Fresh year! Fresh start! Fresh flowers!

Happy New Year to you all from The Mission Theatre! 

Here at The Mission we have been very busy over the festive break getting the theatre ready for the 2018 Spring/ Summer programme of events. The Mission has undergone a series of maintenance procedures throughout the end of December and beginning of January, to bring to you a fresh, vibrant theatre to enjoy this season. 

In early January The Mission's spring clean began! One of the biggest changes to the venue this year, is our Foyer and stair walls. Over the Winter we decided that in preparation for our busy 2018 line-up we would like to re-fresh and re-vamp the Foyer area by bringing a new lick of paint to the walls. For those of you who may have visited the theatre in the past couple of weeks, you will have noticed that our Foyer is now a lovely shade of light green - very fitting for the Spring season we felt. The colour change runs on up the stairs, brightening up the inviting pathway to our Bistro.

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Also on the Spring-clean check-list was steam cleaning the theatre's carpets. This year we had the pleasure of welcoming Green Man Carpet & Upholstery Cleaners into the theatre to deep clean every carpet in the building. Jon and Gareth worked hard all day to ensure our carpets were perfect for the busy schedule that we have coming up. We were extremely impressed with their service and our carpets haven't looked as good as they do now in a long time! 

With a fresh start in mind, it was also decided to replace our 13 year old sound desk which has been on its last legs for quite a while. We are improving the sound system for everyone who uses and hires the theatre, by purchasing a spanking new digital desk and acquiring new amps.

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Finally in our new season re-vamp, we are delighted to announce the collaborative relationship we have entered into with local florist - The Secret Gardens. Throughout our Spring/ Summer 2018 season the theatre's Foyer will be home to beautiful, bespoke flower displays from this boutique florist. Blossoming beautifully as we embark on our busy schedule of performances in 2018, our Foyer will be host to the vibrant, colourful and cleverly created displays changing from month to month. For more details about The Secret Gardens, please contact B Cherrington at b@thesecretgardens.co or check out their instagram at @the_secret_gardens or pick up one of our 2018 Spring/Summer Brochures today.

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In December the Foyer played host to a classical and festive flower display, crafted with pussy willow, golden leaves, gorgeous red roses, amaryllis and more. The December display was a feast for both the eyes and nose! 

 

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This January The Mission's Foyer is currently filled with a colourful, dainty and fresh display of wonderful Spring inspired flowers. Brightly coloured narcissi, beautiful pinks and oranges, all set in a spectacular vase for you to enjoy throughout this cold month.

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Back in December, the team at The Mission Theatre were grateful to have been invited to attend The Secret Gardens' first anniversary party. A warm and welcoming evening with live music, home-made mushroom soup, prosecco and of course, mince pies! The florist and gifts boutique is located inside Bath Spa Train Station, Platform 1 within the old lift room. As well as specialising in bespoke floristry, plants and arrangements, the boutique is also the exclusive partner within the UK for Granado, Brazil's oldest luxury pharmaceutical brand. We were lucky enough to test some of these luscious products at the event and especially loved the lavender hand cream! The Secret Gardens are available for weddings, events and businesses within the local area and beyond. Do get in contact - you won't be disappointed. 

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Fantastic First Night for Next Stage Theatre Company's Democracy

Next Stage Theatre Company's final production for 2017, Democracy by Michael Frayn, opened last night to a wonderful and receptive audience. The Mission Theatre and Next Stage were delighted to welcome The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath and guests to the performance and for a photograph after the triumphant opening night.

 Director John Matthews with the cast and crew of  Democracy  with The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath

Director John Matthews with the cast and crew of Democracy with The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath

The production has already received an excellent review for its innovative look at the political system: 


Review: Democracy – Next Stage Theatre Company – The Mission Theatre


I’m not sure quite what the usual run of plays is but if you’ve ever longed for something completely different then Democracy is probably it.

Contemporary politics isn’t a common subject in theatre and, although this is set ostensibly in 1970’s West Germany, much of the action here could apply to current situations.

