Discover the progress at Walthamstow Granada’s Open Day

On Thursday July 1st you are invited to find out about the progress that is being made with the Walthamstow Granada, the only surviving theatre in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

A couple of years ago, after a long history of neglect and decay, the historic cinema was purchased by the Council and set on a track to be brought back to life as a comedy/cabaret and mixed use entertainment space, run by the Soho Theatre, who have developed for themselves an enviable track record in mixed entertainment management.

As part of the E17 Art Trail 2021, visitors are invited to discuss the progress and prospects for this historic Grade II-listed venue.

Visitors are welcome between 5pm and 7pm at The Tramworks, Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, E17 4QP.

Read more about the Soho Theatre’s management plans here


LIPA’ s founder Mark Featherstone-Witty hands over the reins..

Mark Featherstone-Witty and Sir Paul McCartney

After 25 years at the head of an educationally pioneering institution, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts’ Founding Principal and Chief Executive Mark-Featherstone-Witty is stepping down and will be succeeded in September by Sean McNamara, who has been appointed the new principal and chief executive. McNamara currently heads Guildford School of Acting. He is also president of the Federation of Drama Schools.

LIPA’s new CEO Sean McNamara

McNamara said “The work that Mark has done, along with Paul McCartney, in establishing this creative hub in Liverpool, with a national and international reputation for excellence, and to achieve that in just 25 years is phenomenal. To be part of that story, part of LIPA’s next chapter, is a great honour, privilege and responsibility”

Let us not forget that Mark Featherstone-Witty’s founding and development of LIPA was not his first creative foray into education. He had already conceived of, created, designed and raised millions of pounds for the establishment of the BRIT School in Selhurst which is soon to celebrate its 30th anniversary, (see the BRIT School article here) before his bug to expand the creative opportunities for young theatre-makers bit him again.

Following on from BRIT School, Featherstone-Witty established the now internationally-famous Liverpool drama educational establishment in 1996 with Sir Paul McCartney. The building, McCartney’s old school, was transformed by many millions of pounds raised by many enthusiastic supporters including McCartney himself, who I believe gave the first and the last million, and many others, including my late colleague Anthony Field who dedicated himself to supporting Mark and Paul’s efforts, becoming the project’s first Chairman, as he had done with BRIT School previously. Needless to say, my colleagues and I consider Mark, and LIPA to be a valued part of our extended theatre and performance family. With annual surveys showing an extraordinarily high percentage of its graduates in employment, it has recently been ranked as one of the top 20 educational establishments in the UK.

Mark said “As founder, LIPA is one of my children and giving it up is difficult, which is why there’s a gentle transition. I’m grateful Sean is allowing me to do this.”

Featherstone-Witty will continue his work with LIPA by focusing on the ever-expanding aims of the organisation, with progressing LIPA’s primary and sixth-form schools and its high school plans too. Ultimately, the organisation will aim to give a completely integrated education offer which appropriately values the performing arts in all its possibilities. This is a vote of confidence in the future of the arts, despite the ignorant slashing of finance for arts based subjects in the new higher education curriculum. (Let’s not forget the lofty heights of ambition of our current Education Secretary- an ex-fireplace salesman.)

Ian Jones, chair of LIPA’s Council, praised Mark’s ceaseless and dedicated work, saying “Over the past 25 years, Mark has created a remarkable institution for which he has earned our eternal gratitude. It was a challenging task to find a suitable successor and we are delighted that Sean will be picking up the reins. His background and experience make him the ideal leader for us as we move forward into the next phase of our development.”

With industry enthusiasm across the board for this establishment built with care for its students and a realistic eye for the world of work which yet maintains a burning passion for its subjects. No wonder the busiest producers -from Thelma Holt to David Pugh to Katy Lipson -all willingly offered their time to travel to Liverpool to talk to students in MasterClasses and other informal settings. Countless musicians including Sir Paul and master producer Sir George Martin (who donated and created the cutting-edge sound studios at the Institute), as well as a long roll-call of performers and others living in the arts today. Extraordinary MasterClasses from those at their peak across the performance and arts world have lead to many fruitful partnerships, friendships, collaborations and honorees at LIPA’s annual graduations, which are quite an event, with Sir Paul in attendance whenever he is not touring.

In 2014, Mark Featherstone-Witty, after the death of his friend and supporter in so many ventures, Anthony Field, established the Anthony Field Producer Prize, given annually to the outstanding graduate from the producing course, and a notable award from such a high calibre of talent.

So let’s remember all the incredible artists, musicians, producers, directors, marketers, impresarios, sound designers, engineers, mixers, lighting designers, writers, actors and many other technical on-and off- stage creatives who have learned their trade at LIPA and had their inspiration fired by the dedication of the incredible work of Mark Featherstone-Witty and his staff. An impressive legacy for anyone. Congratulations – and thank you for creating a positive, welcoming and inspiring home for fostering and developing LIPA Students’ boundless talents, Mark!


Historic Buildings can boost cultural and High Street revival- join an online discussion

An online discussion not to be missed is happening tomorrow, July 1st.

Could historic buildings save England’s High Streets?

Join this lively discussion with expert panelists to explore new uses of historic high street premises and the role of culture in their revival.

