Letter: Arts funding

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The Independent Online
I'm grateful to Matthew Francis (letter, 2 February) for confirming that neither my wife nor I have, as claimed by Trevor Phillips (Comment, 24 January), disappeared. It's been a worrying week.

Together with thousands of other Greenwich Theatre supporters, we're still here, and for the best of reasons. The Greenwich is the one place left, not just in south-east London, but in the whole of south-east England, where we can see original productions of a high standard at affordable prices.

Trevor Phillips naturally defended the decision of the London Arts Board to withdraw its grant. Equally naturally, Matthew Francis replied robustly. But among all the recriminations, are we perhaps missing the point? Britain has the best theatre in the world - and we don't deserve it. Attend productions at the RSC, the National, or any of the major West End theatres and listen to the voices around you in the interval. It's clear that if the Americans stopped coming, even the most revered theatre companies would be in deep trouble. Surely the regional arts boards and theatre management should be working together to encourage more Britons to support one of the few areas in which we still lead the world?

Closing theatres like the Greenwich won't help, because they are the very places where people can afford to discover the magic of live theatre, and develop the theatre-going habit. And they provide the only opportunities for new actors and directors to develop their craft.

In less than two years, Greenwich will be the centre of world-wide interest. Among the discoveries that visitors from home and overseas could have made is the superb quality of theatre that exists outside Stratford-upon- Avon and the West End. What a pity they won't have the chance.

LEONARD WOODING

Gravesend, Kent

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