There’s an East German spy in Chancellor Willy Brandt’s West German coalition government and, amazingly true, he becomes very close to Brandt. Thus we follow the action, viewed cleverly from both sides, of the internal politics involved in maintaining power with a slender majority and how spies worked.

Based largely on the truth, spy Gunter Guillaume (played by believable charming Jon Yardley) even gets to holiday with Brandt (excellent Peter Benson) while passing back information to his puppet master, Arno Kretschman.

When the Chancellor’s party get a bigger majority one worried member remarks, “Victory means you have to do something.” Ain’t that the truth, and the problem.

A perfect black, white and grey set, plus good lighting, simply done and cleverly constructed, this might not be for everyone but for anyone with an interest in Machiavellian politics it’s a rare treat.

Philip Horton

Performances are at The Mission Theatre at 7:30pm until Saturday 2nd December (Matinee Saturday 2nd at 2pm). 


Tickets are £12.50 (£10.50 concs) available from The Mission Theatre (01225 428600) or online here. Alternatively, tickets are available from Bath Box Office (01225 4633620 or online here
 

Birdsong receives outstanding reviews

Resident Next Stage Theatre Company's production of Birdsong - at The Mission this week until Saturday 1st July - has received rave reviews from critics and audience members alike. Below you can read our two official reviews, as well as some excellent comments from those lucky enough to have seen the show so far!

Birdsong is a popular and successful novel. A love story mingled with the brutality and reality of the trenches and the Battle of the Somme. The play focuses the action in the British trenches and behind the lines in France from 1916 – 1918 with earlier romantic events shown in flashback.

This is a hugely difficult play to stage, given its episodic nature and filmic quality. The constant flashbacks need to fit seamlessly into the action without breaking the flow of the script.

Ann Ellison, directing, has achieved a great balance with the use of the stage area in The Mission and the action is able to move fluidly between the defined performance spaces. An atmospheric lighting design from Kris Nuttall brings depth to the piece alongside a versatile set design.

The piece is lead with true style and conviction by Richard Matthews (Jack Firebrace) and Chris Constantine (Lieutenant Stephen Wraysford). Both men are linked by their goodness and desire to save others and tormented by the ravages of war. Hayley Fitton-Cook (Isabelle Azaire) allows the romance with Wraysford to develop under the watchful gaze of her brutal husband (Bob Constantine) and his ever present friend, Berard (Reynold Leming).

As always, supporting roles are well defined and the company work is excellent. Ben Armstrong (Private Arthur Shaw) is a loyal and faithful support to Firebrace and as the play reaches its conclusion there is much to consider.

Aside from the immense loss of life in the Somme campaign, Birdsong considers the loneliness and worries of the soldiers; the injustice of rank and the many questions that must have been asked by those who gave their lives so valiantly. This is a thought provoking play reflecting some of the very darkest days of World War One.

Petra Schofield

To say that staging Birdsong at The Mission Theatre is ambitious would be an understatement. Luckily for us, the audience, it is managed wonderfully well.

Set in France before between 1910 and 1918 the action follows Englishman Stephen Wraysford having an affair with the wife of his employer at Amiens before the war, subsequently returning there as an officer at the Somme, where acquaintances resume.

Constant flashbacks require two sets plus a very large cast and somehow these are accommodated. Highly effective sound effects, lighting and costumes help make it all work.

While there are obviously echoes of Journey’s End, this is really a love story. Chris Constantine (Stephen Wraysford) is on stage for virtually the whole time and is impeccable, but the glue in the trenches is provided by Richard Matthews in a remarkable performance as sapper Jack Firebrace.

There are outstanding individual portraits, often heavy on pathos, from all the cast in this complex but compelling tale which commands attention from beginning to the end. Amazing.

Afterwards the play is moving on to the Minack in Cornwall where the larger stage may make it even more impressive.

Not a play to be missed – if you can get a seat.

