I went to Manchester last Saturday to an open panel discussion on ‘National Theatre: Nationhood and Devolution’ organised by The Guardian, thinking that it would be about Wales and Scotland. To my surprise it was about the devolution of power to ‘the northern power house’ and the zillions that the Government are going to invest in the Arts in the North of England. It took place in a brand new cultural centre containing two theatres and a visual art centre including 3 cinemas which the local council have already contributed zillions, under the leadership of a Chairman who, by all accounts, ‘was passionate about the Arts and the good they can do’. When was the last time we heard that as a genuine sentiment backed up with real money from the Assembly in Cardiff Bay?
The talk from the panel was the usual – reaching out to young working class people to get them involved in the Arts even if theatre money went towards developing a clothing company - meaning anyone under 20 or maybe 30 but forget it if you are middle class. In fact the only striking contribution came from the audience when a lady stood up and criticised the opening drama for being wrapped up in middle class values although pretending to be working class. She also said that she did not go to the theatre as much as she used to because it was geared almost entirely to the young. You can guess that she was over 30. The theatre professionals nodded, smiled and ignored her point. In fact the Chairperson finished with a pretty little story about 2 older ladies she met outside who were looking for something of interest to them. There was nothing so they had a drink under the awning outside which was very sweet.
Will that be the story of Welsh theatre in the future as well? I don’t mean getting zillions from the Council or the Government – there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell – but there’ll be nothing on for anyone over 30, 40, 50, 60+? We can all sit outside for a drink, I suppose.
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