Letter: Knights do battle for the theatre

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is splendid that Alan Ayckbourn and Richard Eyre have both been knighted. The regional theatre in Britain has long honoured them both for their contribution to it and their redoubtable defence of it.

Sir Alan's battle in Scarborough ("Why Ayckbourn will fight on for his theatre", 31 December) is indeed representative of several last-ditch stands that will take place this spring as the effects of central government's standstill grant to the Arts Council and its annual cuts to local councils come through the pipeline.

For every one of the past five years regional theatres have warned that they are cutting the number of plays they produce, the number of actors they employ, the adventurousness of their programming and their valuable services in education and training. We are being forced to diminish the many roles we play, from helping to create more cohesive local communities through to underpinning the commercial theatre.

This latter role has been fully acknowledged by our most successful commercial producer, Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Now we have two more knights in the field. We'll need them more than ever in the dangerous weeks ahead when local councils and the Arts Council take their onerous decisions, while the Government turns a blind eye to the damage it is doing to the health and wealth of the nation.

PHILIP HEDLEY

Artistic Director

Theatre Royal Stratford East

London E15

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