Philip Horton

I'm sorry I couldn't stay last night to say this to everyone in person but just wanted to pass on a massive thank you for an enjoyable interpretation of one of my favourite books. The flashbacks were handled really well and the whole cast worked seamlessly together. Massive congratulations to Chris and Richard in particular who delivered such emotional and honest performances. Best of luck for the rest of the run and big love to all. HS

A huge congratulations for pulling off such an incredible show!! As good as Monday's run was, last night took my breath away, and every single actor had developed even more in the space of 2days! I felt the different relationships within the play were portrayed very well which helped us as the audience to grieve those who died as well as those who had lost friends/family. Very emotional and a 'pull at the heart strings' performance. Absolutely loved it! Thanks, and congratulations again on a very successful show. AC

To all involved in Birdsong - those on stage, back stage, hiding in lighting/sound cubby holes plus a courageous director,

How wonderful!  A seemingly impossible task (to me anyway) achieved with convincing energy and compassion.  Great performances and teamwork.   I cared about every one of the characters.  Deeply moving. I look forward to seeing it again at The Minack. All the best for the rest of the run in Bath. CG

What a fantastic opening night’s performance - so powerful and brilliantly imagined. The audience was gripped. Well done to Ann and her excellent cast! VB

Brilliant performance, very emotional and realistic. Thoroughly recommend. SBS

Thought I'd ping you an email whilst I am still buzzing from tonight's performance. What a talented group of actors you have. Congratulations on such a fantastically brilliant performance tonight. I don't think I've ever been to a performance that felt so intense and the ending, it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. You should be proud of your whole team (& yourself of course). Thank you for such a wonderful evening. JBS

An excellent production. The 'episodic nature' is well managed, with lighting and different location. The acting/talking was of a very appropriate speed. The pauses in the speeches were really poignant. Thoroughly recommended. PW

What fun! What Theatre! What a Fringe!

The Mission Theatre has hosted over 30 shows in under two weeks as part of the Bath Fringe Festival 2017, and has given nearly 1000 audience members the chance to experience some fantastic Fringe Theatre.

On Friday 26th May, The Mission played host to the opening night Fringe party, where organisers, audience members and performers got together to chat, network, publicise their shows, enjoy musical entertainment and catch sneak-peaks at some of the Fringe performances. 

Students from across Bath, the South West and the UK have performed classic, musical, physical and devised theatre pieces ranging from Theatre With Teeth’s visually-stunning Woolf to OnSet Productions’ moving Final Test and from Bath University Student Theatre’s hilarious version of Tartuffe to Heartbeat - a brand-new musical created by Bath Spa Students. 

ThreeDumb Theatre, a company made up of members of this year’s graduating class from the prestigious Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, brought a newly-written piece of modern drama to The Mission for three nights during the second week of the Fringe. The performances in I thought I might be Jet Li (but it turns out I’m not) went down a storm with audiences and reviewers alike. 

Other highlights of the Fringe Festival at The Mission included Novato Dance’s 10th anniversary show Encore - performed to packed houses during the second week of the Festival. The talented dancers used their innovation, diversity and energy to bring a huge variety of dance styles together and form a spectacular show. Also comedian Luke Graves entertained a very happy audience on Sunday 6th June with his show Husband of the Bride

Saturday 10th June, the final day of the Fringe at The Mission got off to a cracking start when students from Bath College performed a beautiful piece of devised theatre: A Suitcase of Memories. Using dance, song, physical theatre, plus a live band and some fantastic acting, this piece moved its audience to tears with the poignant tale of an elderly couple, Flo and Ernie, looking back at their life together.

The Mission also hosted several shows for children and families during the Fringe Festival, including the outstanding Taking Flight Theatre’s You’ve Got Dragons, Squeezy Green’s Compendium of Games and Brave Bold Drama with Alf the Highwayman

Audiences have particularly enjoyed the post-show discussions held in The Mission’s Fringe Hub after most of the performances here at The Mission, and the chance to write their own short reviews which they have then posted on our review boards. 

