First disabled arts champ named

First disabled arts champ named

The arts producer and strategist Andrew Miller has been appointed the first champion for the disabled in arts and culture.

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

English cultural organisations stand to lose £40m a year with Brexit, with 64% oif them currently working inside the European Union. The report from EUCLID, commissioned by Arts Council England, shows that between 2007 and 2016 the EU contributed £345m to England’s arts, museums and creative industries, or £40m a year.

Boost for Banbury Museum expansion

Councillors have agreed plans to double the size of Banbury’s museum in a £5m expansion scheme.

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Archer promises review of funding process

Books by the Ocean

Books by the Ocean

A ‘crazy’ notion to bring a literary festival to Sri Lanka has proved an astounding success. Patrick Kelly reports

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

An Arts Council programme devised to help young children from deprived areas through involvement in the arts is working, according to an evaluation report published today.

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Arts sector representatives and tourist companies in Northern Ireland have called on politicians to recognise the important role the arts plays in the economy of the region.

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

But Scotland embraces ‘Agent of Change’ principle.

Hockney is critics' choice

Hockney is critics' choice

David Hockney is to receive the Critics’ Circle Award for 2017, only the second time a visual artist has been selected for the prestigious prize in the Circle’s 105-year history.

Photojournalism's art gallery

Photojournalism's art gallery

A new website at last gives Fleet Street’s photographers a showcase for their work as art. Simon Tait spoke to its founders, Fleet Street veterans Alan Sparrow and Bret Painter-Spanyol

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Britain’s museums are being increasingly excluded from the art market by cuts in funding, stifling the acquisitions that are the life force for public collections.

Creative industries on track to create 1m local jobs - Nesta

The creative industries are driving the UK’s economic growth, expanding twice as fast as any other sector, according to new research by Nesta.

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

Film and television organisations led by BAFT and the BFI have set a series of principles and guidelines to deal with bullying and sexual harassment in the industry.

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Two really portraits by Lucian Freud have been left to the nation in lieu of tax and allocated to the Abbott Hall Gallery in Kendal.

Mary Beard to front Front Row

Mary Beard to front Front Row

The classics professor Mary Beard is to anchor the revamped television version of the arts review magazine Front Row when it returns in the spring.

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

This large picture of 1665 by an anonymous artist is one of the great mysteries of the art world, and is the centerpiece of a forthcoming major Norwich Castle Museum exhibition.

London goes Underground

London goes Underground

Photographs of some faces and places associated with the capital go on display at five London Tube stations this week.

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, the 20/21 British Art Fair has changed ownership and will move to the Saatchi Gallery.

THEATRE Jeeves, Potter and love in the Lakes

A 200-seat Lake District theatre that consistently loses money, The Old Laundry, is celebrating its 25th birthday with a triumphant revival of a musical by some of the people who created it

It’s hard to reconcile the idea, but without Beatrix Potter and Alan Ayckbourn there would be no Jeeves, not at Bowness-in-Windermere anyway. And without the stage designer Roger Glossop and his stage manager wife Charlotte, the old laundry would still be a Windermere pleasure boat store.

It’s a long story which opens a new chapter on October 6 when the West End Lloyd Webber musical hit By Jeeves opens in a 200-seat flexible theatre, directed by the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, to mark the 25th birthday of a dream come true.

Roger Glossop has been a successful theatre set designer for 40 years, but as well as working on West End shows and, almost habitually, on the plays of Alan Ayckbourn, he has been an exhibition designer. It is his wizardry that has brought to life tour-ist attractions like Jorvik in York, the Oxford Story in Oxford and the Canterbury Tales in Canterbury.

“It wasn’t that we were particularly in love with Beatrix Potter” says Glossop “but I’m a practical sort of chap – so it was exhibition = Lake District = Beatrix Potter, a bit obvious”. There was nothing to mark the presence of Potter in Cumbria where she lived and worked for 37 years, it was up to them to provide it.

