Do you remember “De Management”, the rather thick bouncers Ron and Ron in the Hale and Pace TV series in the '80s and '90s?
I do and I always think of them when I remember that I, too, have been in management. And when I remember my managerial participation, I really do hope and pray that I have never been as downright stupid as some management types I’ve come across over the years!
I remember the director of one theatre telling me, incredulous and appalled, how, during a board meeting, when discussing the latest financial report, a trustee pointed out that comedians, ballet, tribute bands and amateur hires all made good money, whilst plays, particularly in-house productions, usually lost money.
“We would,” he said, “have far fewer financial problems if we just stopped doing plays.”
No one said, “It’s a fucking theatre, you stupid idiot!” but some actually did comment that it might be worth considering!
Obviously, theatres need trustees with skills in finance, law, PR, HR, publicity and advertising and so on, but you’d think these people would have just a bit of understanding of what a theatre is for! Or perhaps simple common sense might be a good qualification.
Somehow or other, at a few points in my life, I was sucked into sitting on such committees; I chaired one theatre company's board and sat on the board of another and of a theatre / arts centre.
It was interesting enough in a dull sort of way, but nothing replaces the buzz of actually making theatre as an actor or director, playwright—or even producer, and I am not keen on producing. (Please take the latter as the extreme understatement it is!)
Rather different was the Wearmouth 1300 Festival in Sunderland. I was invited to join the organising committee of the Festival which ran from May 1973 to June 1974 and celebrated the birth of the Venerable Bede in 673 and the founding of St Peter’s Church, which became part of the twin monasteries of St Peter (Wearmouth, Sunderland) and St Paul (Jarrow) in 674. I was appointed the chair of the Theatre and Literature Panel which was charged with developing the theatre programme and publishing books by local writers, mainly but not exclusively, of poetry.
The great thing was that we were commissioning work, including a "son et lumière" production at St Peter's and a visit from an early incarnation of Hull Truck. We were also able to help some local poets onto the first step of the publication ladder.
And I did get to meet the Duke of Edinburgh at the opening of the Festival. It was obviously very boring to him—oh yes, he certainly did make it obvious—so when he asked me, "what do you do?" I simply replied, "I'm another boring teacher."
Cllr Len Harper, leader of the council, said to him later, "it's a pity you can't stay for the celebrations this evening."
"I just want to get out of this bloody place as quickly as I can," he replied.