The Mission Theatre’s Artistic Director Ann Ellison says:
The quality and quantity of theatrical performances that have taken place across Bath in the 2017 Fringe Festival has surpassed all expectations. I doubt there has ever been such a range and number of theatrical events crammed into a Fringe fortnight. The standard achieved by so many artists was exceptional and audiences have been thrilled by what they have seen.
At The Mission Theatre the post-show Q&As have been extremely popular and have enhanced the overall experience enjoyed by our theatre-goers. Many of the acts will now be going on to further venues and Festivals whilst here in Bath, as the 2017 Fringe draws to an end, we are already looking forward to next year!

The Bath Fringe Festival making waves at The Mission Theatre

The 2017 Bath Fringe Festival has got off to a fabulous start following last Friday's Opening Night Party here at The Mission.

There have been over a dozen performances of first-class shows from Bath Spa University students and visiting professional companies.

The exciting entertainment will continue from Thursday with the welcome return of the highly-talented Novato Dance Company celebrating it's 10th anniversary year. Don't miss this great troupe's beautiful and engaging show: Encore, featuring a wide range of dance styles from classical to modern. 

Here's a taster of what is in store next week as first-class Fringe shows from around the country continue at The Mission Theatre...

Alf the Highwayman - Brave Bold Drama

4th June at 11.30am & 2.30pm

Come along to this child-friendly, award-winning production (Best Children's Show at the Shaftesbury and Swindon Fringes') as we follow the story of Alf who snatches and grabs without a care. As he gallops through the blustery woods, along the seashore and even through a circus tent... will he learn there are better ways to play?

Tickets: £7/5 from Brown Paper Tickets: 
0800 411 8881
www.brownpapertickets.com

Husband of the Bride - Luke Graves

4th June at 7pm

Come and watch the "very funny" and "immensely likeable" Luke Graves with his "laid-back and friendly show" about love, life and marriage. Wit and humour delivered with an easy going charm. Luke also offers a money back guarantee if not satisfied.

Tickets: £7/5 from Brown Paper Tickets: 
0800 411 8881
www.brownpapertickets.com

Woolf - Theatre With Teeth

5th June at 3pm & 7.30pm

The very talented Theatre With Teeth from Exeter University perform Woolf, based on the incredible true story of one of the world's most celebrated writers and women: Virginia Woolf. The performance uses physicality, playful creativity and nostalgic storytelling to create a treat for all.

Tickets: £5/3
rthomas201@outlook.com or on the door

I thought I might be Jet Li (but it turns out that I'm not) - Threedumb Theatre

6th - 8th June at 7.30pm

"You're not a woman... who you speaking for?"
Three men with made up names wait for the world to make sense. Lads, Lads. Lads? Something big's gonna happen - if they can cut the bull and keep Michelle Obama alive.

Tickets: £8/6 from Bath Box Office:
01225 463362
www.bathboxoffice.org.uk

Tartuffe - Bath University Student Theatre

9th June at 2pm
10th June at 7.30pm

This hilarious translation of Moliere's Tartuffe, by Roger McGough, brings new life to the classic French farce. Set within the 17th century aristocracy the play tells the tale of Tartuffe, a fraud posing as a priest, who feigns piety to swindle the upper classes out of their wealth.

Tickets: £8/5 from The Edge:
01225 386777
www.edgearts.org

Phantom - Bath University Student Theatre

9th June at 7.30pm
10th June at 2pm

Bath University Student Theatre perform a new play by Lucas Fisher-Horas following Gabriel Blake who is a man haunted by grief. Through an act of heroism he is introduced to Olivia, a girl who is equally lost in life and trapped within a toxic relationship. In each other they find solace, yet the closer they grow, the greater the stakes should tragedy strike.

Tickets: £8/5 from The Edge:
01225 386777
www.edgearts.org

A Suitcase of Memories - Back In Time Theatre Company

11th June at 11am

Nothing is more powerful than the love of a married couple, when a husband is caring for his slowly dying wife, the memorable moments they've shared bring them closer than ever as they reflect on their adventurous, life journey together.

