Letter: Fight for the arts

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As a working actress and wife of a regional artistic director, I wish to add my support to Sir Peter Hall and the newly formed Shadow Arts Council (Comment, 22 February).

Regional repertory theatre provides not only a training ground for our young actors, it produces for its patrons a minor miracle every four weeks. A new play, a new cast, imaginative sets and costumes. Standards are high, budgets are low. Dedicated and skilled teamwork is essential. If a production fails to meet its predicted box office figure we are often in a crisis.

But dedication isn't enough; we have to earn realistic salaries in order to leave home for months at a time and remain solvent.

The current level of subsidy still leaves many people who work in regional theatre having to cope with appalling deprivation. Contractual freelance work such as ours inevitably takes place away from home and "digs" have to be paid for in addition to a permanent base and in some cases a dependent family.

An average repertory salary is around pounds 250 a week and a national survey I carried out in 1990 showed that after all expenses were accounted for, the majority of people working in regional repertory companies were being paid at least pounds 100 a week less than their actual needs.

Theatre managements are unable to make up this deficit; the money just isn't there. The collective tax paid by the top earners in the entertainment industry should more than cover the subsidy given back to the arts.

I would ask the current government and the Arts Council to consider the reality of our situation.

VILMA HOLLINGBERY

Kislingbury, Northamptonshire

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