Creative Scotland’s Archer resigns

Creative Scotland’s Archer resigns

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer, is leaving after five years in the role.

Kampfner stands down from Fed

Kampfner stands down from Fed

John Kampfner has stood down as chief executive of the Creative Industries’ Federation, which he founded four years ago with Sir John Sorrell.

Audience agency in Scotland closes

Audience agency in Scotland closes

Axe falls after Creative Scotland grant cut

Site making its Steel City mark

Site making its Steel City mark

Sheffield’s Site Gallery is to reopen with three times the space, and a new mission with a new artistic director, it was announced today.

Ground rules set for Brexit culture deal

Ground rules set for Brexit culture deal

The government’s Brexit white paper has set out a basis to ensure artists’ mobility between the UK and Europe after Brexit.

Battersea Arts Centre heralds reopening with Trump protest

Battersea Arts Centre heralds reopening with Trump protest

Three years since Battersea Arts Centre’s great hall burnt down, it is pre-empting it autumn opening today with a defiant message for Donald Trump https://www.bac.org.uk.

TAITMAIL   What, me worry, when Mr Wright has come along?

TAITMAIL What, me worry, when Mr Wright has come along?

Who is Jeremy Wright, the headlines on Tuesday were asking.  For me, he bears an unnerving likeness to Mad Magazine’sAlfred E Neuman (a kind of 1960s Forrest Gump who only ever said “What, me worry?”), but he was the Attorney General and is now the seventh Secretary State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2010.

Dulwich to get a Colour Palace

Dulwich to get a Colour Palace

Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London is to get a “Colour Palace” for its gardens next summer.

Shakespeare Schools wins Japanese arts prize

Shakespeare Schools wins Japanese arts prize

The Shakespeare Schools Foundation has won £33,000 in the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale 2018 awards.

Matthew Bourne’s tours to go green

Matthew Bourne’s tours to go green

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures dance company is to collaborate with environmental sustainability agency Julie’s Bicycle to creative a creative green certificate for touring.

Arts centre plan for Reading Gaol

Arts centre plan for Reading Gaol

Councillors in Reading are backing a plan to turn the town’s famous jail into an arts centre.

New culture secretary appointed

New culture secretary appointed

Kenilworth MP and former Attorney General Jeremy Wright MP is the latest Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport .

New 'Netflix for the arts' to launch

A company has announced plans to to set up a vesrion of Netflix for the arts.

Creative Europe impact on UK bigger than €74m spend

Creative Europe impact on UK bigger than €74m spend

Two reports out today show that since 2014 the European art development fund, Creative Europe, has spent €74m on 334 UK-based organisations and companies and helped distribute 145 British films in other European countries, but the impact has been worth far more.

Historic London swings

Historic London swings

London’s landmarks have been put to music in the latest phase of the Musicity project, devised to bring a new dimension to familiar architecture.

Boom in book adaptation earnings

Boom in book adaptation earnings

The value to the economy of film, television and theatre adaptations of books is soaring, according to a new report from the Publishers Association – thanks to our copyright laws.

National gets rare Gentileschi self-portrait

National gets rare Gentileschi self-portrait

A self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi, who broke the glass ceiling for female artists in 17thcentury Florence, has been acquired by the National Gallery for £3.6m.

Horniman Museum goes greener

Horniman Museum goes greener

The Horniman Museum in South London has ditched its café’s plastic utensils for plant-based coffee cups to sandwich wrappers in an effort to go greener https://www.horniman.ac.uk.

THEATRE Jeeves, Potter and love in the Lakes

A 200-seat Lake District theatre that consistently loses money, The Old Laundry, is celebrating its 25th birthday with a triumphant revival of a musical by some of the people who created it

It’s hard to reconcile the idea, but without Beatrix Potter and Alan Ayckbourn there would be no Jeeves, not at Bowness-in-Windermere anyway. And without the stage designer Roger Glossop and his stage manager wife Charlotte, the old laundry would still be a Windermere pleasure boat store.

It’s a long story which opens a new chapter on October 6 when the West End Lloyd Webber musical hit By Jeeves opens in a 200-seat flexible theatre, directed by the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, to mark the 25th birthday of a dream come true.

Roger Glossop has been a successful theatre set designer for 40 years, but as well as working on West End shows and, almost habitually, on the plays of Alan Ayckbourn, he has been an exhibition designer. It is his wizardry that has brought to life tour-ist attractions like Jorvik in York, the Oxford Story in Oxford and the Canterbury Tales in Canterbury.

