ONE TO WATCH – a free Online Event: Cultural Conversations – Philanthropy in the Arts

‘Philanthropy in the Arts’ was hosted online from 5.00pm-6.30pm BST on Wednesday 30th September by The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell and the Genesis Foundation. This is the third in the series of Cultural Conversations.

This Conversation, the last of the 2020 season, is chaired by BBC arts presenter Kirsty Lang, who was joined by: 

Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, Artistic Director of the Young Vic; 

Dame Julia Peyton-Jones CBE, Senior Global Director at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac; 

Rebecca Salter PRA, President of the Royal Academy of Arts; 

Sir Nicholas Serota CH, Chair of Arts Council England;

and John Studzinski CBE, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation.

In these times of extreme fluidity in shaping the future of the arts within a shifting cultural landscape, this proved a useful and stimulating debate.

POSTSCRIPT This event is highly-recommended – an engrossing and inspiring meeting of minds, and the event was “attended” by over 500 viewers. Very worthwhile to watch for anyone interested in the arts, you can watch the recording of the discussion here

Cultural Heart of London debate launches new cultural strategy for the West End

On the morning of Tuesday 29 September, the Heart of London Business Alliance (HoLBA) held an online symposium to celebrate the launch of their cultural strategy – the Cultural Heart of London, whilst simultaneously announcing the launch of a new digital channel – Art of London – which should be available later this week.

In a discussion led by Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of the Financial Times, representatives from the West End’s leading cultural institutions discussed London’s unique spirit and shared their ideas on how to protect and promote its extraordinary creative potential.

Introduced by Ros Morgan, Chief Executive of Heart of London Business Alliance, and livestreamed from the ODEON Luxe, Leicester Square, the panel included Kenny Wax, President of the Society of London Theatre, Stuart Murphy, Chief Executive of English National Opera, Axel Ruger, CEO of The Royal Academy and Sherry Dobbin, partner at FutureCity.

The debate was lively, thoughtful and insightful, as the participants shared how the Covid-19 crisis has affected their organisations and the creative methods that they are employing to continue their engagements with audiences to provide vital diversions during this time of national crisis.

HoLBA commissioned Arup to investigate the potential impact of Covid-19 on the West End in a range of different scenarios and to produce ideas and recommendations for future recovery. With a range of modelling of different scenarios, at worst with the West End suffering repeated lockdowns the area would see a “catastrophic” loss of 97% of GVA (Gross Value Added- the financial value of all goods and services produced in an area).

What was unanimously agreed was that the sector requires immediate help, in the form of support and investment. The arts and culture have always played a big part in economic national recovery and 2020 is no exception.

All of the participants agreed on the importance of restoring confidence to visiting audiences, with Axel Ruger highlighting the emotional states of both venue workers and audiences who visit. Ruger felt it would take about a year for audiences to restore their confidence levels, saying “the nervousness is not to be underestimated”. He added that it was vital for concerted action by all organisations and businesses to achieve consistency in behaviour in applying the guidelines, which would in turn boost public confidence. He reminded us that the crisis has shown us just how “essential” the culture sector is, noting the “explosion” in online uptake of cultural offerings, adding “I’d say we provided an essential service”.

Stuart Murphy rightly highlighted people’s nervousness about travelling on public transport to get to and from the West End, also citing the older demographic of the ENO’s audiences, noting that with the digital outreach they must appeal to a wider age range in order to generate younger attendees. Echoing many who think from an audience point of view, Murphy also added “Socially distanced theatre doesn’t work. People don’t want to turn up to a party that’s half empty….Socially distancing is troubling in theatres.”

Without government help, Wax said, “95% of the West End theatres will stay closed”. Big musicals are major drivers to London’s economy but they “won’t open without government backing”. He highlighted the need for a government-backed insurance scheme covering business interruption cancellation which includes COVID risk. The insurance market is currently refusing to cover for this. The government has already helped the Cinema and TV industry with just such an agreed government backed insurance scheme, so logically all it would take is for them to extend this scheme to cover the live theatre sector. Their lack of action and initiative is inexplicable.

