Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. I think Ruby Wax first appeared as a puffball in Midsummer Night's Dream.
  (Ms Cusack) She did. I was with her.

  21. One other thing about this ensemble issue. As I understand it, over the last ten years anyway, part of the attraction which has remained of working for the RSC is knowing that you will come to London because Stratford perpetuates all the problems, even more so. I am just worried about not having a home. The Roundhouse was briefly a home in 1970 something when Peter Brook did a couple of productions there and Glenda Jackson fell through the roof and then the Aldwych for a substantial period of time. I just wondered, having lost the Barbican and not having a London home, whether in the industry that is going to be a problem for you?
  (Ms Cusack) I think traditionally actors, we are rogues and vagabonds, the caravan notion of theatre is part of our heritage. I think it revitalises it. If we are preparing productions incessantly for the same space, I think it tends to deaden, maybe. I am immensely proud of the work and the achievements that have happened at Stratford and in London, immensely proud, but I think very often they have happened in spite of the building at Stratford, that we have achieved excellence in spite of that. I think the idea of different venues for different sorts of plays, you know Shakespeare is not one homogeneous type of play. There are all sorts of different plays which would suit different spaces and I think that is what we should be about, reinvention. I do not think we are throwing out the baby, I think we are just cleaning up the bathwater.

Michael Fabricant

  22. I have received a number of complaints from constituents about how inaccessible John Lewis in Solihull is from Lichfield, so I can well understand Debra Shipley's remarks about the inaccessibility of Stratford-Upon-Avon. I am looking forward to receiving complaints about how inaccessible Stratford-Upon-Avon is as opposed to John Lewis. The point is I think there has to be the centre at Stratford-Upon-Avon for all the reasons that you said in your presentation to us earlier. Also I find myself agreeing with Christopher Bryant regarding the state of the building and the look of the existing building because it is a listed building and I find it has all the attractions of Battersea Power Station which, of course, is also a listed building, which to me is somewhat extraordinary. What I am concerned about is whether or not you will be able to build the sort of building that you really want or whether you are going to have to make a further compromise. You spoke in your earlier presentation about having to possibly keep the foyer of the building and I think one of the wings at the rear which would constrain the shape. I wonder if you could say a few more words about the practicality or whether it would be possible to have a complete demolition and rebuild afresh, which is what you would like to see, and personally something I would like to see as well, or whether you are going to end up with a hotch potch compromise in trying to maintain some of the existing buildings in the scheme?
  (Mr Pope) I am very glad you have asked that question because it is absolutely at the heart of what we are dealing with obviously. I think it is important to underline the fact that this is not just the RSC's decision as to what we want to do, there are of course layers upon layers of statutory process to be gone through. In addition to that, there is a lot of consensus building that needs to be done behind whatever we decide to do. We are determined not to end up with a compromise. You are absolutely right to set the standard very high, we are doing the same thing, architecturally, functionally, in terms of the planning lay out of the building and so on and so forth. This is our opportunity to create for the nation and for the local community and for all those communities we hope will visit us, the right circumstances. It is critical, and something we have not really touched upon today, which we can perhaps come to, there has been a lot of talk and a lot of sort of slagging off, if I can put it that way, of this concept of the theatre village. It is very inaccurately made, the kind of criticism that has been made. This is about opening up the opportunity and spending a lot more hours in Stratford engaging with the creative heart and the creative energy in the RSC. The buildings need to be able to do that which they cannot do at the moment and they need to be able to do that in the future. We can perhaps come back to that theme. So, what we have been doing very carefully over the last two or three years, and particularly intensively over the past 12 months in the feasability study, is discussing with English Heritage, with the Twentieth Century Society, with the Stratford Society, which is a very active and important and actually rather progressively minded civic society in Stratford, and all sorts of other constituencies and groups that we have engaged with, we have been talking about the reality of what you can get on that site, the extent to which you would need to compromise if you have to keep certain elements of the building, as you referred to, Mr Fabricant, and what room for manoeuvre there is in all of that. We cannot say to you yet today where the answer is going to fall in that finally. It is a very complex process that we are working through at the moment. What we have done is to engage all the parties who have a relevant perspective to bring to bear. We have said to them we need to think about whether you can reconcile the operational, theatrical, practical and economic needs of the RSC with the quite proper constraints—and I am the first to say that I think there are special things in that building—of conservation in listed buildings. We need to make sure that we do not end up in this situation with some sort of elegant fudge or compromise. That would be a waste of everybody's time and effort. We need to get this right. Whether that will be possible through creating a completely new building attached to the Swan or whether there will be certain elements of the existing 1932 building that we can incorporate somehow, and it is going to have to be pretty ingenious to do it but somehow in the building, that is still a question we are actively working on and we have to find the solution to.

