Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Mr Donald James
1. I qualified as an architect in 1949,
having prepared my thesis in Stratford-upon-Avon (British Council
Centre, Church Street). I worked in the town 1949-51 dealing mainly
with old buildings. In 1951 I commenced my private practice in
Warwick where I carried out major works on Listed buildings, Lord
Leycester's Hospital, Warwick Castle, almshouses for various Charities,
and many mediaeval and post-fire buildings. I was an expert witness
in many cases in the magistrates, county and high courts; I have
advised and been an expert witness in local planning inquiries
and regularly advised solicitors in legal/architectural matters
and in disputes. I retired from the practice in 1983 and was a
consultant for some years. I am passionately interested in Stratford-upon-Avon
where I live.
I am advising HOOT (Hands Off Our Theatre) in
2. I have studied the history of the theatre,
the minutes of the CM&S committee 8/1/02 and relevant correspondence
from which can be seen the hostile attitude of RSC towards RST.
3. RSC regards it as poorly designed and
cannot say one word in favour of Elizabeth Scott or the theatre
and ignores the fact that she was awarded the scheme in a competition.
The theatre was acclaimed in the architectural press. There were
criticisms of the building, not unexpected, as it was to be seen
from all sides, unusual for a theatre, at the same time its scale
was much greater than that usually seen in a mediaeval town. Its
scale and the brickwork marry in with the town favourably. I believe
that the majority of the townspeople like it. It certainly does
not deserve such unfair commitment from RSC.
4. RSC says that the sightlines and acoustics
are flawed. This may be the present situation which has changed
considerably since 1932. Elizabeth Scott employed the acoustics
expert Mr Hope Bagenal to advise. He was the leading man in this
discipline. RSC support the unfavourable comments on the auditorium
by Ms Cusack, Theatre Trust and Iain Mackintosh. I had considerable
doubt about that: these comments were not compatible with the
work of Hope Bagenal and the architect. I comment on this later.
5. Mr Foy wrote to me saying that consultants
(plural) had been representing each of eight disciplines. I replied
requesting that I be allowed to see the reports of these consultants
but it has been denied. I still wish to see them and also the
letters briefing the consultants. With costs amounting to £750,000
at present there can be little doubt that this sum includes consultants
fees. Bearing in mind that this is public money and that there
should be proper public participation in such an important matter
as this, where the charity wishes to destroy one of its most valuable
assets. I do not understand why I should be denied in this matter.
It would show transparency which RSC espouses.
6. According to a 1934 publication "Brave
Enterprise" the original seating in the auditorium was 1,000.
Since then there have been many alterations to the layout and
numbers of seats by various directors. The current number of seats
in 1,439 an increase of nearly 44 per cent.
||22.8 per cent|
||38.4 per cent|
||99.1 per cent|
This overcrowding has severely affected sightlines and the
acoustics particularly in the circle and balcony; comments made
by Ms Cusack and quite understandable but theatregoers tend to
accept the situation because of the production. The point I wish
to make is that this is not due to the work of Elizabeth Scott
and to criticise her is quite erroneous.
7. In spite of having advice from acousticians there
has been no mention of the problem as set out above. It was self-inflicted
but RSC regard the auditorium as a disaster and one of the main
reasons for demolishing RST.
8. For RSC to condemn RST in order to demolish it when
the majority of the problems can be resolved is an act detrimental
to the Charity particularly as it is governed by Royal Charter.
That policy is not in the best interests of the public purse or
those who contribute to the Charity. In my view, the Directors
are responsible for any problems that could flow from their policy
to demolish the theatre. They have so many additional powers in
the Royal Charter that in pursuing a controversial path of speculation
they should be reminded of their responsibilities to the Charity.
9. In order to deal with the problems raised by RSC in
support of their proposals to demolish RST, I wish to suggest
the following action. Many of the problems are self-inflicted
but overall the ambience within the building could be enhanced.