Tickets: £6/4
backintimetheatrecompany@gmail.com or on the door

Some of the many supportive and encouraging responses we have received to our recent open letter regarding the lack of theatre and arts coverage in the Bath Chronicle

Dear Rachael

I am writing as both a founder and director of Playing Up Theatre Company as well as a drama teacher in Bath, to protest the removal of regular coverage of the arts from The Bath Chronicle. As someone who was once Features and Supplements Manager at The Chronicle I am well aware of the advertising revenue driven nature of publishing these days.  However, the arts are more than a niche hobby or indeed a relaxing social activity after hours.  The arts, in all their forms, be that theatre, dance, spoken word, music, exhibitions, street performance or whatever, are an essential part of what makes us human.  Our ability to express ourselves and document our history, to educate and also entertain are embedded in the arts.  They are also proven as therapeutic for those with physical and mental health problems.  To step away from regular coverage of these hugely important activities based simply on financial assessments of the content that sells papers, while commercially logical, is deeply sad and, in the opinion of many, contradictory to what a local media outlet should provide.

Heads of Drama, Dance and Music in this country are already fighting a battle to protect their subjects from swingeing cuts to education.  Arts lessons for some students are now fortnightly and in many schools, abandoned.  The government appears to believe that only core subjects and a language are necessary for future generations, who already interact socially in an online world and who frequently lack the skills needed to function successfully in the world at large; working in groups with new people, meeting deadlines, expressing opinions lucidly and articulately, arguing a point successfully and presenting themselves confidently.  Universities and employers bemoan the absence of these abilities in young people and engaging with the arts (and sport) is proven to help.  Your paper does a wonderful job covering sport at all levels and abilities and celebrating the achievements, professional and amateur, of our local sports men, women and children is a regular feature.  Why not the arts?  The popularity, engagement and variety is equal to sports, yet one is celebrated, the other sidelined.

The arts are a multi-billion pound industry in Britain and one of our most successful tourist attractions and exports.  The film, television music and theatre industries are some of our greatest achievements.  Our own city boasts the egg, one of the only purpose built young people's theatres in the country, not to mention the main house where plays are regularly opened before their West End transfer. Counting the purpose built theatres at Kingswood, King Edwards, Royal High, Prior Park and Hayesfield, not to mention the ICIA and the Michael Tippett centre at the universities, the Chapel Arts, Burdall's Yard, Forum, Pavilion, The Rondo and The Mission alongside the Theatre Royal, Ustinov and egg we have sixteen venues offering an eclectic mix of professional and amateur work produced and enjoyed by people of all ages. Bath is also the home to international music and theatre festivals and the world famous Natural Theatre Company. Surely a regular arts feature in The Bath Chronicle won't drive your advertisers running for the hills?

Finally I know there are occasional interviews with the latest visiting 'star' to the main house (this week it's James Bolam and Anne Reid) which counts as a sort of coverage but the Theatre Royal is only one venue and, frankly, doesn't need the publicity.  What I and many other would like to see is similar coverage of the home produced music, dance, theatre and art which is often overlooked.  Please reconsider and remember it's not only reviews that help, but the pre-publicity and general celebration of the arts that counts. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely
Darian Nelson, Director Playing Up Theatre Company

Dear Rachael,

I'm aware that Ann Ellison (The Mission Theatre) has emailed you regarding her, and many others, concerns on the diminishing theatre coverage in the Bath Chronicle. Over the last few years I have been particularly grateful for the coverage that my companies have received and know that this has supported our shows in being well attended. Theatre and the arts is a vital part of Bath's culture and attraction, and it feels only appropriate that the local paper acknowledge, support and raise awareness of the vast creative landscape that we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep.

