Mayor Revives West End Ticket Discount PromotionDate: 10 January 2003
London mayor Ken Livingstone (pictured) will next week launch a fresh round of theatre ticket discounts to encourage more people to attend shows in the West End. The announcement follows the success of last year's post-September 11th "Greatest Show on Earth" ticket promotion, not to mention this week's fresh round of attacks from theatre leaders who complain the mayor is not doing enough to turn around theatreland's fortunes.
In the wake of September 11th, when theatre - and London tourism in general - suffered a devastating downturn in trade, the mayor invested £500,000 towards subsidised ticket prices and free passes for young people, the disabled and the elderly. The "Greatest Show on Earth" ran for a limited period during December 2001 and January and February 2002 and was hailed as a great success, generating more than 47,000 ticket sales.
Despite that, however, Livingstone has come under continual fire from the theatre industry, not least impresarios Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh who've made very public their dissatisfaction over his handling of transport, crime and pollution in the West End (See News, 1 Mar 2001 & 18 Oct 2001), while actresses such as Macbeth's Samantha Bond have launched a concerted effort to derail his plans for traffic congestion charges (See News, 8 Jan 2003). Yesterday, Mackintosh announced multimillion pound plans to renovate his own theatres and called for greater government commitment (See Today's News).
"Anti-theatre" accusations reached such a pitch this past autumn that Livingstone responded personally in a strongly-worded letter to industry newspaper The Stage (See News, 24 Oct 2002), in which he said his detractors were absolutely "wrong".
"It is an utter distortion to suggest that I am against the arts....I am doing everything I can to support arts and culture in the capital," he said, though he went on to point out, "It is not possible to support every single initiative as much as one might like to and I am sure that most Londoners do not regard increasing police numbers and improving public transport as counterposed to supporting the arts."
Exact dates and details of the mayor's new theatre discount promotion will be announced an official launch held next Wednesday, 15 January 2003.
- by Terri Paddock