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

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would tackle our looming dementia crisis

Susan Greenfield
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee