Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Howard and Mrs Pat Watson


  We would like to submit the following points for the consideration of the members of the Committee for Culture, Media and Sport. We are concerned not only as townspeople of Stratford-upon-Avon, but also because, after careers in design consultancy and education, we studied and wrote about the Art Deco period for 17 years. Now retired, we are appalled that the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (formerly the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre) is threatened with demolition.

  1.  Many people locally, across the country and worldwide, oppose plans to demolish the theatre. In an Internet poll run by a local newspaper, 55 per cent of voters opposed demolition. There has also been considerable opposition in the local and national press.

  2.  Now a Grade Two* listed building, the theatre, built in 1932, was the first major building in this country to be designed by a woman architect, Elizabeth Scott, who won the competition to design a new theatre for Stratford-upon-Avon. It is a brilliant example, now sadly rare, of the Art Deco "Ocean Liner" style, so designed to appear to be resting on the waters of the River Avon.

  3.  Though greater backstage facilities are needed, this should not automatically imply demolition of the theatre, which as a building could be put to another use, thus preserving its Art Deco features, a replacement theatre being built elsewhere.

  4.  Finally, we are concerned by the attitude of the management of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which dismisses local objections as "emotional" and has continually put out contradictory reports about its intentions. For instance, in March we were told that demolition of the theatre was "unlikely" and in October that they "intended to demolish", while at a public meeting in December organised by protestors, a spokesperson for the RSC claimed that "nothing has been decided".

  We feel strongly that this beautiful and much-loved landmark building, known worldwide, merits preservation. It is part of our national heritage, of which we all of us are not the owners, but only the current custodians.

9 January 2002

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