“It wasn’t that we were particularly in love with Beatrix Potter” says Glossop “but I’m a practical sort of chap – so it was exhibition = Lake District = Beatrix Potter, a bit obvious”. There was nothing to mark the presence of Potter in Cumbria where she lived and worked for 37 years, it was up to them to provide it.

They chose the delightful town of Bowness, instantly recognisable to fans of Arthur Ransome’s Swa lows and Amazons as “Rio”, and after getting a licence from Potter’s publishers, Penguin – “we were rather worried they wouldn’t approve, but they couldn’t have been more accom- modating” Glossop says. “In fact, when the first building we tried for fell through, they said to keep the licence in case we found another” – set to to create The World of Beatrix Potter with the legendary theatre costumier and prop-maker the late Elaine Garrard with a business plan devised by Charlotte for their company Lake Story.

The proprietor of a flotilla of Lake Windermere pleasure boats wanted to get rid of a near derelict old building in the town, the old laundry, and was happy to sell it to the Glossops. They rebuilt the old laundry and in 1991 The World of Beatrix Potter opened, and it has been a phenomenal success, attracting almost 200,000 visitors a year.

But the laundry is a double building, and there was space to spare for the much older dream the Glossops had had: to have their own theatre. Ayckbourn is based in Scarborough, and Glossop had worked with him at the old Library Theatre there. He was struck by the similarities of that space and his laundry building.

Glossop had enjoyed “a working friendship” with Ayckbourn since they first worked together on Woman in Mind in 1985. “I said to him, ‘If we built a theatre in Bowness, would you bring your work’? He didn’t say anything for a minute, then he swore, then he said ‘Oh well, we’ll be dead soon’, and we’ve had at least one play from him every year” he recalls.

Ayckbourn was not the Glossops’ only influential friend, however, and there was generous support from Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, and also Griff Rhys Jones.

At first, the Old Laundry Theatre opened for just the autumn months
for the Bowness Theatre Festival, Lake Story’s charitable arm, but since last year, another special one, it is on
an all-year basis including in-house productions.

2016 was the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth so their rst home-made show was a family mu- sical Where is Peter Rabbit?, which returned this summer by popular demand for 185 performances. The script was to have been written by their friend Victoria Wood – “she said she would open anything for us, a sardine can if we asked” – but her illness before she died last year prevented her. And who could they turn to at the last minute?

Both Wood and Alan Rickman, who also died last year, were board members, and replacing them is the Glossops’s son Sam, a sound designer who, although based in London now, is working on new productions.

The theatre has been upgraded now, with a rotating platform and thrust or proscenium configurations available, making The Old Laundry more adaptable than ever. The theatre has always made a loss, which has been covered by the success of The World of Beatrix Potter, and both classical and folk music concerts have kept the box office ticking.

“We used to have stand-up too, but the fees comics want now have risen so much that we couldn’t possibly raise the ticket price to cover it” Glossop says. Classical music audiences had also declined until the Sheffield-based Music in the Round brought its programme with a three-day Mozart festival in which the audience were invited to take part. It will be repeated.

By Jeeves was originally devised for Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, created by Lloyd Webber from the Wodehouse stories, designed by Roger Glossop and directed by Alan Ayckbourn. It transferred to the West End, and had a long run in the United States.

As it progressed the set, which had originally been a simple blank tab, for more and more sophisticated, and for the revival Glossop has created a completely new design. It has a cast of ten, led by Ayckbourn’s long-time collaborator Bill Champion and Nadim Naaman who is stepping out of the London cast of Phantom of the and the Corporation. More than Opera into the snazzy suiting of Bertie half of the cultural visitors were Wooster. There is a musical ensemble of six, with music direction by Steven Edius, choreography by Caroline Hughes and lighting by Jason Taylor. The West End comes to the heart of Beatrix Potter country.

And next? “Victoria was such a good friend, I’d really love to do her musical The Day We Sang – if we can get the rights” Glossop says.
“But we do what we want, the theatre will never make money, and frankly we’re completely mad, but this kind of enterprise can’t happen very often – if we didn’t do it, nobody would. And we have been incredibly lucky...”

By Jeeves is at the Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-in-Windermere, from October 6 to November 4.

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