The beginning of the end?

Posted on: December 14th, 2010 by Trevor | 2 Comments

The resignation of Simon Stallworthy from his role as Director of Durham’s Gala Theatre is a massive blow to writers, actors and theatre-goers in the area.

Simon is one of the biggest champions of new writing around and in his five years-plus at the Gala he has transformed the place from a struggling receiving house to a thriving, productive, forward-looking artistic hub.

From being a poorly-attended, barely-known theatre putting on low-grade touring shows and knock-off tribute bands in front of a handful of punters, the Gala was building up a real name for its own high-quality, in-house productions and large, highly-receptive audiences.

We were lucky enough to have two plays premiere at the Gala, Maggie’s End and Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather, both of which were directed by Simon.  Both plays went on to further success in London and at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal respectively, none of which would have been possible without his support and encouragement.

And we’re not the only ones to have had such support, Ian Skelton’s plays Beamish Boy, Get Off at Gateshead and Sun Trap all premiered there alongside new and original adaptations of more familiar material like The Likely Lads and All Creatures Great and Small and revivals of modern classics like Betrayal. They’ve even produced their own pantos, as I write Cinderella is playing to ecstatic full houses.

The casts for all of these productions were predominantly made up of  highly-talented North East-based actors who will now be wondering where their next crust is coming from.

I have little doubt that the loss of Simon and the concurrent funding cuts will mean the end of such productions and that the Gala will revert to its previous nondescript existence and will possibly even disappear completely in the not too distant future. I really hope not because I know from experience how professional and proud of their work the staff there are and they deserve better.

I’m not an expert on theatre funding but I know that the Gala doesn’t get any kind of direct grant from the Arts Council and has to rely on the financial support of Durham County Council, who, with the best will in the world, are to running theatres what Nick Clegg is to honouring pre-election pledges.  I don’t know how this anomaly has arisen but someone at the Arts Council should take a long hard look at the situation. It’s ridiculous that a city like Durham isn’t going to have a producing theatre of any kind.

2 Responses

  1. Paul Hartley says:

    Im in total agreement! this situation is the result of small mindedness and a severe lack of backbone on the councils part. Simon and his team have created a fantastic venue that is a credit to a fantastic city.
    I for one will do all I can to help in whatever capacity.

  2. Karen Logan says:

    All I can say is good luck to Simon our son Dean was cast in 2 of Simon’s plays…. Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather and Beamish Boy.. both outstanding plays directed by Simon.. I only hope he goes on to bigger and better things as a director.

    Best Wishes to Simon
    From ….

    Karen, Jeff and Dean Logan x

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