The Vindaloo Vic shows the art of arts sponsorship

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The Independent Online
Today - a business story for our times! A brand-new yarn entitled "The Person You Have Rung Knows You Are Calling". Yes, it's a rip-roaring tale of gritty Northern know-how, and cut-throat arts sponsorship!

Once upon a time there was a struggling drama group which believed that it could really go places if only it could get some money.

"Money!" said Mickey, the group manager. "We need money! With money we could go places!

"And even if we didn't go places, we could at least get out of Yorkshire."

"We all joined this group to get away from the money jungle," said Sheila, the director. "Now we're even more worried about it than ever. Look at the Royal Opera House! They're millions of pounds in debt! Does it worry them?"

"They've got sponsorship," said Doug morosely. Doug was the member of the group who said things morosely. There's always one.

"In fact, things have got so bad at the Royal Opera House you almost expect things to be reversed, and the Opera House start endorsing banks. `Hi there - we're the Royal Opera House, and we've got the biggest overdraft of all time, so naturally we're glad that Barclays Bank is looking after it!'"

The thought was so depressing that Doug felt momentarily cheered.

"We haven't got a whisper of sponsorship," said Mickey, "and we're not likely to."

"Not true," said Phoebe, the actress. "We got the Balti House to sponsor us. Remember? In Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen?"

It was true. The local Balti House had indeed sponsored them, but only to the extent of supplying the food. The take-aways had turned up 10 minutes before curtain up and the actors had tucked in voraciously on stage as they performed. It was their evening meal, after all.

"Do you remember how involved Mr Balti got?" said Sheila. "He really loved being around the theatre. Given half a chance he would have acted in the play... "

"That's a great idea!" said Mickey. "You might be on to something here!"

"Sorry?" said Sheila. It's always depressing when you say something intelligent without realising that you have.

"Well, when a theatre group approaches a firm for funding, it just sounds like begging. Give us your money and we'll put your name in the programme ... It's not much of an incentive, is it?

"The theatre group never offers anything in return. Wouldn't it be nice to go to the big boss of the firm and offer him something nice in return for money?"

"What can we offer?" said Phoebe.

"A part in the play," said Mickey.

"A what?" said Doug morosely but very loudly.

"I would be willing to wager," said Mickey, "that one in 10 businessmen has a secret urge to go on stage. Find the right one, and we have a deal. He gets a small part and the chance to fulfil a secret dream - we get the money!"

Mickey felt no confidence when he said this. But he was wrong. After knocking on the doors of eight local firms he found Roger Dunstable, the managing director of a business which specialised in laying pipelines in difficult terrain and through difficult planning regulations. Roger Dunstable was known to be hot stuff when it came to laying pipelines. What none of his colleagues knew was that he had always wanted to go on stage. "What play would you offer me a part in?" said Roger, making sure the door was closed and nobody could hear. "I would only want a very small part."

"Well," said Mickey, "for our first production next year we're going to kick off with a thriller, for which we need a corpse."

"A corpse?" said Roger. "You want someone just to lie there? You want my firm to hand over hundreds of pounds ... "

"Thousands of pounds," said Mickey.

" ... thousands of pounds, and in return I have to lie dead on a stage ?"

"Oh, no," said Mickey hastily. "You get things to say first! You have a little scene with the leading lady. You say two very funny things. Then you get shot. It's a great cameo role! And if you want, you could change and come on in the second act as a press photographer."

Roger thought. It was a ludicrous idea. On the other hand, he would never get a chance like this again.

"Done," he said.

How will the managing director of a pipeline firm make out in his first attempt to be a corpse? Find out tomorrow in the concluding episode of "The Person You Have Rung Knows You Are Calling"!