Why I think theatre matters

Posted by anon on Monday 1st July 2013

This blog entry has been written by Simon Seligman, Head of Marketing at Nottingham Playhouse.
The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Nottingham Playhouse.

By now we are all very used to the media reporting the likelihood of cuts to arts finding and last month artists and arts organisations were braced to take another big hit in the Coalition’s spending review. In the end it was ‘only’ another 8%. It’s depressing on so many levels, not least the tiny savings that these cuts deliver to the bottom line, compared to the huge potential damage to jobs, education, skills, fun, joy, collective entertainment and quality of life. Obviously everyone in the Arts is concerned about the possible ramifications of this, and no-one can envy the Arts Council in the choices they will face for 2015-16, but I thought I’d use our blog to set out my own personal view.

I have loved theatre and performance all my life, and been moved, entertained and provoked by so many great experiences. My partner has worked in theatre & education for decades, and her career has shown me clearly the transformative power of drama on young, often complex, lives. Our children have already had the thrill and wonder of seeing live performances, indoors and outside, intimate and grand. We have many friends who work in theatre companies; and in the last 20 months, I have been working as Head of Marketing and Communications for this theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, with a committed team of theatre-makers who bring skill and passion to their work. So of course I’m partial, and of course I care about my local theatres! (There is a great online campaign, by the way, where you can express your support for local theatres, here.)

But I also care about the sort of society we live in; about what we value as a national, and local, community; about how we tell our stories, AND the stories of those people, places and situations that are not our own, not familiar, and not always easy. There is no world culture that has not used words and ritual and music and stories to explain itself to itself, to make sense of the world and what lies beyond (what do you think is going on in any collective act of worship? Theatre!), and so to see theatres, and the experts at work within and around them, as luxuries, extras, ‘nice to haves’, minority interests, is to misunderstand entirely what human society is about.

There are indeed terrible problems in the world, and in this country, most of the financial ones made by a greedy few, not a profligate many. But before we plan what must be cut back (or cut out completely), let’s just reassure ourselves that apparently we cannot do without Trident submarines we’d never use, four weeks of Olympic ecstasy, bankers and corporations who don’t pay fair taxes, fatal busybody wars that put lead in the politicians’ pencils, government IT schemes that cost, and then lose, billions, and the perpetual and damaging meddling in our children’s education. Who will tell this story when our successors try to understand how we expressed ourselves in the face of such madness? Small change will keep theatre alive; we need a big change to protect it.

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy reading Giles Croft’s recent interview with The Stage.

Above photo by Fabio De Paola. Members of Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company today.