-helpful NT helper at your elbow giving you an in depth lecture on Jacobean carpentry.

In Bennett’s play, starring Frances de la Tour, the National Trust has hired out one of its grand country houses as the set for a porn film. Might sound unlikely but  Bennett sees the NT to be an organisation  “entirely without inhibition, ready to exploit any aspect of the property’s recent history”. It certainly seems to be happy to ally itself to some rather questionable characters. Bennett claims that a video guide at one stately home is voiced by Jeffrey Archer for instance. What on earth was the thinking there? Presumably that he sells lots of books. Mind you, is anyone going to believe a word that he says?

For Alan Bennett the NT represents a microcosmic version of our rapidly changing country. Once the solid, reliable and nurturing society so fondly remembered last weekend in Hymn, presented by Clive Conway Productions in Harrogate, but now a business machine. In his own words: “less and less…a nation and more and more just a captive market to be exploited.”

Doctor, satirist, writer, sculptor, director – so much to pack into this Miller’s Tale

After his appearance at the Belfast Festival yesterday Sir Jonathan Miller  brings his celebrated An Audience With… show to the Firstsite Arts Centre in Colchester this evening. Doctor, satirist, writer, sculptor and director of theatre, opera and film, Miller is a man of many parts.

Sir Jonathan Miller photograph by Hattie Miles

Jonathan Miller originally rose to fame in the early 1960s when he co-wrote and appeared in the groundbreaking satirical show Beyond The Fringe alongside Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett.

He went on to edit the BBC’s flagship arts programme Monitor and became associate director of the National Theatre. His career has since found him producing innovative operatic productions for, among others, the English National and Royal Opera companies.

Away from showbusiness he has continued to work in medicine and is an expert in neuropsychology.

As a television presenter he helped popularise science on the small screen. He was recently the subject of a major BBC2 Arena profile. Away from showbusiness he has continued to work in medicine and is an expert in neuropsychology

You can see this remarkable man discussing his life and work way beyond Beyond The Fringe tonight (26th October)  at the  First Site Arts Centre, Lewis Gardens, Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom, CO1 1JH www.firstsite.uk.net/page/1/Home

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A generation singing from the same hymn book

That great son of Yorkshire, Alan Bennett, is the original creative force behind Hymn – a meditative memoir, by turns funny and melancholy, in which he looks at the part that music played in his childhood. The production gently riffs on bittersweet memories of growing up, his father’s doomed attempts to teach him the violin and what hymns mean to him now.

The work, so much more than mere nostalgia, is about to be beautifully revisited in Bennett’s home county. Set to an illustrative suite by leading composer George Fenton and played by the great Medici Quartet, Hymn, will be staged at the lavish Royal Hall at the Harrogate Theatre on Saturday October 27. The Medici has even been tempted out of retirement for this show with its score that draws on musical references that include Elgar, Delius and several well-known hymns. Their performance will prefaced by Alan Bennett’s introduction voiced by National Theatre Actor Alex Jennings.

This is what Bennett, with his usual unerring observational accuracy, had to say about his generation growing up in post-war Britain. “I am one of those boys, state-educated in the Forties and Fifties, who came by the words of Hymns Ancient and Modern by singing them day in, day out in school every morning at assembly. It’s a dwindling band… you can pick us out at funerals and memorial services because we can sing the hymns without the book.”

Hymn with the Medici Quartet and Alex Jennings plays the Harrogate Theatre, Oxford Street, Harrogate, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, HG1 1QF on Saturday October 27

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