Supporting Wax, Murphy added “We (the arts and culture sector) are world leaders – you can’t say that about much in the UK”

Wax also reminded viewers of the complex ecosystem of theatres across the country which depend on a thriving West End to receive hit shows which then tour to great financial advantage to all regions of the UK. Mentioning the almost 300,000 people who work in the theatre sector, he also highlighted in the injustice of the vast numbers of freelance workers who have “fallen through the cracks” of the government’s range of financial support schemes.

The call to directly aid freelancers – the majority of the creative world’s workers – was unanimously supported, with Axel Ruger reminding us that “the notion of creativity is predicated on freelancing and flexibility”.

Drawing attention to the many ways creatives had adapted to contribute to society during the first months of the pandemic, Murphy was rightly proud of the creative ways his organisation has engaged with communities. Whilst appreciating this, Axel Ruger cautioned against becoming “instrumentalised”, filling the gaps in social care, reminding of the need to stay connected to the artform and its expression.

Sherry Dobbin provided some useful overviews during the debate, reminding us that “we go to the creative sector when we don’t know what to do, which is an indicator of value”, and “Absence teaches us what is valuable”.

Ros Morgan concluded the event by issuing a challenge to viewers to think about how they could make a contribution to the rebirth of the West End. Whilst acknowledging that we have many challenges ahead, the publication of this new report and the opening of the new digital channel Art of London are concrete measures of the determination of London’s West End cultural leaders to find a positive way forward.

Thank you to everyone involved for a very worthwhile event.

You can watch the recording of the event here

Celebrate The Stage Debut Award Winners 2020

Sunday 27th September saw the first Stage Debut Awards ceremony to go online, with a great array of new talent spotlit in the nominees and award winners. I was particularly happy to see wins for Rachel Nwokoro for her magnetic performance in Arinze Kene’s LITTLE BABY JESUS at the ever-worthwhile Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond (read my review here), although Jessica Rhodes in Lucy Prebble’s THE SUGAR SYNDROME (read my review here) must have run her a very close second. Also a great win was writer Temi Wilkey for her ambitious, brave and compassionate debut play THE HIGH TABLE (read my review here) which had its run cut short by the coronavirus epidemic closures. It must surely now return in a longer run and tour.

The awards were capped by a terrific new song by the brilliant ensemble that is SpitLip, winners of a Stage Debut Awards last year for their brilliant show OPERATION MINCEMEAT (read my review here) which is due to return to Southwark Playhouse in the coming months.

Full shortlists are below with winners in bold at the start of each grouping. Congratulations to all winners and nominees for making a great impact!

Best Performer in a Play – sponsored by Audible

Rachel Nwokoro for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London

Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse, London

Saida Ahmed for Little Miss Burden at The Bunker, London
Katie Erich for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse  (co-production with Ramps on the Moon)
Brooklyn Melvin for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse ( co-production with Ramps on the Moon) 
Jessica Rhodes for The Sugar Syndrome at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London
Khai Shaw for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London
Bobby Stallwood for Faith, Hope and Charity at the National Theatre, London  

Best Performer in a Musical

Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre, London

Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre, London

Lucy Anderson for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre, London
Chase Brown for Mame at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
Oli Higginson for The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse, London
Adriana Ivelisse for West Side Story at Curve, Leicester
Tom Noyes for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse, London
Bethany Tennick for Islander at the Southwark Playhouse, London

Best Director – sponsored by Smith & Williamson

Martha Kiss Perrone for When It Breaks It Burns at the Battersea Arts Centre, London

Georgia Green for The Mikvah Project at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, London
Alex Sutton for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse, London 

Best Designer – sponsored by Robe Lighting

Rose Revitt (set and costume) for Dr Korczak’s Example at Leeds Playhouse

Liam Bunster (set and costume) for The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Andrew Exeter (lighting) for High Fidelity at the Turbine Theatre, London