  Michael Fabricant: What I am nervous about is you will end up with an inelegant fudge. As recently as December, the Theatres Trust—which as you know was established by an Act of Parliament to protect theatres—was saying that unless there can be a very good argument for the destruction of the facade and the existing foyers they would oppose these changes to Elizabeth Scott's building. It seems to me there is a lot of persuasion which still has to be done. I, for one, would be on your side. You have £50 million, you were saying earlier in answer to Derek Wyatt's questioning, £50 million earmarked from the Arts Council of England and you have raised £30 million matching funding, and you are fairly confident, I think you were saying of, raising the remaining £20 million but when do you think this project is going to start? Our own experience with looking at Wembley Stadium and the British Library and goodness knows what else is that delays cause overspend.

  Chairman: It is that much more likely to start if the Government keeps its nose out of it.

Michael Fabricant

  23. Absolutely. How confident are you that you are going to be able to stick within the £100 million budget? How confident are you that you are going to be able to begin the project on time? Indeed, how confident are you that the Government is going to keep its nose out of it?
  (Mr Pope) Firstly, may I just take your point about the Theatres Trust because that is another body we have spent a lot of time talking to. The same author who wrote the piece that you referred to also wrote "The theatre auditorium has been widely recognised as a disaster ever since it opened, the best way of getting a proper theatre on that site now would probably be to demolish the whole of the old one". That is the same author. With respect, I am not trying to putting words in their mouth or illustrate that the Theatres Trust are not thinking straight about this, what that illustrates, genuinely illustrates, is the real complexity and the real dilemma because the same author, quite rightly, and I know Peter Longman, the director, very well, he is a very distinguished member of the profession, has in his own thinking about this the same problem to try to wrestle with, and it is the same problem all of us have. To come back to your other point, how confident are we about it moving forward, about living within the budget. We have to live within the budget. The £100 million is the most we think we are going to be able to assemble for this, therefore our plans have to be drawn to work within that. The question of timetable is material in terms of the amount of money it costs because every year that goes by there is an inflation effect on the pot of money. It was rather frustrating that it took the Arts Council quite as long as it did to be able to reach the decision to commit to the project. There was about a two year period when we really wondered whether they were going to be able to make a decision but eventually they did. There were perfectly proper reasons from their point of view why they could not make the decision but that was a time delay from our point of view. We have to live within that budget. We have to try to deliver the project as fast as we can. One of the issues about delivering it fast is not getting mired in a public inquiry and call in. Given the sensitivity of what we are dealing with, Chairman, in terms of the listed building issues and so on, it is almost inevitable that everybody is going to want to get into some sort of wider call in and public inquiry. It actually serves nobody's purpose for this project to be stopped in its tracks for two years and a lot of expense and lawyers doing very well out of it and all the rest of it, if in the end we all have to come back to facing up to the same basic question which is how are we going to do it. This is why we have been trying to build consensus. This is why we have got what is known as a Waterfront Task Force which is a grouping of the local authorities, British Waterways, English Heritage, Stratford Society, all sorts of other bodies, coming together in Stratford working regularly on how we take this project forward in a consensus way. It is very complex to pull it off. I think it is another distinguishing feature of this project that it is so interfaced with the rest of the other stakeholders and vested interest bodies, if I can put it that way. Many other Lottery projects have been relatively contained. This one has been very transparent from the outset, we have run it in a very consultative way and we are continuing to do that. I think we have to be rigorous in our management and our financial discipline about how we approach it. Our plans have to be sensible and workable within the budget and we have to be properly professional about policing that. We have to try to get on with it as fast as we can and build the support for doing it, because if there is a public inquiry in a year or two years then, frankly, I think the money will not stretch to doing what we need to do.