Speakers:

David Tittle – CEO of Heritage Trust Network

Owain Lloyd-James – Head of Places Strategy, Historic England

Carol Pyrah – Executive Director, Historic Coventry Trust

Joe Holyoak – Trustee, Moseley Baths

Diane Dever – Chair, Urban Rooms Network

Claire Appleby – Architecture Advisor, Theatres Trust

Attendees will leave this event with an:

• awareness of the range of potential uses that can be accommodated in historic high street/centre settings and the strengths and challenges associated with them

• understanding of how different uses contribute to wider regeneration goals

• appreciation of how to assess the feasibility and overall financial contribution of different uses

• understanding of how to reach out to different types of user and engage them in projects

This is an online event using the Zoom platform and joining details will be sent to you ahead of the event

Book your place at www.heritagetrustnetwork.org.uk/events Free for Heritage Trust Network and Locality members , £5 for non-members

Accessibility: The event will feature live speech-to-text transcription using Otter.ai.

You can book your tickets here too


Reports of the Interval’s death are greatly exaggerated

In the run-up to theatres reopening, and all the safeguards put in place by theatres, there has been much knee-jerk reaction about having to dispense with the interval. This is nonsense and will gradually subside as we return to our established ways of functioning. However, it did make me think about the interval, how it developed and its many benefits from both an audience and a theatre-maker’s point of view.

The interval, as I understand it, originally developed in the time when candles were the only available source of illumination in places where performances were given. Thus, the performance paused when the candles which sat along the front of the stage to give illumination (the first footlights) needed to be replaced as they had burned down. From the early 1800s gas lighting was slowly introduced but the concept of the interval had been well enough established to survive.

As the play structure developed through the nineteenth century, the three act format became the most prevalent, and this offered a choice as to whether there should be one interval with two acts running together, or one interval and a short “pause” at the other act changeover.

Although plays were originally written to run straight through, as times, tastes and audiences changed, the interval was seen as beneficial by theatre managers for a number of reasons – chiefly to sell more drinks at their bars, and also as a chance for the audience to socialise with other theatregoers. Intervals increasingly became established as an opportunity to send audiences out buzzing with excitement and anticipation of what was to come in the rest of the performance. A good “first-act curtain” was a cliff-hanger, a revelation or shock, upon which the audience were encouraged to speculate for the duration of the interval given.

Modern audiences welcome a chance to think about the show and discuss it with their companions and friends. Other choose to stretch their legs, pop outside for a smoke, grab an overpriced drink from one of the theatre’s bars, or pop to the loo. One of audiences’ bugbears throughout history have been theatre loos. Why so few for ladies down the decades? Because fewer women than men attended the theatre at the times when a lot of the UK’s theatres were built (many over a century ago), one is lead to believe. With women’s progress over the decades in financial and social independence, it is appalling that only very recently have attempts been made to increase loo facilities for ladies, and much more needs to be done.

For producers, intervals can offer the chance of a rest for performers. It can also allow stage scenery and settings to be changed at a more leisurely pace then when changing scenes. Technically, it can also offer a breather to sort any technical issues which may have arisen during the first act. If the show has a live orchestra, interval can also give a well-earned rest for the musos and conductor- even more so when the conductor is also a playing band member, as is so often the case these days.

For the theatre owners, intervals are a useful way of increasing their income from bar sales, confectionery, ice cream and merchandise. All of these go directly to the theatre owners, with the exception of merchandise which usually is a split-profit agreement. Programmes are the responsibility of the theatre owners; brochures fall under merchandise.

For playwrights themselves, the interval’s relevance can sometimes (but not always) be determined from the length of the show. Some shows are deemed too short to warrant one, others are specifically written without an interval, and very long shows sometimes include a five-minute “pause” (as was the case in the two-part THE INHERITANCE in 2018/19). Longer shows can also involve more than one interval.

Cynics might say that the interval gives them a chance to get out of a truly terrible show, and true as this may be, truly bad shows in the 21st century are few and far between.

So let’s carry on enjoying the interval, safely and thoughtfully. There might be a time when you’ll really be grateful for it!


BLACK BRITISH WOMEN’S THEATRE wins the Society for Theatre Research’s 2021 Theatre Book Prize

The winner of the 2021 Society for Theatre Research’s Theatre Book Prize (for books published in 2020) is Nicola Abram for BLACK BRITISH WOMEN’S THEATRE, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

The Theatre Book Prize was established in 1998 to celebrate the Society’s Golden Jubilee. The aim of the Book Prize is to encourage the writing and publication of books on British-related theatre history and practice, both those which present the theatre of the past and those which record contemporary theatre for the future.  It was first awarded for books published in 1997.

Nicola’s forensically-researched book draws on private archives and previously unseen material to document the achievements of Black British women in theatre, throwing a much-overdue and welcome spotlight onto some of the previously unsung pioneers of theatre making in the UK.

The award has an independent panel of three judges, drawn from the ranks of theatre practitioners, theatre critics, senior academics concerned with theatre, and theatre archivists, together with a member of the committee of the Society for Theatre Research as chair.considers to be the best published during the previous year. 

All new works of original research first published in English are eligible for the Prize, except for play texts and studies of drama as literature.

For more information about the Prize, visit the STR website here

To see the Prize ceremony recording, click here

Congratulations to Nicola Abram!