Old Vic: it's another fiasco!!!


Watershed supremo and Old Vic boss elect, Dick Penny’s brave new dawn to bring our fine old theatre into the 21st century, due to commence at 6.00pm this evening collapsed into chaos at, er … approximately 5.59pm this evening when he demonstrated his inability to organise a public meeting!

The Blogger rolled up to the King Street theatre this evening just before six to be greeted by a less-than-impressed crowd huddled at the door of the theatre – many of whom had quite obviously made a mad post-work dash across town and then forked out on excessive Bristol City Council parking fees to be there – being forcefully told that they could not come in due to that old chestnut “fire regulations”.

The extraordinarily well-spoken usher on the door, when questioned on how this ridiculous state of affairs might have been allowed to occur, gave an answer pregnant with the possibility of what might well be up with our publicly funded theatre and its management. “We had no way of knowing how many people were going to turn up,” she explained.

Indeed. In this age of mass comunications, the internet and digital telecommunications how could they have possibly found out how many people intended to come to their public meeting? Matters then took a turn for the worse when somebody quite reasonably asked if there was any written information regarding what might be said at this meeting that they had effectively been barred from?

Hell no! You expect a publicly funded arts organisation, seeking millions of pounds more in handouts from us, to be able to type up and copy a simple sheet of A4 paper with some information for the public on it? That’s way beyond them apparently. What ever next? We’ll be expecting them to produce a press release like any normal professional outfit operating in the 21st century does!

“So how do we find out what’s going on in there?” asked one desperate punter.

“It should be in the press tomorrow,” came the assured reply.

“Yes but they just talk rubbish don’t they?”

“I know they haven’t been very good have they?”

“Well is there anything we can sign to at least show we turned up then?” piped up another voice.

“Er no. We haven’t got anything like that I’m afraid …”

I wonder if Stephanie Cole, Patrick Malahide and Jane Lapotaire had to put up with this nonsense when they arrived?

The Blogger, having got the story of the night from the ordinary, concerned Bristolian perspective, didn’t bother hanging about any longer as we are obviously not really wanted or considered important enough. Instead the twenty quid we were minded to donate to the Old Vic got handed over to some of those fine King Street hostelries, which were a little better organised and a whole lot more hospitable.

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10 Responses to Old Vic: it's another fiasco!!!

  1. James Barlow says:

    If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you missed much.

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    I know. I kind of figured I’d got the best story of the night – and a few pints in – by standing outside the meeting for about three minutes just listening.

  3. BristleKRS says:

    …Or indeed, anything of substance about what was said at the meeting!

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    On Points West they had Dick announcing “If we’ve only got £6m to work with then why don’t we just get on with it?”
    I don’t know. Why don’t they? Rather pissing about doing nothing for 6 months?

  5. bristolgraffiti says:

    That’s shocking.

    Ironically, and on at the same time, the public consultation meeting for the new Bristol Community Festival on Park Street was lots better, no-one left out. Though apparently some of the people meant to be there and all of the press had sent apologies in order to be down at the old vic.

  6. Archie says:

    The Evil Post should make great reading today

  7. Pingback: Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

  8. BristleKRS says:

    Barb Drummond has posted up her impression of the meeting on Bristol IndyMedia – I’ve reposted it in full here because she attached it as a Word document, and I’m sure not everyone would fancy clicking on it 😉

    At last night’s meeting at the Theatre Royal, its new director, the invisible head of Watershed, claimed that the theatre’s revival was due to German bombs destroying its main rival. This is only part of the story. More important was the use of the theatre by the precursor of the arts council for entertaining troops. After the war they and the British Council restored no. 6 King Street, encouraging the council to declare it a Museum Street, as advertised on Great Western Railway posters.

    He also claimed the theatre had had an unstable history, but what he missed was that whenever there was a good manager and top actors, the crowds and the money poured in. I love theatre, but after walking out of several abysmal productions have been turning down free tickets for the past few years. Many people in the audience said the same. It is an utter disgrace that the theatre has been allowed to fall into such a state of neglect, and staging good plays like they do so well elsewhere would have prevented this.

    Whilst it was wonderful to see such a huge and enthusiastic turnout last night, the longer the new director spoke, the more my heart sank. He sounds like a nice man, but as he says, the Watershed almost runs itself, so his management skills do not seem up to the mark. He waffled on with a lot of mediaspeak, and allowed other speakers to ramble amidst the rumblings of the audience. There was no sense of vision from him, nor any sense that he could deal with the massive problems that lie ahead, which will probably require far more time and energy than he seems to be committed to.

    Many speakers noted the fantastic wealth of talent in this city, but what they omitted was the ongoing lack of talented, visionary leadership, both artistic and political. In the late 18th century Richard Champion claimed ‘greatness will never come out of this city’. It has often arisen here, but has to flee to be recognised. Trying to name famous Bristolians is harder than naming famous Belgians. If Brunel had not come here he would have lived to be a hundred and kept all his hair. Bristolians are great at making money, but they also excel at arguing amongst themselves. The only way to get a big project to work is to bring in outsiders, and leave the locals to scuffle amongst themselves.

    Bristol Theatre Royal is an extraordinary survival in a city that has lost so much fine architecture, and in the wake of so many cultural losses. But it is too important to be left in the hands of Bristolians. The presence of Patrick Malahide, Jane Lapotaire, Stephanie Cole Simon West and others was a potent and timely reminder that this is a national treasure, not just a local venue. At this time of crisis it needs a proper leader, with cutting edge skills and a sense of its place in the city and this nation’s architectural and social history. I saw no sign of that emerging last night, so am left with a sense of history repeating itself.

    In the meantime, why is the building being left empty? If funds are in such short supply why isn’t the foyer at least being used for concerts, playreadings etc. Why aren’t local supporters organising events elsewhere? This would bring in funds, but also keep people aware of the theatre’s plight, and act as a focus for corporate and other donations. As a historian with extensive knowledge of the history of King St I would be happy to lead tours of the area to raise funds. Anyone interested, just give me a call.

    Barb Drummond
    Local historian
    Tel 0117 953 9388

    Apologies for length 😀


    What a complete waste of time and enegies this all is.millions of pounds left floating around
    Yet they can fill the theatre to talk about doing something -on the other hand they cannot open for peformances.
    Lastly it seems thee ae fa more important issues than this that millions could be spent on not everyone is a chav.

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