Theatre News

Key industry figures sign open letter to the Guardian in support of Lyn Gardner

The long-serving critic will not have her contract renewed in June, it was announced last week

The Guardian
The Guardian
© Gigijin/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

An open letter has been distributed protesting The Guardian's decision not to renew critic and writer Lyn Gardner's contract.

Gardner, who announced the news on Twitter last week, has worked at the publication for over 20 years, and in the last 12 months has picked up a number of awards for her contributions to the theatre scene, especially with promoting emerging talent and new voices.

In March 2017, a number of artistic directors and creatives signed an open letter when Gardner's theatre blog was cut from the publication's website.

The letter is addressed to Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief at the Guardian. Signatories of the letter include Vicky Featherstone, James Graham, Tamara Harvey, Zinnie Harris, Rupert Goold, Lucy Kirkwood, Stephen Daldry, Tanya Moodie, Ellen McDougall, Gemma Bodinetz, Madani Younis, Matthew Warchus and Jack Thorne.

In a blog published yesterday, Matt Trueman said: "Slowly, stealthily, bit by bit, she has changed British theatre for the better."

The letter in full:

Dear Kath Viner

We, the undersigned, gather that, after nearly 23 years, you are not renewing Lyn Gardner's contract as a theatre critic for the Guardian.

We want to protest this decision in the strongest possible terms and urge you to rethink. It is a rare critic who makes a real, positive difference to the profile and fabric of British theatre, but Lyn Gardner does. While most critics attend the press nights of major established theatres, Lyn has been tireless in discovering and giving a platform for fringe work, experimental work, work from across the country, work that crosses artistic boundaries. There are countless companies and theatre-makers who owe much of their standing and reputation to being championed early on by Lyn Gardner.

We appreciate, of course, that the Guardian, like a lot of contemporary journalism, is facing unprecedented economic challenges and you have to make difficult choices about where to invest and where to cut. But cutting the contract of Britain's most senior female theatre critic is itself a significant retrograde step – and cutting the contract of the only major critic in the country who champions regional and experimental work will have a major negative impact both on the capacity of British theatre to release new talent and on the Guardian's ability to represent the vitality of our national culture.

The Guardian's cultural coverage for a long time has been characterised by its interest in going beyond the mainstream, in bringing to national (even international) attention bold, challenging and risk-taking new work, work that points out possible paths into the future of our culture. In theatrical terms, Lyn Gardner is the standard-bearer of that approach. Lyn Gardner's dedication to this role is a key reason why The Guardian has remained a central newspaper for the creative community and for the growing communities nationwide who look to our rich culture in an effort to understand our increasingly challenging world. If you don't renew her contract, you will inevitably lose the loyalty and respect of a significant part of your current readership.