The Week in Arts: If you build it, they will come - but not by bus

Share
Related Topics

There are some things that cultural commentators do not talk about. Some things that are too
infra dig for aesthetic discussion. Ticket prices used to be one taboo, but I hope I have nagged enough on that subject to show that price does affect people's participation in the arts.

There are some things that cultural commentators do not talk about. Some things that are too infra dig for aesthetic discussion. Ticket prices used to be one taboo, but I hope I have nagged enough on that subject to show that price does affect people's participation in the arts.

Another subject that you won't see examined on the South Bank and Culture shows is transport. What is happening on stage or on the concert platform is, of course, paramount. But getting to and from the venue is important too.

It's an issue that is pertinent this week with the opening of the Wales Millennium Centre. I am an admirer of this striking venue in Cardiff Bay, and it will prove a fine home for the Welsh National Opera as well as a receiving house for numerous international companies. But if you are an aficionado of top quality opera, theatre and dance, then make sure you are an aficionado with a car.

This spanking new centre, several miles outside Cardiff, is not served by a bus route from the city centre; an irregular train service is some distance away; there is no taxi rank and no drop-off point immediately outside the venue; and the car park has space for just 350 cars at a venue seating 1,900.

It's unthinkable that a sports stadium would be built now without integrated transport links. But the arts, for all the lottery money poured into new buildings, too often ignores the means of getting people to and from the venues. Wouldn't it have been a good idea for a proportion of all those millions of pounds spent on new buildings, restaurants, green rooms and dressing rooms to have gone into providing a few taxi ranks? Cardiff is far from alone in being at fault. Try coming out of the National Theatre or South Bank Centre in London and looking for a taxi. Yet there is no thought of a taxi rank in the multimillion-pound redevelopment of the Royal Festival Hall.

I campaigned successfully for a boat service between the two Tate galleries in London. Now I would like to propose a service on dry land. Why not have an arts shuttle bus that can take people without cars to mainline stations at half-hour intervals from the South Bank with all its various music, theatre and film houses? And it's about time the heads of these venues and of the Wales Millennium Centre negotiated with taxi companies for ranks outside the buildings. In the case of the WMC, proper bus and train services are essential too.

It's not much good harping on about increased access to the arts when all it really means is increased access for those with cars.

A louche tradition and a message of love

And now the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, once a highlight of the arts calendar, is taking a turn for the worse. The ceremony later this month will be on stage at the National Theatre. What a pity. Up until now it was a delightful lunch at a London hotel, the hottest ticket in town, and some of the hottest gossip from tables of actors, actresses and directors. By 3pm most were the worse for wear.

At the last one I went to I bumped into the writer Sir John Mortimer on the stroke of 3pm. He asked me if I knew Sinead Cusack. I replied that I knew of the fine actress and that she was sitting on the top table. "Will you tell her that I love her?" he beseeched. I smiled feebly, thinking this a joke, but realised, as he was barring my way out, that he was in deadly earnest.

And so I went back into the room and up to the top table to convey the message to the startled actress. Fortunately, her husband, Jeremy Irons, was not there to shoot the messenger.

¿ On the subject of ticket prices, I came across a novel system for keeping them low on a visit to Singapore last week.

Horse racing is big business in Singapore, and the country's new arts centre has its ticket prices subsidised by a levy from the country's racing Totalisator board.

Now that's an idea that had not occurred to me - a tax on gambling to get new audiences into theatres.

We should try it over here. It would be a surefire way of injecting much-needed funds into the arts and keeping ticket prices affordable.

Also, knowing that they were contributing to the nation's culture would almost make the punters feel better when their horses failed to win. Almost.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Left in limbo: Refugee children in a processing centre in Brownsville, Texas  

Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Rupert Cornwell
Harman has said her gender affected her employment  

Gordon Brown could have had a woman as deputy PM. He bottled it

Joan Smith
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?