Kim Johnson, Artistic Director Novato Theatre Company

Dear Rachael,

We were saddened to learn from Ann Ellison about the marginalisation of coverage of theatre life in Bath by the Bath Chronicle.
We particularly support the Next Theatre Group and are Friends at The Mission Theatre in Bath. We also visit other theatres within and outside the City. We believe it to be a really important live form of entertainment, enlightenment and education.
To make a decision to reduce the coverage it has been given in the past, is indeed surprising. Who did you choose in your survey? From market research and surveys I have known in the past, it is easy to sway any survey towards our own advantage, depending on the participants.

Bath is important as a local, national and international place of heritage and culture. To make a decision to severely reduce or to limit the coverage of this facet of the life blood of Bath would be a) a disservice to residents and tourists b) a denial of the importance and long and broad history of theatre life in Bath and c) could even be detrimental to The Chronicle itself.
Firstly, residents and tourists DO want to know what is happening in Bath Theatres.
Secondly, have you ever looked at the long history of theatre in Bath and the interesting backgrounds there are to all our Theatres? Have you promoted this to your readers?  Many of whom would have no knowledge of the existence of having the first Royal Theatre outside London in the City and the part that Sarah Siddons had in its history?
Thirdly, as part of the media that we are all exposed to these days, you have a tremendous responsibility for directing our thoughts, providing information and for leading us towards new and different experiences. A change of words, differences in inferences, a promotion, can make all the difference to survival in the world of business, in politics and in all walks of life.

We would hope you might reconsider your stance about the importance of Theatre in Bath. Please do not hide information about it from those of us that love theatre, the tourists and the prospective theatre audiences.
Theatre is alive and well in Bath because it is fairly well supported and that support makes a difference between the theatres being viable or going out of existence.

Whilst we are aware that you have pressures and that the Chronicle must stay successful, the view or directive to reduce the visibility of theatre in the paper, could potentially seriously affect all theatres in Bath. We would ask you to reconsider your support and coverage. Indeed, the Bath Chronicle could turn the tide and with exciting articles on past theatre history, quizzes, theatre walks and competitions. The Bath Chronicle could lead the way to a resurgence in theatre; an explosion in audience numbers and a reduction in participation in unsociable Internet activities.

Yours sincerely
David and Drusilla Smith

Dear Rachael Sugden,

I am very concerned to hear about the marginalisation of local theatre coverage in the Bath Chronicle, since I am very passionate about the arts in Bath and I feel the local theatres such as The Mission and The Rondo are very important to the community.  

As I am sure you are aware it worries me that if there is not enough theatre coverage, subsequently, the awareness of theatrical events will be reduced. Fewer people will come to those events and hence touring companies will look elsewhere. I know that touring companies are vital to the survival of theatres such as The Mission and The Rondo. We could soon be in a situation where the grassroots local theatre community is no more.
However, I do appreciate the pressure to deliver market driven news. Therefore I am very much in favour of the proposed solutions by Ann Ellison regarding the monthly theatre feature and extra coverage for the new season programmes.

Personally I think that the monthly feature would be successful because people would look forward to reading it each month, it would become part of their routine if you like. I think the new season programmes would act as a springboard for people to decided what they would like to see in that particular season.
I also have a few ideas and suggestions of my own, which I would love you to consider:

You can find about a film review or TV anywhere on the web, but local theatre is different, and you have to find out about it in the local newspaper. We don’t have ‘local’ TV or local film. Perhaps some more space could be made by dropping something else that may be less desirable such as motoring. Motoring and cars are all over the web on specialist sites such as Whatcar and Autotrader. Hence space could be made for theatre without actually compromising TV or film. This potential solution would encourage a holistic approach from the whole newspaper which might be an option.

I realise the market research that you have undertaken suggests that TV and film are more in demand than theatre. However, I wondered many of the older generation would read the online site, where I am presuming the market research was conducted? Certainly in the case of my late Grandma, (who loved going to the theatre every week), she would never have looked on online because she didn’t use a computer bar emailing friends. Seeing as theatre is a lifeline for isolated older people to get involved int eh community perhaps there are more people reading the newspaper articles about theatre than we think?

