Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by West Midlands Life


  As Chair of the West Midlands Regional Cultural Consortium, West Midlands Life, I wish to convey to the Select Committee for Culture, my very active support for the Royal Shakespeare Company's Stratford Redevelopment.

  In our recently launched strategy to enhance and make more accessible the cultural life of the West Midlands, the Regional Cultural Consortium recognised with pride, the enormously important role that the RSC at Stratford plays in the lives of West Midlanders, as well as with the wider national and international public.

  The suggested redevelopment will not only provide a major boost to international and domestic tourism, but to economic growth at a time when it is increasingly difficult to sustain existing levels. The RSC currently contributes somewhere in the region of £32 million per annum to the regional economy.

  The redevelopment also creates a major opportunity for the West Midlands and Britain to renew one of its most valuable cultural assets and has already stimulated strong public-private partnership between many organisations, including the local authorities, the RDA, tourism bodies and leading businesses, as well as the full support of West Midlands Life. This commitment is also being channelled through the recently formed Waterfront Task Force, which is championing and co-ordinating a strategic approach to the development. Acting as a catalyst for wider regeneration, the scheme will include significant improvement to surrounding public areas, the traffic system and tourism planning.

  Aside from the obvious artistic benefits to the theatre company itself, West Midlands Life believes strongly that in order for culture to make a lasting difference to individuals' lives, there is a need for local people and organisations to develop a sense of ownership and involvement. To this end, the support that the RSC provides to a great many other professional and amateur cultural organisations by sharing performance space, equipment and technical expertise is, in our opinion, invaluable.

  Within the education sector, the RSC is extremely active in programmes for schools, colleges and universities, frequently providing in-service training and support materials for teachers and lecturers. As such, it is our belief that the provision of improved facilities, the creation of an RSC Academy and purpose-built theatre village, will not only ensure that these benefits are delivered to a wider audience, but it will help to cement the RSC's reputation as a centre of educational, professional, national and international excellence.

  In line with West Midland's Life's commitment to ensuring that public funding is used for the very best possible public benefit, the RSC redevelopment project will help to develop broader accessibility and affordability for the theatre-going public regionally, nationally and internationally. Already drawing from a wide social, cultural and educational background, currently over a quarter of the RSC's annual audience is under 19 years of age, with around 15 per cent of any typical audience being first-time attenders. The new facilities and the theatre village will serve to greatly broaden the choices open to visitors and will, in many ways, transfer their experience of a visit to the RSC.

  It is this vision, along with the long-term need to invest in the future of British theatre, that has prompted me on behalf of the members of West Midlands Life to write to you in support of the proposed redevelopment.

  West Midlands Life will continue to work closely with the RSC in the months ahead to engage people within the West Midlands as closely as possible with the redevelopment plan.

  I look forward to the support of the Select Committee for Culture for this vital new phase in the life of the RSC.

12 February 2002

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