  24. Finally, if the project does go ahead and the demolition begins, what is going to be the time period during which the building is being demolished and the new building being created, what is going to be the economic impact during that time period on the economy of the West Midlands and, indeed, what is going to be the impact on people like Sinead Cusack?
  (Mr Pope) The Company, as you know, performs all over the country and, indeed, all over the world and that will continue. We are very committed to continuing performing at a substantial level in Stratford right the way through the middle of the redevelopment process. We have made an absolutely clear statement about that from the beginning. This has been one of the key issues that we have looked at. I did not have time in my presentation this morning to really go into it but I will go into it now. We have looked at it in terms of how we approach the project and we believe that the best approach is to construct a new theatre space at the Other Place site, which will take about 650 seats during the transitional period and up to that long-term but can also be scaled down to take smaller audiences in that long-term. That gives us 650 seats for starters in one theatre. We also believe from the work that has been done with our engineers and our architects that it is going to be possible to keep the Swan Theatre part of the main complex running through virtually the whole of the redevelopment period. That is another 432 seats. So together that gives us just short of 1,100 seats in Stratford in two theatres with all of the actors and all of the rest that goes to make up that work still able to operate in Stratford. That will affect our economy, the economy of the theatre, and it will clearly affect the economy of Stratford and the West Midlands. We have not yet closed the book on exactly how we are going to approach this, and indeed we are having discussions at the moment with the local authorities and with others about whether there are other things that we can do in the area to get more headcount of seats, to get more activity going on. There has to be some give and take when you are trying to achieve a project as significant and as complex as this, you cannot just keep running all of the theatres at full tilt and build a new one, especially if you are going to build a new one where the main one is. This is one of the real difficulties, but we can see a way through.

  25. The new David Garrick Theatre in Lichfield will be available.
  (Mr Pope) Thank you. We shall continue all of our touring work. I do not know that we will necessarily do more touring work but we will still continue doing the amount of touring work that we do at the moment which, as you know, is very extensive. All offers are gratefully received. We have had quite a few, as you might imagine. We are looking at this as a serious, serious problem because we know that other Lottery projects have found this transition extremely difficult. You know as well as I do some of the case history of that. That is not a situation we can get into here. We have to plan for doing this in a way that keeps us operational. We are doing that planning, we believe we have a viable way forward, we believe in the feasibility study that we have mapped out how that will be done, but we are still working with local authorities on the fine detail of it.

Mr Doran

  26. Everyone else has had a plug for their constituency so I will just say that I cannot remember the last time you were in Aberdeen and we would like to see you. Can I nitpick a little on the finances, but before I do that can you be a little bit more specific on the timescale. At the best, your most optimistic, how long do you expect this project to take?
  (Mr Pope) We intend to try and start by building the new theatre at The Other Place starting construction at the end of 2002, early part of 2003 if we can get everything lined up by then, planning permission and all the rest of it. We would then expect to get that building operational by early 2004 and then, and only when that building is operational, can we turn our attention to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and we think that is about a three year build period. We are aiming for the end of 2007 for everything to be completed, if we can do it. That is fast for a project of this scale and it is going to get delayed if we start to get bogged down in a lot of difficulty in achieving the planning and the listed building situation at this front end of the project.

  27. That is five years at best?
  (Mr Pope) That is our best estimate.

  28. The £100 million figure that you mentioned does worry me. I thought, Mr Pope, in your presentation earlier you mentioned that you had been working on this figure and fund raising for six years, negotiating with the Arts Council for three years and £100 million was obviously fixed, but you are talking about two new theatres, one a very substantial theatre and in The Other Place I do not know how substantial that will be, plus a refurbished Swan, plus a much larger and fascinating project. £100 million seems way off the mark for a project of that size.
  (Mr Pope) We have got Gardiner and Theobald working as our cost consultants with us, they have been working with us for over a year now on the project and they have been cost consultants on many other distinguished performance arts projects as well as lots of other things. It is very challenging to try to fit what we are trying to do into that money. We anticipate that the bulk of the money will be spent on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre because that is the main element and until we can decide Mr Fabricant's question about how much demolition and how much retention, we cannot say precisely how that is going to be done. What the feasibility study had to do was to say if you have got £100 million how much can you do? What that study has said is we believe it is possible within the £100 million, it is tight but it is possible, to do the new main theatre, on which we will be spending probably something in the order of £45 million of the £100 million on just the construction costs. As you know there are an awful lot of other costs that come to bear, fees and inflation and all sorts of other things have to be factored into it. The Other Place is a very modest project. Firstly, we are retaining the whole of the existing The Other Place building and what we are building is an extension to that building, and that is the proper way to think about that. The work on the Swan is actually taken up by the work on the RST because the main thing that needs to be done on the Swan is to build a proper backstage and that is done inside the envelope of effectively the new building or partly new and partly retained building that goes on the RST site. So it is not quite as extensive in terms of the metreage as you may have assumed in your question but it is still very, very challenging. We are also, of course, looking for a lot of the other things outside of the theatre, a lot of improvements to roads and the public realm and so on, that is part of the partnership which we hope the local authorities will be contributing. I do not say that as an idle idea that we may have, that is based on a lot of discussion we have had with the local authorities who recognise the value of making their own investment in the surrounding areas if there is going to be a major investment in the theatres, but it is still very tight and jolly challenging.

