Free Theatre Initiative

In September, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Arts Council announced its plans to offer free tickets to arts events to under-26-year-olds. Following on from the Government’s commitment to free access to museums, as well as more recently swimming, this fantastic scheme will start in February 2009 with an Open Stage Week in up to 95 publicly-funded theatres across the country. This week will run during the most common half-term dates of 16th-22nd February so that it can be enjoyed by its target audience and is designed to introduce families and young people to the theatre and arts world. To encourage this, backstage tours and speeches about the theatre and its operations will also be offered. Then from the 23rd February, the main programme will commence until March 2011. Tickets can be retrieved at least once a week whether you are with a group of people or simply on your own, on a first come first served basis, suggesting that it is not purely a profitable scheme. Its aim is to give increased cultural opportunities to young people as well as to get young adults interested in the theatre as the age range 18-26 is when traditionally arts attendance drops. But why have they introduced this scheme? What factors see less people within this age bracket attending the theatre and what attempts have been made to try and rectify this problem?

One of the reasons why the DCMS and the Arts Council may have introduced this scheme is to enhance the lives of future generations. As well as a leisure activity, the theatre can educate and enrich an audience. It helps develop cultural awareness, cultural skills, as well as community interaction. In education, children are taken to the theatre on school outings; these outings are not purely for the entertainment of the pupils, but they are designed to educate through the power of story and they also help nurture social skills and manners in a new and probably less familiar environment. More so than museum visits or field trips, there is a certain way to behave and you have to have considerations for others who are watching the show. After education, children are less likely to take the initiative to go to the theatre independently despite the fact they may want to, as they simply cannot afford it. These are the people that this scheme is aimed at. One of the points on the guidance document for this project states that this scheme is not for youth groups or school visits, but is designed for individuals to book independent visits. 18-26 is the age range, as mentioned above, that art attendance tends to drop at, and the age when young adults develop. By introducing this scheme, they can set the stage for these young adults to enjoy and indulge in the theatre in order to eventually grow into someone who will be willing to pay to watch shows, inadvertently building a new audience over a period of time that will eventually be contributing to the economy.

The theatre, like many aspects of culture, has practising elitists. Theatre land has attempted to make shows more accessible and appeal to the general public by introducing reality televisions shows such as ‘Any Dream will Do” and “I’d Do Anything” on to our screens. These document attendees to open auditions who showcase their talent in order to star in the latest musical sensation. For those who may be more cynical of such shows, its redeeming point is that it is produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and he is heavily involved in the show, deciding who goes through to the live show finals and each week having the final say over who goes. The public vote for their favourites each week and they watch the turbulent journey that each of the contestants go through, pulling on the heart-strings of the public. It is designed to get more people to attend the theatre as they feel a connection with the stars. But are these people the ones who are attending the shows? Will this really inspire the average person to go to an independent theatre to watch a play, not a musical in the tourist central West End? Some shows, such as Chicago continually enlist household names in order to appeal to the masses and everywhere we go these are the shows that are being advertised. Britain is full of great thespians such as Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs and Ian McKellen and although they are household names, they are only so due to their ability as actors- this is where the line should be drawn at celebrity actors. The initiative will show that there is more to theatre than our celebrity obsessed world. By working with independent theatres, it will show that there can be emotion and a connection with a character through the power of their acting, not simply because you watched their journey from day one on the television.

Students and young adults are always looking for cheap ways to entertain themselves and with theatre prices exceeding £10, even with concessions, there will always be cheaper alternatives. Free tickets however will be much more attractive to these people. It will also help to dissolve the elitist attitude that is associated with the theatre, making it accessible for all youngsters. But whether this scheme will have any long-term impact remains to be seen. This scheme lasts for two years and to a certain age group; after this period, how many people will be willing to pay for tickets after previously getting them for free? Once you know it is possible for the government to introduce measures such as this, it may be hard to accept you eventually have to pay.
SE For 3E News With Research by 3E

Housse De Racket

Take two college friends with a love of Gainsbourg, add some Pheonix and a good dose of chilled French electro and combine it with… tennis? What has tennis got to do with music? Apart from the obvious (they are both played on stringed instruments) it’s Housse de Racket, who have just released their debut album Forty Love, a concept album that tells the story of two tennis players called Vico Vix and Repi Rep, winners in the sport and losers in love. McEnroe may have made tennis rock n roll but these two ace it into the airwaves.