They chose the delightful town of Bowness, instantly recognisable to fans of Arthur Ransome’s Swa lows and Amazons as “Rio”, and after getting a licence from Potter’s publishers, Penguin – “we were rather worried they wouldn’t approve, but they couldn’t have been more accom- modating” Glossop says. “In fact, when the first building we tried for fell through, they said to keep the licence in case we found another” – set to to create The World of Beatrix Potter with the legendary theatre costumier and prop-maker the late Elaine Garrard with a business plan devised by Charlotte for their company Lake Story.

The proprietor of a flotilla of Lake Windermere pleasure boats wanted to get rid of a near derelict old building in the town, the old laundry, and was happy to sell it to the Glossops. They rebuilt the old laundry and in 1991 The World of Beatrix Potter opened, and it has been a phenomenal success, attracting almost 200,000 visitors a year.

But the laundry is a double building, and there was space to spare for the much older dream the Glossops had had: to have their own theatre. Ayckbourn is based in Scarborough, and Glossop had worked with him at the old Library Theatre there. He was struck by the similarities of that space and his laundry building.

Glossop had enjoyed “a working friendship” with Ayckbourn since they first worked together on Woman in Mind in 1985. “I said to him, ‘If we built a theatre in Bowness, would you bring your work’? He didn’t say anything for a minute, then he swore, then he said ‘Oh well, we’ll be dead soon’, and we’ve had at least one play from him every year” he recalls.

Ayckbourn was not the Glossops’ only influential friend, however, and there was generous support from Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, and also Griff Rhys Jones.

At first, the Old Laundry Theatre opened for just the autumn months
for the Bowness Theatre Festival, Lake Story’s charitable arm, but since last year, another special one, it is on
an all-year basis including in-house productions.

2016 was the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth so their rst home-made show was a family mu- sical Where is Peter Rabbit?, which returned this summer by popular demand for 185 performances. The script was to have been written by their friend Victoria Wood – “she said she would open anything for us, a sardine can if we asked” – but her illness before she died last year prevented her. And who could they turn to at the last minute?

Both Wood and Alan Rickman, who also died last year, were board members, and replacing them is the Glossops’s son Sam, a sound designer who, although based in London now, is working on new productions.

The theatre has been upgraded now, with a rotating platform and thrust or proscenium configurations available, making The Old Laundry more adaptable than ever. The theatre has always made a loss, which has been covered by the success of The World of Beatrix Potter, and both classical and folk music concerts have kept the box office ticking.

“We used to have stand-up too, but the fees comics want now have risen so much that we couldn’t possibly raise the ticket price to cover it” Glossop says. Classical music audiences had also declined until the Sheffield-based Music in the Round brought its programme with a three-day Mozart festival in which the audience were invited to take part. It will be repeated.

By Jeeves was originally devised for Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, created by Lloyd Webber from the Wodehouse stories, designed by Roger Glossop and directed by Alan Ayckbourn. It transferred to the West End, and had a long run in the United States.

As it progressed the set, which had originally been a simple blank tab, for more and more sophisticated, and for the revival Glossop has created a completely new design. It has a cast of ten, led by Ayckbourn’s long-time collaborator Bill Champion and Nadim Naaman who is stepping out of the London cast of Phantom of the and the Corporation. More than Opera into the snazzy suiting of Bertie half of the cultural visitors were Wooster. There is a musical ensemble of six, with music direction by Steven Edius, choreography by Caroline Hughes and lighting by Jason Taylor. The West End comes to the heart of Beatrix Potter country.

And next? “Victoria was such a good friend, I’d really love to do her musical The Day We Sang – if we can get the rights” Glossop says.
“But we do what we want, the theatre will never make money, and frankly we’re completely mad, but this kind of enterprise can’t happen very often – if we didn’t do it, nobody would. And we have been incredibly lucky...”

By Jeeves is at the Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-in-Windermere, from October 6 to November 4.

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