  29. You made the point very strongly that you were not prepared to accept any compromise and that makes your task even more difficult. On a general point, this is obviously a very exciting project and I am not a brutalist like Mr Bryant, I do not want to see the whole building go but I can see that might be a possibility. Clearly it is going to take up an awful lot of management and artistic time just planning where your current employees are going to go. At the same time we are seeing a major change in the artistic direction of the company which obviously has consequences. We have had some representations made to us by staff, for example, here in London worried about the Barbican consequences. A cynic might say that you are maybe as a company biting off more than you can chew.
  (Mr Pope) May I defer to my colleagues to answer that. I would agree that it is challenging.
  (Mr Noble) The first point I would make is that it is important to see the material changes to our buildings in Stratford as part and parcel of a renewal process inside the company. They are in many ways inseparable. The process of change of the operating model is probably, it is fair to say, four fifths to seven eighths of the way through now. Quite literally within days rehearsals begin for the new model, they start at the end of next week. We are planned through to the middle of 2003 with the new model, contracts are being signed with outside parties, whether it is the Roundhouse or different places in London. So in a way it is not simultaneous, it is overlapping, if you see what I mean. It is important to stress that the RSC saw this coming, if you like, and prepared very strongly for it. The first thing we did was to strengthen our governance. That involved for us changing the Royal Charter, the Privy Council and the rest of it, and we have assembled an extremely strong Board under the chairmanship of Lord Alexander with Susie Sainsbury, Lady Sainsbury, as his deputy. A Board strong in business but also strong in property skills, property development, artistically strong, not just Sinead but also Stanley Wells, one of the most important Shakespearean scholars of our day. A very, very strong Board has been assembled. Two to two and a half years ago I began the process of strengthening our senior management and indeed at that point brought Chris in as a Managing Director, a completely new post. We have strengthened all sorts of levels. We have assembled a quite wonderful project team that Jonathan is leading but Jonathan leads a whole body of extremely able people. In a way we anticipated it from a management point of view to make sure we were going in as strong as we possibly could and would not be caught out by the complexities which indeed lay ahead.

  30. You are very optimistic on the finance and you are very optimistic on the overall management of the project. If you succeed there are a few government departments which will probably want to speak to you. Just taking that forward finally a little bit. It does seems to me that the new artistic direction does require more management time and obviously better organisation or more sophisticated organisation just to achieve what you want to achieve. Running the two projects in parallel are you convinced you will achieve that, you have no experience of such?
  (Mr Noble) I am not sure it will take up more management time. Crucially we will shed the responsibility of running a theatre, because we did not just run it in London, we did not just run during our season, we ran it during the BITE season as well. That historically took up, probably of my time, and Chris's time and before that David Brierley's time, the general manager before that, more time than anything else, the London end, whether it was the Aldwych or the Barbican, because of a variety of reasons. In some ways the burden is lighter. I think I would just like to take this opportunity, Chairman, to point out the philosophies behind the changes in many ways are very important. I think most people go into the theatre because they feel a strong, almost umbilical connection between what happens on the stage between actor and audience, if you like, they love it. In one way or another they are attracted to that energy, as indeed are audiences. It happens when a company gets larger over a period of, in our case, 40 years since it was founded in 1960 but actually 130 years since the Memorial Theatre was founded in the nineteenth century. As a company gets larger what tends to happen is in a way an institutionalisation starts coming in, there is a sclerotic effect, if you like, and people who entered it because they wanted to be close to what happens on the stage get further away from it. They find out that "actually I am banging a nail in here, I do not know why I am banging a nail in here, I have no connection with that". I think it is important as we move into the future that we reorganise our staff, our unions, etc, our relationships with all of these bodies, with the prime aim of not just serving the nation with an efficient organisation and cost effective organisation but an organisation in which all the participants are as close as possible to the point of impact, ie what happens between actors and audiences. That is what is underneath it. Of course it is painful and it is jolly hard for a lot of people because it involves things like job losses and redundancies, it is very, very painful, but I believe it needs to happen and not just for reasons of cost effectiveness, although they are very important.