Housse de Racket are Pierre and Victor, two old grunge fans who, after initially ignoring each other, got talking one day after they both walked out sporting Pearl Jam T-shirts. It wasn't just Eddie Vedder they had in common, both loved sports but they excelled in music. Before long they were jamming together in a funk group.

With the 'French Touch' still misting the air, Victor and Pierre started recording their first record, a hard house digital mix that was eaten by their hard drive and beaten by Daft Punk's Discovery. From then, with a little hand from fate, Housse de Racket took on a new approach - racket the house, they literally beat a new approach into house and the tennis concept was born.

They’ve ping ponged around the 'French Touch' groups; supported the likes of Phoenix and Yelle, and Victor recently played with The Teenagers at Glastonbury; on Forty Love they worked with Gonzales and Renaud Letang and they’re sponsored by Lacoste. Not a bad start, but where do they go from here? Well, not London it would seem, not in the near future at least, at the moment they are busy touring France. Was there ever a better excuse to hop on a train for the short trip to Paris than this? Catch them now on their home grass before everyone and their mum is talking about them.

CE For 3E News With Research By GM

Festival Outlook

The question has been asked for some time now, but perhaps it really is the moment to face the future of our festivals. The Summer of 2008 produced more festivals than the British public could handle, and a grand shift in profit and sponsorship that hit some hard.
Michael Eavis recently disclosed to BBC 6Music that 2008’s Glastonbury had made no profit for the first time in its 39-year history. The onset of the credit crunch, recession and all manner of other woes to go alongside was imminent at the time of the festival, and Eavis cited growing costs of fuel, staging, staff and numerous other aspects of the event as being part of the issue. With the economic crisis now bearing into our lives much more prominently and on a day-to-day basis, the problem is almost certain to continue into next year’s festival schedule - for the UK and, quite probably, beyond our shores as well.

It is arguable, of course, that huge profit is not and should not be on the agenda for Glastonbury: it simply doesn’t fit in with the spirit and ideology of the weekend. Over £1 million was still raised for charity in 2008, a pretty admirable total by any standard. But this, however selfish it may seem, is not the issue at hand. The organisers have nothing left to invest in 2009’s event, which is estimated to cost around £22 million to put on. It’s a shocking figure. Did anyone think about that kind of thing when refusing to buy a ticket this year for the simple fact that Jay Z was playing?

Poor ticket sales played a part in this lack of profit too, of course. Thank goodness, then, that 2008’s Glastonbury Festival received rave reviews and restored our faith in it continuing to be one of the best and most prestigious festivals, not just in the country, but in the world.

Despite this renewed faith in Glastonbury, however, the event in 2009 still has to sell out if it is to be financially viable for it to go ahead. Inevitably and obviously this is down to the music fans and the approach they take to the changing climate that is the Festival Summer. Glastonbury’s veritable well of die-hard followers may seem bottomless, but even this factor was criticised last year for making the atmosphere somewhat stale by not connecting enough with a younger demographic. Emily Eavis commented that 2008 “saw the most diverse audience for ten years”, so we can perhaps hope for a new injection of youthful spirit to return to another successful weekend in 2009.
The system for purchasing tickets for next year’s festival is in fact already proving triumphant and agreeable with our ongoing money concerns. The opportunity for placing a £50 deposit and waiting until next year to complete the payment has appealed to many festival-goers who now have the time to save up (or at least wait until Christmas) for the £175 total needed. For most the price is a fair one, being the same as last year’s and, in relation to many other live events, amazing value for money. The complaints last year that the youth of today have no means to afford such a cost can also be, in part, silenced by this new system, and the evident benefits of it have been proven by the fact that around 100,000 tickets for 2009’s event have already been sold.
Perhaps these facts alone say enough to reassure the live industry that music fans are still willing to pay large amounts to attend festivals. “The Industry” has hardly made it easy for us, though. 2008 saw notably more festivals than ever before, making for major lapses in judgement in some cases and a lack of satisfactory ticket sales in many.

