Memorandum submitted by West Midlands
RSC STRATFORD REDEVELOPMENT
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
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
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
12 February 2002