Funding Cuts - West End stars and creatives including actors Beverley Knight and Sheridan Smith and playwright Jack Thorne have called for local arts funding to be protected, warning that "terrifying" cuts will be irreversible and damage services such as youth theatre. They join Andrew Scott and Imelda Staunton, in speaking out about the importance of the arts – particularly at local level – in the face of swingeing cuts that have seen venues warn that they will have to scale back their operations.
In recent weeks, Nottingham City Council and Birmingham City Council have both announced 100% cuts to arts funding, following a previous cut to Suffolk County Council’s funding for the arts. The Nottingham Playhouse said: "The cut is approximately the same cost of running our Shine youth theatre groups or providing very low-cost and free tickets through our 50:50, HotHouse and Pay What You Can schemes for a whole year. We will now be reviewing our plans for 2024/25 as we seek ways to address this new funding gap."
Long-runner - A theatre has celebrated 50 years of hosting the world's longest-running play, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. The production had previously been around the UK and opened in the West End in 1952 at the London Ambassador's Theatre, before moving next door to its current home in St Martin's Theatre. The plot involves a group of strangers suspected of murder who become snowed in at a remote countryside guesthouse. There have been nearly 30,000 performances.
It became the UK's longest running play in 1957, only pausing for two days when it moved theatre - until the Covid pandemic and lockdown forced it to close for a year and two months in March 2020. Producer Adam Spiegel said: "Millions of theatregoers have experienced the show in the intimate atmosphere and rich historical backdrop that St Martin's provides. It is the perfect setting for our timeless production."
Hexagon Upgrade - A "much-loved" Berkshire theatre will benefit from a multimillion-pound upgrade after plans were approved for the project. The Hexagon Theatre in Reading will be revitalised with a new 300-capacity studio auditorium, in addition to rehearsal space. The overall scheme is expected to cost £13.7m. Following planning approval, work on the site could begin as early as this summer.
Jackie Yates, chief executive of the council, said the theatre had been a "much-loved" venue since it first opened in 1977, and it had played a "special role in very many people's lives".
Pirate’s Progress - A legendary pirate radio station hosted a special three-day broadcast to mark its 60th anniversary. Radio Caroline defied the authorities when it started broadcasting non-stop pop music, offshore, on 28 March 1964. Events over the Easter weekend included a tour of the Ross Revenge vessel, moored in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex
Station manager Peter Moore said its turbulent history had built a "legacy". Many well-known broadcasters started their careers on Radio Caroline, including Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker and Simon Dee. The station was founded at a time when broadcasting was dominated by the BBC and pop was played for an hour a week.
Farewell - Gerry Conway, former drummer with Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Pentangle, Cat Stevens and more, has died at the age of 76. The news was confirmed in a news post on the Fairport Convention website. "It is with great sadness that Fairport Convention announces the death of Gerry Conway, our dear friend and former drummer," read the post. "Gerry died at the age of 76 on Friday 29 March after a period of illness.” RIP.
(Jim Evans)
2 April 2024

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