Birmingham Stage Company


23 June 2021

I was looking through photo albums this evening and came upon a photocall for the announcement of our first season in 1992. Our patron, Sir Derek Jacobi, had come up to Birmingham to launch it in person, and the photo is of us standing outside The Old Rep Theatre in front of a TV crew. It reminded me of the battles involved in creating a new theatre company and the incredible help we got from so many people like Sir Derek, not least the local media, and particularly The Birmingham Post and The Evening Mail. The slow death of regional newspapers is not only a disaster for democracy, but it also takes away one of the most important supports any young company can have when starting out. A good review in Evening Mail guaranteed us full houses and was more powerful than a notice in the nationals. In those days, the Mail review took over an entire page, accompanied by a huge photo. Now you’re lucky to get a single paragraph on the Letters page (if the paper has been able to find someone to see the show). Likewise, small shows in London could sell-out overnight after a good review in Time Out. It makes me so sad to think how difficult it will be for any fledgling company to get into its stride. In the early days it seemed so many powerful forces were arraigned against us that the support of the local press was absolutely vital, and we couldn't have survived without it. (It has struck me how much the last twelve months has felt like those early days, battling for survival. No company can become complacent, but I didn’t expect to feel like a teenager again, fighting each day to keep the company going). Next year we will be thirty years old and like all theatre companies, it's thanks to the British media that we have the chance of getting there. Whether it be the potential sale of Channel 4 or the closure of Apple Daily in Hong Kong, it should remind us never to take it for granted, or we may continue to lose the landscape that is left.

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