Mr Flook

  31. Mr Noble, you were talking about some of the aims of the redevelopment. I think you said earlier you wanted to forge a new audience and Ms Cusack also commented you wanted your progeny to get the joke. Could you talk about the impact both from the artistic side as well as also from the financial side of things like Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V or, more interestingly perhaps, Shakespeare in Love on ticket sales and particularly that mix of young adults who you were saying were going away from the RSC?
  (Mr Noble) I make this statement with absolutely no acrimony whatsoever but the film of Henry V was, of course, based upon my production of Henry V.

  32. It was a set up question.
  (Mr Noble) I know, thank you very much, I will talk to you afterwards, brown envelopes.

Mr Bryant

  33. He will be going to King John.
  (Mr Noble) Indeed, four fifths of that cast were the cast of our production. It was wonderful that piece of work could move into film. It is an important ambition of the company that we should make our work as accessible as possible and it is why we are setting in motion ways whereby we can use the new technology in as inter-reactive a way as possible so that people whether they are in Rochdale or Rotterdam or South America will be able to involve themselves in some way with the work. I am pretty clear about the impact of those movies. I think they have helped to popularise Shakespeare . I remember going to see Baz Luhrman's Romeo & Juliet when the company was on tour in Melbourne and I thought I would slip in on an afternoon when there was a matinee on. I imagined I would sit in there with a couple of old folk and a dog. It was packed and it was packed with young people who had seen it more than once, that was the interesting thing. It connected in some way, it connected. I think in the theatre—I am not saying it is a case of dumbing down—we have got to recognise that fact and we have to say "Are there lessons to be learnt here".
  (Ms Cusack) I feel that as far as the theatre is concerned, the RST theatre which we are in debate about, what we are going to do and how we are going to do it, whether we are going to demolish or whatever, that theatre is such an alienating space for those people who watch, particularly the people up on the balcony. The first time I went to the RSC I was 15 and I went to Julius Caesar which my dad was in, he was playing Cassius in Julius Caesar. I was a devoted daughter and I thought everything he did was perfect and he was a very well regarded soul. He had a high reputation as a theatre actor in England, Ireland, France, Broadway. I went to see him and his performance dissipated into the atmosphere. It was nuance, it was subtle and it disappeared and he never went back again. He was completely jaundiced by that building and never wanted to go back again. I think there are a lot of people who are missing a lot that happens on the stage. As I say, I am very proud of lots which happens but I think a lot is being missed. I think it is like a really bad marriage. There is one partner who is making all the compromises, all the accommodations, all the concessions in order to make the relationship work and it does work but the strain is intolerable. Divorce, separation, we have got to do it, we have got to face it I think because otherwise we are denying far too many people the sort of excitement that Adrian got in when he saw Romeo plus Juliet. We want audiences going out talking about Shakespeare because it is all there: gender, race, power, abuse of power, sex, love, it is all there, all the issues that we exercise, kids, us, daily, all in Shakespeare. We have to be able to pass that on, that is what all this is about, it is passing that passion on. I do not think I am being, you know, what we are accused of, actors jargon. I think it is really a very important heritage and I think this development will pass it on to the next lot of actors and audience.

  34. Can you track the up tick in sales when they appear, as Shakespeare in Love did at the weekend?
  (Mr Foy) I am not sure I can give you something which is arithmetically correct. There have been a lot of influences. This last year, for instance, we have had a number of things running against us, not only in Stratford but also at theatres elsewhere. It is quite difficult to track single things. Adrian made an important point earlier, which is that getting people into the building which we have to bring to life in Stratford, once people have sampled it with a show they might not have expected to see the RSC doing we are able to track the fact that that leads on to experience Shakespeare once people make the breakthrough. I cannot honestly give you the answer I would like to.