Surrey’s Redfest, despite having a wealth of largely excellent bookings, was subject to the latter and unfortunately cancelled, while the increase in festivals saw an increase in corresponding line-ups, and therefore arguably somewhat of a depletion in both variety and quality of music on offer. Fair enough, the growing DIY nature of the live industry (and otherwise) has empowered people to develop their own dream weekends, but the past Summer is surely proof enough that the idea cannot fit the reality, and certainly is confined to limits within the British festival schedule. A fine example of this realisation was Z008 in Kent, an apparent shambles from unjustified start to welcome finish. Acts weren’t paid and headliners pulled out, the co-operation of staff was inefficient and there were even questions concerning health and safety. Amazingly, tickets for Z009 are now on sale, but 2008’s attendees can surely only be waiting with baited breath for the announcement of a cancellation.
There was, however, some success in the rally of anti-corporate-gain festival promotion, as the Reading and Leeds weekends were as good as ever despite Carling pulling out of sponsorship after nine years with the festival. Fine, those two are hardly against major profit margins or shameless advertising, but it shows that large festival organisers can still rely on music fans to buy tickets and can hold on to this belief throughout setbacks; Reading and Leeds are another pair that will seemingly always deliver an outstanding line-up and a brilliant weekend.
Comparatively much more independent and yet perhaps just as critically acclaimed this year were the more small scale and humble events – selective and unique, they catered for fans of actual alternative music and captured a quaint British Summer atmosphere for all involved. These could spell the end for larger festivals, given their appeal to music fans on numerous levels, or they could arguably be their own downfall in the not quite so distant future. These events are cool for being small, popular for being so hushed up: the secret surely cannot last too long before masses of promoters jump on board yet again.All that is left to debate is whether the bizarre occurrences of the Summer of 2008 are an anomaly in the face of a change in live promotion and, indeed, in our economy, or whether they are an insight into the future of our Festival Summer. It’s worrying to see that the latter is probably the likely outcome.

RP For 3E News with Research by MH


GOBAMA! was definitely my favourite campaign poster. It was countered by Nobama, which was also funny but not quite as good.
Aside from the puns, one of the best images I found on my search for Obama art was a painting showing him wading through a river of red roses, dressed in an open white robe while a white stallion gallops behind him. The sky is a dramatic pink and huge beams of light shine down on Barack’s gleaming figure. Very biblical.

It seems that the majority of the poster art displayed in favour of Obama shows strong parallels with Communist propaganda posters. The simple posters look like screen prints, and commonly use the colours of the American flag. The prints are of the Presidents face, and usually have one word in thick type at the bottom, showing strong similarities with Russian Communist posters. The posters are blunt and bold, but surprisingly unimposing.

However the same cannot be said for John McCain’s posters; the posters in support of America’s Republican candidate are possibly the most patriotic and 'American' things I have ever seen. I found one which consists of a background of clouds at sun set, on top of which is a feathered and faded photograph of wise old Mr McCain looking very deep and thoughtful. There are four war planes flying over his head and the slogan 'PEACE IS BORN OF WISDOM'. All of this is contained in an acidic wash blue and black frame and at the bottom there is an American flag banner with the words ‘McCain 08’. It looks like something a child would make as a joke. But there is something quite sinister about the poster, maybe it's the planes or maybe it's the fact that he looks completely dead in the eyes or perhaps it’s because he is a giant head in the sky and if you actually put this into perspective you'd have a John McCain about the size of Africa, and that is a very scary thought.

I found some of my favourite pieces of Obama art in the form of cakes, yep, cakes.

One masterpiece was a portrait of the president-elect using nothing but 1,240 cupcakes. Now that’s one sweet piece of art! One which was less successful was a chocolate cake with the caption 'YOUR VOTE COUNST' written in blue icing; so it's obvious no changes need to be made in their education system.
In one way, Obama winning the election is the end of an era in terms of art. I've never been one for political art, if you really hate your president maybe you should do something more than writing FUCK GEORGE BUSH across a canvas and then throwing it into a pile of other canvases which have FUCK GEORGE BUSH written across them, or picturing him with vampire teeth and bunny ears. Personally I'm rather glad to see that era end, but seriously, what are half the current 'artists' going to do now?
AG For 3E News with Research By AK