10. Remove the seating in the auditorium, deal with the
floor (there will be problems). Provide seating for, say, 1,050,
so that it is comparable with RSC proposals for a new theatre.
On these figures there will be a loss of 389 seats. These seats
being improved by increased comfort and sightlines could call
for an increase in ticket prices, but overall it is likely to
show a loss in revenue. But this would also apply in a new theatre
if, as Mr Noble has said, the range of ticket prices will remain
as existing. He hoped.
11. Backstage conditions to be improved by increasing
space for actors and staff and additional lavatory accommodation
for them and the public all within the building envelope but there
could be other improvements if some of the land facing Waterside
could be taken into the main structure. I feel that this possibility
should be considered seriously. The reallocation of space for
the improvements proposed will mean that some office and restaurant
space will be relocated.
12. Provision to be made for access for disabled and
13. Work required to satisfy authorities, operational
requirements including work to the fly tower.
14. These works would achieve major improvement to RST
but is unlikely to meet the aspirations of those who want an Elizabethan
theatre, yet it does demonstrate that there are no valid reasons
to justify demolition of RST where successful productions of Shakespeare's
works have been performed for 70 years. It is totally unreasonable
to pull down a theatre such as RST which is still regarded as
a memorial to not only the Bard but also those responsible for
financially and physically making it possible. Those less than
70 years old will not really understand RST's social importance.
15. I belive that the proposed action would be supported
by English Heritage. There would be a reduction in the £100
million pound budget of at least £20 million pounds of public
money which Ms Debra Shipley may support.
16. RSC's policy/propaganda against retention of RST
is mainly handled by Mr Pope who generalises and does not deal
with the real issues facing RST. This technique and his charm
seems to convince people that it is essential to have a new theatre.
In so doing he is not acting in the best interests of the Charity
because his words lack transparency. This is the conflict between
a flawed policy and the need to promote a balanced presentation
of the facts, engendering no good will for ESC and, this is what
they are looking for. For example, at the only public meeting
organised by HOOT Mr Pope had the floor for 40 minutes and at
question time he was not prepared to answer any. RSC is determined
not to be deflected from their policy because they do not have
an alternative of keeping RST and improving it. In my long experience
with Charities, I have never known one to be so adversarial with
those who support it. In this case it is allowed to produce misinformation,
insinuation published in the press who are accused of misreporting
by Mr Pope.
17. Because of the recent initiative of Stratford-upon-Avon
District and Warwickshire County Councils and, certain businessmen
depending upon the proposal for a new theatre being approved have
formed a committee to consider a scheme for riverside development
including a bridge over the river Avon. All of this has met with
much opposition because of the unsuitability of development in
an area of such high environmental quality. I am making no further
comment on this except to say that the RSC proposals become even
more contentious. I am concerned that there is the possibility
that an application to demolish RST will not be called in by the
Secretary of State and that it will be left to the District Council
to determine. This is a nightmare scenario because of the vested
interests of the council, councillors and landowners. This is
the most important matter in Stratford-upon-Avon for the last
100 years and I am raising it with the committee because a decision
on funding RSC proposals is vital, not just for HOOT, but for
the best interests of the Town. Local Government seems to have
taken leave of its senses.
By keeping RST and improving it on the lines proposed will
save at the very least £20 million pounds, but it will not
provide the theatre plan and technology required by Mr Noble;
it may be desirable but not essential. This important building
will be saved and it will allow works by William Shakespeare to
continue for another 70 years as successfully as in the past.
Patrons will be more comfortable and enjoy the acting; Mr Noble's
requirements are not essential for the patrons' enjoyment and
this is an overriding factor. Mr Noble's attitude is that of the
throwaway society, it is costly. In this case at the very least
£20 million pounds too much. If RSC continue with their proposals
then, in order to protect the public purse and those who support
the Charity, the grant of £50 million pounds should be reviewed
in the light of the reduced cost of the scheme. I cannot believe
that money may be squandered when there are so many needs to be
met. I trust that the committee will be able to support this memorandum
and that it has been helpful.