I understand that newspapers write what they think people want to read, but i just wonder if actually challenging people to read things they wouldn’t normally read and kind of making a big thing of theatre in Bath is more interesting?

I look forward to hearing from you,
Best wishes,
Ben Armstrong

Dear Rachael

I was disappointed about the reduction of space in the Bath Chronicle devoted to live theatre, but I am encouraged by your response, following discussion, to be open to looking at ways of increasing coverage. I admit that I am biased. I enjoy film and television, but I have always found live performance inspiring, and am actively involved in theatre in Bath, both performing and attending. 

I am not a newspaper editor, but I hope that I can appreciate at least some of the constraints under which you work,  including the pressure to produce news of local interest with less resources than you would like at your disposal.  And so much competition for grabbing the public’s attention.

I am struck by how similar this is to local theatre.  Local people trying to draw in an audience, inspiring young as well as older people, competing with so many other ways of being entertained.  But the theatres are also local businesses working to draw in interest from outside of Bath - performers discovering what our great city has to offer, and our population and visitors having access to a variety of performance to entertain, educate and stimulate.

We need our local press to champion this, in the face of all the competition. Every new person who is a convert to local news coverage and theatre is a success story. 

Many thanks for your attention to this.

Best wishes
Caroline Groom

Dear Rachael Sugden,

Why does your paper no longer have proper coverage of the amateur theatre productions in Bath? Something that happened recently made me realise that the Mission Theatre, for example, is worthy of your attention. Walking along Beau Street this week I bumped into a very famous actor, J Murray Abrahams, who portrayed Salieri in the acclaimed film "Amadeus."  I told him a friend of mine also played Salieri in the Mission Theatre many years ago!
I know that local papers are hard pressed to survive in these turbulent times, but please don't throw the baby out with the bath water!

H W Thomas

Dear Rachael Sugden, 

As participants in and supporters of amateur drama in Bath as well as supporting the Theatre Royal and the Ustinov, it is disheartening to feel that, whilst mainstream arts events will still attract audiences, regardless of newspaper coverage, the amateur theatre scene will suffer. Amateur theatre in Bath is eclectic and innovative and deserves bigger audiences, so we hope that The Chronicle will be able to offer as much publicity as possible to enable local companies to thrive and grow. T&M W

Some of the many messages of support we have received from friends, supporters and local theatre practitioners:

“Keep up the good work” - Jackie Chappell

“Many thanks for your email and your action on behalf of local theatre with the Chronicle.” Steve Curtis, Bath Drama

“Thankyou for taking the trouble to do this” LW

"Sounds like you got good points over. Let's hope the page idea is shown to be successful." Councillor Cherry Beath

"Many thanks for keeping us updated with your considerable efforts to secure on-going Chronicle coverage of Bath's vibrant amateur drama and music scene.   The arrangements you have negotiated are potentially an improvement on the position to date as we will have a publication timetable to work to and a dedicated page.  It has always been a little frustrating when submitting production/performance details and not knowing whether they will be included or when. We will all need to make sure we keep a healthy and regular supply of articles and features to justify what appears to be quite a generous deal from the paper.  If we don't then I'm sure the Chronicle will have no qualms in withdrawing it." Nick Lee Bath Gilbert and Sullivan Society

"Very well done on your valiant efforts to ensure a profile for non-mainstream theatre in Bath. We have immensely enjoyed the productions we have seen at The Mission and consider the standard of acting and staging to be second to none. Keep up your marvellous work." M&M J

Artistic Director raises concerns over Arts' coverage with Editor of Bath Chronicle

On Thursday 28th April, Ann Ellison BEM - Artistic Director of Next Stage and The Mission Theatre - attended a meeting arranged by Rachael Sugden - Editor of the Bath Chronicle - to discuss concerns Ann has recently raised regarding the scant coverage of the local theatre and performing arts scene in Bath. The below is an open letter from Ann to anybody and everybody who is involved in, or simply enjoys, locally-produced theatrical events - particularly drama - in Bath:

Dear all,

I know from a variety of conversations and emails in the past few weeks, that many of you are as concerned and puzzled as I am about the marginalisation of local theatre coverage in the Bath Chronicle since the arts’ editor Dan Biggane left in March.

