The Week in Arts: Put our names on the seats - we paid for them

Share

Not wishing to be a party-pooper but ... I remain unconvinced about the need for the £90m restoration of the Royal Festival Hall, and what has emerged this week has certainly not changed my mind.

Not wishing to be a party-pooper but ... I remain unconvinced about the need for the £90m restoration of the Royal Festival Hall, and what has emerged this week has certainly not changed my mind.

I've mentioned before that it is a great shame that one of the country's best and most comfortable venues is to close for two years for improvements which are not all exactly essential. The press release this week went on again about how the toilets would be improved; but to me they seem some of the roomiest and most plentiful of any arts venue; and I'm the Egon Ronay of arts centre toilets, at least of the gents' variety.

The curse of lottery money is that it spurs arts venues to see a need for change which isn't always necessary. Improvements to the acoustics, which are necessary, could have been carried out without a two year closure.

This is a subject I would not have returned to, even on a week of good news stories and press releases about the £90m restoration. However, behind the publicity some rather alarming facts have been emerging. First, it seems that 181 job cuts (one in three of the staff) are being proposed because of the closure; staff representatives are warning that the effect on morale is "devastating", and it will be hard to continue running the venue until the closure in July 2005.

Second, (and also absent from the publicity material) it emerged that the two resident orchestras, the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia, will lose considerable amounts of box-office income during the closure, with the LPO estimating a £600,000 shortfall.

I'm also a little underwhelmed by the fuss made during the week over celebrities donating money towards the restoration, in some cases as little as £100, and having seats named in their honour. Joanna Lumley, Salman Rushdie and others will have their names on seats. But, wouldn't it have been a more fitting tribute to the history of the hall to have the seats that these people purchase named after some of the great musicians who have graced the stage?

Besides, we all give money towards the restoration through our taxes. Those of us who like a flutter have also contributed through an excess of lottery tickets. I'd wager I've spent more on lottery tickets in the last few years than some of the celebrity donors are giving. So I look forward to seeing my name on a seat in the stalls.

I just hope that in 2007, when the Hall reopens, there are staff to show me to the seat, and an orchestra solvent enough to go on stage.

Is there too much elitism in the theatre, too?

Sir Anthony Sher complained at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday that the literary world was élitist. He cited as evidence the failure of the literary world to review and discuss his own novels. My own honour and that of this paper might be affronted by that, as I interviewed Sir Antony about one of his very fine novels and gave it a full page of publicity. And it was a broadsheet page then, too.

I know what he means, though. Most authors feel the literary world unaccountably fails to publicise their books, bookshops unaccountably fail to display them properly, and readers unaccountably fail to buy them. But there are dangers in Sir Antony's implied remedy of reviewing more novelists outside the charmed circle. Should that apply to theatre, too, I wonder? Should newspapers give more of their limited review space to neglected companies in the regions, and not make it de rigueur to review the already highly publicised National Theatre? That would be bad news for its latest production - a one-man show by Sir Antony Sher.

¿ Gwyneth Paltrow said this week she would never appear on stage with her husband's band Coldplay, because she was frightened of "the Yoko effect." These are wise words. There's nothing bands or their fans hate more than spouses getting too close to the action. But Miss Paltrow seems not to realise that, this year more than ever, Yoko Ono's reputation has been re-evaluated. Her role in The Beatles' break-up is no longer mentioned in polite society. Her "art" receives serious discussion in learned journals. She is feted on chat shows. Her straight-faced assertion that she co-wrote "Imagine" is never challenged. One cannot refer disparagingly to such a saintly figure as an "effect."

Do keep up, Gwyn.

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Immigration enforcement officers lead a Romanian national who has been arrested on immigration offences from a house in Southall in London  

Don’t blame migrants – the West helped to create their plight

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?