David Lister: Why it's time for venues to put great British acting names back in the spotlight

 

Share

A new theatre is to be built in the West End of London, the first for many years. We know from its owners where it will be – right above Tottenham Court Road Tube station. We know roughly how big it will be – quite compact. We know what sort of shows it will put on – straight plays, not musicals. The only thing we don't know is its name

That's not surprising, for there is no harder decision when it comes to a theatre, or indeed any arts venue, than the name. Raising the money, getting the planning permission, that's all a piece of cake compared to the business of what you will call it, and who you will offend.

It's worth the owners, Nimax, one of whose chiefs is the excellent, veteran West End producer Nica Burns, taking their time. Just look at how the rest of the West End has got it wrong in the past. There is so little celebration of talent in the naming of venues, just a celebration of duke, duchesses, queens, Greek gods, street names. And how many people actually know which duchess or which queen the theatre they are sitting in is named after. Thankfully, a few actors and impresarios are commemorated. The immortals, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier have their venues. Mind you, the Olivier auditorium at the National Theatre is alongside the Lyttelton and Cottesloe, worthy gents, though few in a pub quiz could tell you who either actually was. And no theatre in the West End is named after an actress. Peggy Ashcroft has a theatre named after her in Croydon (though located within another venue), but she should have her West End venue too, and the new Tottenham Court Road playhouse might be just the one to commemorate her.

The trouble is there is no system, it all comes down to individual theatre owners and their individual heroes, which is why Sir Cameron Mackintosh has given us a Novello and a Noel Coward.

And it's not just Theatreland that too often fails to remember its heroes. Music completely fails to remember them. How many O2s and Carlings do we need, for goodness' sake? Can't the country and the cities that gave us The Beatles, The Smiths, The Who, even if you really, really insist, the Spice Girls, name a few pop venues after some musical giants (and serious exports). O2 might be revelling in its commercial ubiquity, but it's desperately unimaginative.

And on the subject of ubiquity, couldn't we play around a little with the Odeon and be a bit more imaginative with cinema names? Would it be so impossible to have the Alfred Hitchcock Odeon in Leicester Square? Let's celebrate British talent and think about British talent when we go to watch talent. Could the Royal Opera House not name one single bar, one foyer, after Margot Fonteyn?

So, here's an idea to add to all the cultural celebrations, Olympiads, world festivals and the like taking place in the UK this year. Let the Department of Culture set up a Cultural Venues Naming Commission. Let it publish a list of British talent that should be honoured above the lights of famous cultural venues. Let it then wrangle with the commercial owners of these buildings in public.

The word one hears a lot, too much, this year is that awful word, legacy. The one meaningful cultural legacy from 2012 would be to see the names of great cultural heroes and heroines in lights, permanently.

French have the X-factor but they don't fit the bill

Simon Cowell loves nothing more than controversy, so one hesitates to add to it. But watching the last episode of Britain's Got Talent, I did wonder exactly what the dance group Cascade were doing on it. They did a cracking routine of dance, martial arts and stunt acts. Only thing was, they weren't from Britain, they were from France.

It seems a bit of an admission of failure, both ratings failure and a failure of patriotism and cultural faith, effectively to say that there isn't enough talent over here to fill an hour or two. Perhaps he should change the name of the show, though "The World's Got Talent" sounds even more of a truism than the original title.

No mention of the museums' taxing times

One of the perks of the Chancellor's wife being a mover and shaker in the arts is that she hosts very pleasant receptions at the Chancellor of the Exchequer's residence, 11 Downing Street, for arts bodies. I went to one recently for the Museums at Night campaign. Frances Osborne hosted the evening and introduced it with a short speech. Curiously, she neglected to refer to the one issue most on the minds of the museums' community – the Chancellor's decision to cut tax relief on charitable giving, which could significantly affect the amount philanthropists give to museums and galleries. Mrs Osborne didn't mention this at all. I can't think why.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most