Best Composer or Lyricist 

Jim Barne and Kit Buchan for The Season at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Jherek Bischoff for The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the National Theatre, London
Robbie Williams for The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon 

Best Writer

Temi Wilkey for The High Table at the Bush Theatre, London (co-production with Birmingham Rep)

Samuel Bailey for Shook at the Southwark Playhouse, London
Mari Izzard for Hela at The Other Room, Cardiff
Eleanor Tindall for Before I Was a Bear at The Bunker, London

Best West End Debut Performer – sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment

Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre

Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre
David Mitchell for The Upstart Crow at the Gielgud Theatre
Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse
Samantha Pauly for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Wendell Pierce for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre
Aimee Lou Wood for Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre

 Best Creative West End Debut – sponsored by the Noël Coward Foundation

Femi Temowo (composer) for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre and for Three Sisters at the National Theatre

Fabian Aloise (choreographer) for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Nadia Latif (director) for Fairview at the Young Vic Theatre
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson (composer, lyricist and book) for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre
David West Read (book) for & Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre’s A MARVELLOUS PARTY

A MARVELLOUS PARTY is a celebration of Noël Coward’s words and music, presented by The Noël Coward Foundation and featuring a transatlantic star-studded cast; it is now available on demand.

Approaching the 121st anniversary of his birth (in December) and the 100th anniversary of his first West End production, this production celebrates the wit and artistry of one of the twentieth century’s most enduring characters.

The cast includes Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Kate Burton, Montego Glover, Derek Jacobi, Josh James, Cush Jumbo, Robert Lindsay, Kristine Nielsen, Bebe Neuwirth, Julian Ovenden, Patricia Routledge, Kate Royal, Emma Thompson, Giles Terera, Indira Varma and Lia Williams performing speeches and songs by the playwright/composer.

A MARVELLOUS PARTY lasts approximately 50 minutes Please Note: you will need to register to access this streaming.


The performance is free to view, with donations encouraged, and all funds going to support the charitable work of Acting for Others. You can donate here.

Time Travel Theatre: Enjoy the great Fats Waller musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ – and a Bonus!

Here’s a great opportunity to enjoy an Emmy-winning recording of the original production (and original cast) of the hit Fats Waller musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’

Originating as a cabaret piece at Manhattan Theatre Club in February 1978, it was an instant hit, therefore the material was rapidly worked up into a full show which opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on May 9, 1978, later transferring to the Plymouth Theatre and then to the Belasco Theatre, finally closing on February 21, 1982 after 1604 performances and fourteen previews. The show was directed by Richard Maltby Jr (who co-wrote the show with Murray Horwitz), with musical staging and choreography by Arthur Faria.

Programme from the earliest incarnation of the show in February 1978. By the time it got to Broadway, Charlayne Woodard had replaced Irene Cara.

The original cast featured Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard. Luther Henderson adapted Waller’s music for the revue and served as the production’s original pianist. Cast replacements later in the run included Debbie Allen, Yvette Freeman, Adriane Lenox, and Alan Weeks.

The show won three 1978 Tony Awards (Best Musical, Best Direction and Best Performance (Carter)), three Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor (Page) and Outstanding Actress (Carter)), as well as two Theatre World Awards (for Carter and McQueen).

On June 12, 1982, NBC broadcast the revue with the original Broadway cast (you can see this broadcast recording below). This production received eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning two perfromance awards (for DeShields and Carter)

UK readers may remember that the show also came to London, opening at Her Majesty’s Theatre in March 1979 with DeShields and Woodard from the original Broadway cast, where it also enjoyed a substantial, successful run.

So, below, please enjoy a great musical which pays full tribute to the musical genius of Fats Waller

With special thanks to YouTube poster Jackie M

EXTRA BONUS! For those of you who would like to see the 1978 Tony Awards, with performances from shows including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Dancin’, On the Twentieth Century, Runaways and The Act, and to see the stars of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ win their Tony awards, just click on the link below

With special thanks to YouTube poster MIssPoochSmooch