Coales' Notes: The last-night party

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The Independent Culture
TUESDAY: Listened to the Budget this afternoon. When it was over Rory turned to me: 'Right, that's it then. All over Britain, theatres are going to be dropping like flies.'

I agreed it looked like severe news for the arts everywhere. But he went on, with - I thought - ill-concealed glee: 'Now look. I've prepared a target list of the top 20.' I said, surely he hadn't thought of a way of exploiting the closure of theatres. He replied: 'Well, I think exploiting is rather an emotive word.'

I persuaded him to let me deal with this project, since it was clearly something that needed to be handled very tactfully.

My proposal begins: 'For any theatre with, like yours, a long-standing commitment to innovation, the threat of imminent closure has got to be a challenge. But trying to run a theatre and, at the same time, trying to run a campaign to save a theatre can often stretch the resources of the most energetic director and his team. That's why Ars Longa is now offering you a host of highly innovative campaigning concepts . . .' Or will be, when I can think some up.

WEDNESDAY: I was summoned to the Groucho Club, for a consultation with Silver. He was positively brimming with cheer.

He announced: 'Now, Gordon, what we were talking about the other day - I want you to meet two very special people.'

He introduced me to two young women. 'This is Kirsty, from Kirsty & Siobhan. And this is Siobhan, from Kirsty & Siobhan. Now, you know who I mean, don't you?' I said surely, this must be Kirsty & Siobhan - Making Art Happen.

Kirsty said: 'We're really excited by what you're doing.' I said yes, well, interesting times for everyone in the arts.

Siobhan said: 'Fantastic.'

Silver went on: 'So what about this? First thing, we're going to have a party. A party for the arts - right, ladies?'

They launched into their party plans. They said they already had a sponsor for the drink, a sponsor for the food, a sponsor for the music, 'lots of lovely sponsors', it would be something to really lift spirits at this moment of doom and gloom.

I asked, and who were we thinking of inviting to this party?

Kirsty said: 'Oh, well, all the sponsors of course. And then there are a lot of potential sponsors.'

Siobhan said: 'And about the invitations - good point. Who could we get to sponsor them?'

We raised our glasses to the arts. I have a feeling we're being merged.

THURSDAY: I mentioned to Rory my suspicions of a merger. He just said: 'Oh, right. Kirsty and Siobhan. Very clever girls.'

I have been trying to word the most sensitive section of the proposal. 'Our Revels Now Are Ended - A very dignified ceremony to mark the closure of a theatre.' Oh, dear.

Then, mid afternoon, Rory bounced in: 'Hey, I think we've got one already. The Lantern Theatre. It's practically round the corner, and going down like a lead balloon apparently. Want to check it out?'

FRIDAY: I went over to the Lantern, had a cup of coffee with the director. He was in a poor way.

I asked him, as gently as possible, if he might be interested in considering our range of campaigning initiatives. I told him, if it was any consolation, I'd had exactly the same thing happen to me last year, lost a whole Arts Centre, in fact - hardly the most effective sales pitch, but he seemed not to notice.

He said it was all a bit late for a campaign. He was about to make an announcement. I didn't have the heart to bring up our 'dignified ceremony'. He thanked me for coming anyway. He said that just talking to me had helped.

I returned to the office to find Kirsty and Siobhan there, in full swing. All the furniture had been moved around. Rory was supervising the putting up of decorations.

Kirsty came and leant over my ear. She murmured confidingly: 'Now, apropos this Lantern Theatre. It's still got all its original Edwardian fittings, hasn't it? I mean it's got a real theatre-y feel about it. And we gather that it's likely to be empty before Christmas.'

I said, indeed, it would soon be lights out at the Lantern, if that's what she meant. She went on: 'Well, just thinking - apropos the party. It would be an ideal location. And if there's any problem, I'm sure that we can get someone to sponsor the electricity.'

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