Tradition Secretary speech to the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre

Good morning everybody, it’s a privilege and a pleasure to be right here. A privilege to be requested to open your annual summit.


And a pleasure to have the ability to speak to all of you right this moment, not simply in regards to the host of causes that we all know that our theatres are among the many envy of the world however about how we will unlock the expansion of this sector and proceed to maximise the potential of theatre throughout the nation.

And what potential there may be. All of you already know that theatres have an virtually distinctive energy to teach, to entertain, and to attach.

Theatres are so vital to our nationwide id to our collective psyche in addition to to our economic system.

Forward of the occasion right this moment, I used to be reflecting on what it’s that makes theatres so particular.


We dwell in very noisy occasions the place life can usually really feel like a bombardment of data and information and a visit to the theatre has all the time provided escapism from what’s going on round us.

An opportunity to be alone along with your ideas reflecting on one thing totally different and attention-grabbing.

And theatre – greater than virtually some other artwork type – is so usually a mirrored image of the state of the nation itself. A mirror to society.

Have a look at Jerusalem. Have a look at Prima Facie.

I went to see Groundhog Day just lately and I have to say I noticed a number of small parallels with politics over the previous couple of days.

However most of all, theatre enriches our lives. No one forgets a visit to the theatre and no one forgets a second the place they noticed or skilled one thing exceptionally unique.

And we’re actually fortunate to have unbelievable theatres proper throughout the nation. Our regional strengths are on a par with our nationwide ones, with sensible, progressive productions in locations like Sheffield, the place a play like Standing on the Sky’s Edge can start life on the Crucible and go on to win a UK theatre award, an Olivier award and now a Tony award.

Our regional theatres achieve this rather more than merely placed on reveals. They nourish civic life. They serve our native communities and thru their many outreach actions they play an vital function in training and in social care, offering artistic alternatives for the younger and for the susceptible, and supporting vibrant native networks of freelance artists.

In lots of cities the theatre is the principle customer attraction and on the centre of regeneration and financial renewal.

That originality and innovation is a credit score to so lots of you within the room right this moment.

Whether or not that’s our distinctive regional theatres, and I do know we have now figures like Jon Gilchrist from Birmingham Hippodrome and Stephanie Sirr from Nottingham Playhouse with us right this moment.

Or teams like Royal Shakespeare Firm, The Nationwide Youth Theatre, ScreenSkills, the Roundhouse, all of whom I do know are talking later and are doing an enormous quantity to attract younger folks into the theatre.

I used to be so happy to see that, simply final week, to see the RSC prolonged its partnerships with 5 extra economically disadvantaged areas. It should now give extra publicity to theatre and the humanities.

And I’d actually prefer to thank SOLT for placing on such a forward-facing, optimistic agenda for right this moment’s occasion. One with periods that actually chime with my priorities as your Secretary of State. Maximising the potential of the sector. Unlocking development, each of audiences and revenues. And, arguably most significantly, constructing a pipeline of expertise. I’ll come to that in just a little extra depth later.

However what I wish to begin with is Covid. As a result of as you all know, when the pandemic reared its ugly head in 2020, it had the potential to be a doomsday occasion for theatre proper throughout the UK.

However due to this Authorities, and the collaboration between certainly one of my predecessors, the present Deputy Prime Minister, officers in Authorities, and importantly lots of you within the business, right here on this room right this moment, the worst fears when buildings closed their doorways weren’t realised.

It was a mirrored image of your central function in our nationwide life that we made a £2 billion funding into preserving our tradition and our heritage. That cash supported lots of of theatres up and down the nation – defending crown jewels just like the Nationwide Theatre and regional gems just like the Wolverhampton Grand, the theatre the place Sean Connery received his first break.

Most significantly, it made certain the lights of our theatres throughout the nation had been solely dimmed, and didn’t exit completely.

For hundreds of individuals, the pandemic was a interval that actually put into perspective simply how vital theatres are to tens of millions of us, and simply how very important it’s that there are theatres which might be native and simply accessible.

Streaming providers reaped the rewards of lockdowns, when dwelling leisure was the one possibility, however they couldn’t change the visceral draw of dwell motion.

The excitement that surrounds theatres is a heartening reminder that there’s nothing like being within the room the place it occurs.

And you may see that in how theatres roared again to life within the years since that point. After two years throughout which a lot of life was lived via our screens and our headphones, sharing an inventive expertise with a gaggle of different folks in the identical bodily area felt extra intense, extra intimate and extra of an expertise.

I actually discovered that the lengthy absences all of us spent from auditoriums added an additional cost to the expertise after we had been again in them.

And that’s a sense I do know was shared by actors, dancers, singers, musicians, front-of-house and backstage employees in addition to ticket-holders.

And if there was one occasion, one second that actually captured the energy of the bounceback from Covid, it must be this yr’s Oliviers on the Royal Albert Corridor in April. An occasion that SOLT is liable for organising and one the place the grandest prizes went to such an eclectic mixture of reveals. A Tennessee Williams traditional with a red-hot star from the silver display, the hip-hop suffragette musical Sylvia, a one-woman present by an Australian former lawyer, carried out by Jodie Comer making her stage debut, a present that has been so profitable that it has been exported to Broadway and has gained Jodie a Tony award.