Today, I had a meeting with Rachael Sugden, the editor of the Bath Chronicle, to discuss my concerns. Most of the features in the new-look Weekend Magazine in the paper are used by other media consortiums. Rachael only has a few bespoke pages to cover specific Bath-based news. The fact there is no longer a Theatre page is a direct result of market research which has returned conclusive figures that whilst film and television are popular, there is not sufficient interest in the local performing arts’ scene to justify a Theatre page! Rachael was very honest about the pressures she and her team are under to deliver market-driven news.

I made the point that the Chronicle’s decision to no longer include local theatre articles and images as they had appeared in the previous Guide format, would inevitably result in a self-fulfilling prophecy: the less our local theatres, companies and events are covered, the less Bath audiences will be aware of the variety and scope of the drama on offer in the city and hence the more invisible our work will become. I made an impassioned plea for the current What’s On and Listings’ pages to be compressed to provide enough space for theatre to have its own page, but Rachael has taken an editorial decision that people basically want to just know what is on in the city and that to reduce this content would be a retrograde step. She may very well be right to think this way and so we moved on to discuss alternative solutions to the lack of theatre coverage.

Having heard the constraints under which Rachael has to operate, I made the following suggestions:

1. Would she consider a monthly feature - ideally a page in either the main paper or the magazine - headed Theatre and showcasing theatrical events, specifically drama, being staged in the city’s various venues in the ensuing four weeks. Rachael has agreed to trial such a page (sadly it might be less than a page) starting in the last week of May and featuring upcoming theatre events in Bath in June. The vision for this bespoke page would be that it would carry eye-catching images and possibly one or two in-depth stories drawing on the copy provided by local theatres and drama companies.

2. Would Rachael consider extra newspaper coverage when any of the city’s local theatrical venues produce their new season’s programmes. I explained in the case of The Mission Theatre that would be a twice-yearly feature, The Rondo I believe has a thrice-yearly brochure and of course other venues may also wish to send in season launch details as and when they are announced. Under the old regime, a feature in the paper celebrating the best of forthcoming shows at a venue and the news that its brochure was out in hard copy and available online, was a very useful and popular preview for Bath’s theatre-goers of what was on offer in the coming months.

Whilst considering how to facilitate both of the above suggestions and remaining sympathetic to our cause, Rachael will also try and include news-worthy coverage of unusual/specific/one-off theatre stories in the main paper on a weekly basis. The presentation of local Art Listings, Theatre & Comedy and Film Highlights at the back of the magazine is unlikely to change.

Finally, having sent Rachael a draft of this piece, I am delighted to say she emailed the following:

“I would like to reiterate that while yes, we are going to focus our resources writing content we know the majority of our audience will read, I have no intention of marginalising our coverage of what (as I said to you today) is an incredibly vibrant, grass-roots cultural community in Bath. 

Thank you for passing on our contact details - as you rightly point out it is imperative that the theatre community keep us informed - and we will always endeavour to provide a voice and a platform for the community in our print products.”

So, in order that our vibrant city theatre scene and the excellent range of dramatic offerings available to the public here in Bath does not get overlooked or neglected in the local media, it is of paramount importance that people passionate about the arts let Rachael know their feelings and provide the necessary copy and images to make the monthly Theatre preview feature a success. 

Please email rachael.sugden@localworld.co.uk or write to letters@bathchron.co.uk to express your concern about the current lack of coverage and to endorse any increase that Rachael and her team can achieve.

Please email rachael.sugden@localworld.co.uk and samantha.walker@localworld.co.uk with articles, images and preview material covering forthcoming drama events or any one-off theatrical news items.

With many thanks in anticipation of your support,

Ann Ellison BEM