Alan Keen

  35. I thought earlier that you had made a decision to build on the same site and in response to a question from Michael Fabricant it seems you still have not finally decided?
  (Mr Pope) Sorry, it is confusing. It is a complex situation, I will try and explain it. The feasibility study which we produced, which is hundreds of pages of documentation on this, came to the conclusion in September last year that the most likely way of achieving what the RSC needs to achieve on the site in terms of theatre accommodation and all of the other ancillary things we talked about, the best way of doing that and the most cost effective way is the total demolition of 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre, retention of the Swan Theatre, the library and the gallery spaces. However, we have to be realistic and recognise, this is what Mr Fabricant's question was pointing to, the fact that there is a very strong and perfectly properly held school of thought that a Grade II* listed building, certainly those elements of it which are principally the foyer elements, is not something to be disregarded or demolished, certainly not without going through a very long process of persuading everybody that is the right solution. That is where we are at the moment. We know what we would ideally like to do and we know what is the most sensible and cost-effective and productive way of doing this but we have to satisfy all of the proper tests. The specific thing we are doing at the moment, Mr Keen, is to commence a PPG 15 assessment—I know with your swimming pool work you will know what that is—that sets out a number of tests for historic buildings and the development of listed buildings, and so on. The PPG 15 is a very interesting challenge because it sets out that you have to satisfy questions about what efforts have been made to change the existing building or find an alternative use for it, to maintain it and the keep it up to standard, but is also sets a really crucial challenge which is, is there substantial community benefit to be derived from allowing the demolition of a listed building if what comes in place of it can do the job a great deal better. That is really what this project turns on. I think you can already tell from what we said to you the potential for community benefit in all sorts of ways is very great here. That is what we are arguing in a very friendly and a very cordial way, those are the points that are being argued between ourselves, the planning authority and the listed building authorities, particularly English Heritage. There is no easy answer.

  36. A tremendous number of tourists go to Stratford and many do not even think about watching a play, surely there must be demand for space and the present building could be used for small performances involving members of the public, you must have taken these things into account. Are you getting very close to making a decision?
  (Mr Pope) If it was simply a matter that we could decide we would decide to go ahead and remove the building and build a new one because that is the most effective way of doing it. Your point is very important because there are three million visitors coming into Stratford town, 3.8 million into the district and three million into the town every year. We sell between 500,000 and 600,000 tickets in Stratford a year, that is not all individual because some come back more than once. We are actually only able to bring into the theatre buildings for a paid theatre experience a relatively small proportion of the three million people coming into Stratford every year, that is what this whole theatre village concept, this day-long use concept is all about. I will argue vehemently it is not about dumbing down. Let me give you an example, it is about a young kid, perhaps from Ms Shipley's constituency, who is not in the least bit interested in Shakespeare but maybe they are interested in metal work, or textile design or electronics. These are all the things we deal within our day-to-day life, and many others. We manufacture everything you see on the stage. We operate the technical things. There are ways of showing kids into Shakespeare—and this is something I can get quite passionate about—that are nothing to do with in a sense the starting point of Shakespeare, they are about how the lights work, how the smoke effects are done, how that moving piece of scenery is engineered, all that sort of stuff, which can turn kids on for life. I know that personally from friends of mine that have had experience, and I have had as well. That is what we have to do in the day long use in this theatre village which is much maligned and much misrepresented as some sort of theme park or dumbing down, it is not, it is a really, really important part of showing people the inner workings of the RSC and enabling them to engage for many, many more hours. We need the space. The buildings can be used for other things but if we were to use the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for an art gallery or a media suite we still cannot create another main theatre somewhere else, that is the problem, that is what we discovered from the feasibility study.

  37. Why is that?
  (Mr Pope) There are not the sites. We have looked with the local authorities at 15 locations in Stratford, some of them adjacent to the present site, some of them much further afield and we have asked, and the local authorities have asked, because it is an important test to be passed, is there a way of building another main theatre with all that goes with it, with delivery access, will the audience go to it, can they get to the restaurants in the town from it, and there actually is not another site. It is not only the RSC that have come to that conclusion, English Heritage have formally said to us, "we believe that the right thing to do is to concentrate on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre site and somehow achieve the solution". I promise you when we show you round in Stratford you will see some of the complexities of this and there is not an easy alternative solution or another alternative use for the RST.