It was proof – if ever there was any wanted – that British theatre is right this moment in a far livelier situation than appeared doable three years in the past after the primary Covid lockdown started simply after Easter.

That’s owed to your dedication, to your ardour and to your resilience, and the Authorities is proud to have performed a job in supporting the sector.

It’s a collaboration that I, as your Tradition Secretary, wish to proceed to nurture.

Your engagement and compelling proof helped me to make the case to Authorities for the extension of the upper fee of theatre tax reduction at Spring Funds.

There isn’t any doubt in my thoughts that this authorities actually understands the significance of theatre, of opera and of music.

Helen Mirren stated that theatres are central to the ‘id of our nation’ and ’embedded in what it means to be British’. And I wholeheartedly agree.

A few of my earliest childhood recollections are of appearing in class performs and being concerned in theatre productions.

I used to be first uncovered to appearing once I was about seven like many individuals throughout the nation having fun with an after faculty drama class. I performed Alice in our adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. And I even had a go at directing my type class model of Blithe Spirit which, I feel, lived as much as Noël Coward’s billing as “an unbelievable farce in three acts”. Or a minimum of the farce half.

Right this moment I’m a Tradition Secretary in a Cupboard filled with Tradition Secretaries.

With a Chancellor who was previously Tradition Secretary, an admirer of Jez Butterworth and Gethsemane, whose favorite play is King Lear and favorite piece of music, Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto.

A Deputy Prime Minister who was additionally as soon as a Tradition Secretary, who spent his childhood on faculty journeys from his complete in Watford travelling by minibus to see Les Misérables, Blood Brothers and An Inspector Calls and who would finally take to the stage on the Edinburgh Fringe in a music youth theatre group, in a Victorian melodrama present, Homicide within the Purple Barn.

And to prime it off, a Prime Minister who instigated the Cultural Restoration Fund and elevated the speed of theatre tax reduction while he was Chancellor and used certainly one of his very, very, only a few nights off he ever will get just lately, to go and see Guys and Dolls.

Now, why does any of that matter? Effectively I feel it issues as a result of you possibly can see that zeal for the humanities in what the Authorities really does.

Within the Tradition Restoration Fund, the Cultural Funding Fund, within the tax reliefs which have helped theatres thrive. And as of the final fortnight, within the Artistic Industries Imaginative and prescient.

It is a imaginative and prescient for a way our whole Artistic Industries – of which theatres are an indispensable half – can thrive not simply in 2023 or 2024, however for many years to return.

It’s about maximising the potential of those industries, about shaping a pipeline of expertise.

And I do know that these are concepts that SOLT and your members have been desirous about lengthy and arduous – I’ve seen that in your Thriving Theatres plan. And I’ve heard it instantly from lots of you, together with my good friend and colleague Lord Parkinson.

Measures just like the funding in analysis and growth or the elevated give attention to expertise via Expertise Bootcamps and the upcoming Cultural Training Plan.

We would like kids in school to be given the liberty and the chance to discover their creativity. To seek out out for themselves, that ‘all of the world’s a stage.’

And expertise growth is one thing that I do know is a giant a part of SOLT’s agenda, and of theatres throughout the nation.

When folks focus on success they rightly invoke drive, work ethic, wealth. However they hardly ever point out creativeness. An important measurement of success, a determinant of success, is your sense of the doable and theatres are one of many locations that give this to younger folks.

Taken collectively, we wish the Artistic Industries Imaginative and prescient to be one thing that paves the best way for a shift within the steadiness of energy from Broadway to theWest Finish.

I do know you all share in that ambition and work tirelessly to make sure theatres attract audiences proper throughout the nation night-after-night.

And we due to this fact have a lot of the foundations already.

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s essay in The New York Instances, marking the closing of Phantom of the Opera, he highlighted the punishing economics that made it more durable to placed on reveals on Broadway.

And that isn’t to say the state of affairs is ideal within the West Finish. However the mixture of theatre you discover in London appears to be like stronger than ever in the intervening time.

And we wish to work with all of you to make the West Finish a magnet for the very best productions, the very best administrators and the very best playwrights within the enterprise.

To assist nurture the subsequent era of Cameron Waterproof coat, Sonia Friedman and Nica Burns. And to have the abilities base that can give our auditoriums the gravitational pull wanted to attract in that expertise.

The Artistic Industries Imaginative and prescient is the beginning gun on that endeavour.

There’s clearly additional to go. However our beginning base is an exceptionally robust one – constructed by all of you within the room right this moment.

I wish to proceed working with you, and studying from you, to develop the artistic excellence that folks journey from all around the world to see in our theatres.

So thanks as soon as once more in your invitation to talk to you all right this moment. You’ve received a packed day forward of you and I stay up for listening to extra in regards to the concepts and speaking factors after the occasion.