  38. I have to say I think some of my colleagues have been a little bit hard on you, it is not an either/or situation, Shakespeare should be funded properly, not necessarily at the expense of other things. You seem to own a lot of property and land, did you think about selling some of that off to raise money? What sort of partnership do you have with the local authorities, they must gain a tremendous amount of income from the tourism? Do they contribute as much as they could? Stratford District Council and the Warwickshire County Council, they should pay more than the people from Ferndale?
  (Mr Pope) It is a very delicate and tricky question. The District Council has put money into the Royal Shakespeare Company for quite a few years now of the order of £30,000 to £35,000, it has been growing, per year, and that money has been specifically targeted towards what is called our autumn and winter visiting seasons, that is where we bring other touring companies in. They have not seen it as their responsibility historically to fund the Royal Shakespeare Company for the rest of its operations. The town council, which is the other part of the local authority structure, puts in about £5,000 a year to specific education projects. That is the sum total of the financial contribution going directly from local authority sources into the theatre operation and you will have your opinion of that and we have our opinion; we are trying to move that agenda forward. However, what is very positive about this whole process of the project to date is that we have managed to build up and we have had a tremendously warm response from the district and the county council and the town council and indeed from the RDA—Advantage West Midlands—all of whom can see the possibilities for public/private partnership and the real economic advantage to be had for the wider community if we work together. For example, issues like roads and traffic, which may sound like nothing to do with the theatre, are absolutely of the essence to the project. We have moved the agenda a long way forward with the local authorities. The county council are very bought into the whole idea of making complementary improvements to all of that, and that is an area where I expect there will be substantial local authority investment in the public realm dimension of the project. The district council have a lot of finance problems to resolve themselves, a lot of demands on their money and they have not thus far historically seen it as their responsibility to contribute to the theatre. We are, given the national and international context of the company's work, also a company that has to be pretty enterprising in looking well beyond the Stratford boundaries and we have done that. It is difficult. Ideally, I would love the local authorities to be in a position to have the political view to make a major contribution to this. I think they should, given the economic advantages of the project. However, the political reality at the moment is that they do not see that as their responsibility. What is very encouraging is the sense of partnership that has grown up around this project.

  Chairman: Julie Kirkbride—and I should say that this inquiry is being conducted very much on an initiative proposed by Julie Kirkbride.

Miss Kirkbride

  39. I want to congratulate you on all the work that you have done. I think it is long overdue and it is fantastic what you are proposing and I hope you knock the whole thing down because it needs it. I think it is fantastic for the West Midlands, I think it is fantastic for our cultural heritage, and it is very important for Britain's tourism industry that Stratford works better. Because my constituency is only 40 minutes away I am a frequent visitor with perhaps somewhat more of my constituency than Debra's, but there we are, that is the economic prosperity of a Labour Government, Mr Chairman. But it is a very disappointing experience in many ways when you go there because unless you have tickets, what do you have of Shakespeare? Go and see his grave, great! That is not something that is going to turn people on. You touched a little in answer to Alan on the kind of things that you are going to be doing as part of this village. What are people going to be able to do if they do not have tickets when this scheme is up and running?
  (Mr Noble) Imagine a situation whereby several coach loads of kids arrived in Stratford one morning and maybe went to a workshop, perhaps with some of the actors or with Cicely Berry, some of our voice people, and did some Shakespeare. Perhaps they could go to a special place where they could plug into some terminals. Say, they were going to see Romeo and Juliet, they could call down stills and video footage of the last ten productions of the balcony scene and look, compare and contrast. Then perhaps they could have somewhere to eat their lunch rather than eating their sandwiches in a bus shelter on the Bancroft, and then see a matinee of Romeo and Juliet and then go home. In other words, we can conceive of the way that people encounter Shakespeare but we have another little piece of empirical evidence here. About once a year we do open days either on a Sunday or a bank holiday when the theatre is dark and representatives of all of our departments open up and literally thousands of people come - I think at the last one we did 10,000 people came through our gates—and they did indeed go to workshops on wig making, on sword fighting, scholarly debates about Shakespeare. There is a fascination with the processes of theatre, the myriad of opportunities for the different entry points, if you like, to theatre, not necessarily meaning people going into the theatre but something which echos inside their lives, and I think if, as we are, we re-conceive of Stratford not as a 7.30pm to 10.30pm facility but as a 9.30 in the morning until 11.30 at night facility then I think the opportunities of interweaving the artistic, the educational and the pastime, the pure fun, and the friction and the overlaps and the fallouts between those three different strands, can be immense. It is re-thinking how we put Stratford together really.

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