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Dear Mr. Taylor


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We’ve never met but you can look me up in your database if you feel the need.  I’ve just done a rough tally and see I’ve spent more than £12000 on ROH tickets in the past five years.  Your restaurants and bars have had a good innings, too: about £10000 over the same period.  Now that may be an insignificant little sum to a mam who ‘made his many millions in oil and gas commodities,’ but to me it is a considered choice to forgo other pleasures and put my disposable income into the Arts.  That would be your Arts,Mr. Taylor, ballet and opera at the ROH. 

 

Now many would consider me  a valued customer and I say this not because of the amount I spend but because of the regularity of my spending.with the organisation of which you are Chairman.  But according to tonight’s Evening Standard, I’ve got that all wrong.  It would seem I am part of the despised elite which you are ‘determined to knock out.’  Perhaps you read The Guardian too much and empathise with it’s

ill-disguised hatred of anybody who buys a seat at ROH and maybe even puts on their best frock and buys a glass at one of the outlets you admit provide crucial revenue.  You are, you say, committed to upping the takings from these outlets but are strangely ambivalent when it comes to identifying who is  going to swell the coffers.  I would hesitate to suggest that it is unlikely to be the people you are so delighted to welcome out of the cold to a space with free picnic tables, toilets and Wi-Fi.

 

I’m not a fool, Mr. Taylor, and I understand something of the need to straddle many horses when funding the Arts.  But insulting your core customers whilst professing yourself overjoyed that ROH  is now positioning itself as a drop-in Centre  seems curiously clumsy. The elitist label is as hackneyed as it is untrue.  Sure there are wealthy patrons - and you should know because you admit that the yards of ‘unchallenging’ beige carpet comes  courtesy of their largesse.  But there are many patrons like myself ; far from wealthy but choosing to spend their money with you.  Do they really deserve to be pilloried and derided in this way?  Most ROH spokesmen at least have the common sense to refer to ‘perceived’ elitism when giving interviews.

 

To quote Bruce Willis, (Diehard, Mr.Taylor), I find myself pretty unappreciated right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Excellent! I feel the same way. I’ve been going to the ROH - mainly for the ballet - since 1976. 42 years. And whilst I’m a real devotee of the RB, I’ve felt more and more removed from the ROH as time goes by. I feel ripped off and now very distant from it...even more so since I’ve moved to Berlin. There’s a mismatch/disjunct/gap between management/senior admin/them up top and the people who go. And paradoxically it’s got worse. Weird. 

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3 hours ago, Scheherezade said:

I have written to the ROH upon these issues and the misconceived, disingenuous and insulting comments professed to have been made,

I shall report back if I get a response.

 

Thank you Scheherezade. Fingers crossed you get a decent reply!

 

The ES Interview with Ian Taylor was no accident: access to the Chairman is rare and will only have been provided by the Press Office for a reason. So perhaps it is worth speculating on what that reason could be. It will not be because Taylor is catnip to journalists: he seems pretty low-profile and dull with it, so this article is unlikely to have been driven by any great hunger in the press to get time with him.

 

No, this interview has far more the look of a managed piece of PR, carefully timed and with pre-prepared messages (don’t for a minute think anything Taylor is quoted as saying just slipped out by accident - that is not how interviews with top corporate heads are conducted - almost certainly there will have been some ROH press person sitting in on the interview to watch what is asked and what is said, to make sure the journalist “understands what Ian is saying”, ie that the previously worked out ‘talking points’ are covered).

 

Two possible reasons for Taylor’s rather clumsy statements. The first is that this may just be the outcome of a flap following the unfortunate public comments by Lucy Sinclair, the ROH “Director of Media and Audiences” (ie in charge of the strategies being pushed in the article and also, by agreeable coincidence, in charge of the press office). Ms Sinclair was recently shown up: her chosen colleagues in that foolish consultancy were pilloried in Private Eye and she then suffered the indignity of having her key statement publicly contradicted by her boss, Alex Beard (see the “new” opera house thread for details of all this). I am not suggesting that Sinclair is “fighting for her job” through the pages of the Evening Standard, but there is striking congruence between Taylor’s remarks and what Sinclair has been quoted as saying. And, as it happens, she conveniently has control of the press office so could make this interview happen. Just a theory. 

 

The other reason is far more serious than possible pique by a self-important and not overly gifted member of the new ROH corporate class. The Arts Council - with increasingly Maoist agendas - features explicitly in the article, and its officials may well be the intended readership (if that is the case, there is nothing exceptional about this - plenty of corporate PR is aimed at no more than a few specific readers). It is not possible to exaggerate just how crazy the Arts Council Is becoming, with social/political targets overtaking any considerations of quality or even the “arts” as such. Only last week a senior English arts manager (no names, sorry) was bemoaning his time at a recent Arts Council day for Directors and Chairmen: there was no mention of music or dance, never mind high-quality music or dance, during this day, just social inclusion, social mobility and diversity targets. These are all laudable aims but have now taken over from what mere punters like us might innocently believe the point of an “arts” council to be.

 

Seen from that perspective, I rather feel sorry for Taylor and the ROH, desperately trying to suck up to their biggest single customer (the figure is in the article) by displaying their eagerness to tick the boxes. 

 

Edited by Geoff
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3 hours ago, Scheherezade said:

I have written to the ROH upon these issues and the misconceived, disingenuous and insulting comments professed to have been made,

I shall report back if I get a response.

You'll be lucky! My letter to KOH sent nearly a month ago has never received the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

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20 minutes ago, ninamargaret said:

You'll be lucky! My letter to KOH sent nearly a month ago has never received the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

I will be interested to learn if you do receive a response from Mr KOH.  A couple of years ago, I wrote to him regarding a day to pay homage to the Vaganova School (we were campaigning for the school at the time due to change of management) - all that was asked was if the company could remember the Vaganova at a rehearsal or in class.  I received some lovely responses from ballet directors.  The response I received from the director of our "home" company was:-     ? x      I was shocked and saddened.  

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Geoff, I agree with what you say about this being a ‘managed’ piece but can the end result really have been what they were aiming at?

 

True, this guy is not exactly high profile so this sudden access smacks of something,but I’m not sure I know what.  Even to the uninformed, the article is a mass of contradictions.  Insulting your regular patrons now seems to be par for the course at ROH so I guess we’ll just have to suck it up for as long as we want to attend ballet and opera, BUT his mathematics is shaky.  He confesses to funding problems, emphasising the need to up the spend in bars and restaurants, yet has just spent many millions throwing the place open to people who don’t need to spend anything at all!  He makes a half-hearted attempt at justification by positioning casual visitors as patrons of the future, then tells us that all the tickets for the Ring sold out in ten minutes.  As ballet forum members know, performances of just  about everything routinely sell out so....Somewhat irrelevant, anyway, as should anybody who has popped in for a coffee want to buy a ticket, they will not find a Box Office without going outside of the building they’ve just been encouraged in to.

 

This thread is not about the justification for Open Up although my personal view is that results are mixed.  Perhaps the piazza will come in to it’s own in summer but the new area (I don’t know what to call it) lacks atmosphere.  I applaud the Linbury development and like the idea of things going on all over the House, but I find the Ampitheatre level development unattractive, bordering on soulless.  I have now abandoned the restaurant where I was a regular because the chairs are hard and there is no warmth.  I now go to Cafe Murano along with a lot of other ROH patrons whom I used to see in the Ampitheatre Restaurant.

 

Ballet is my passion, opera too when I can afford it, but must I suffer for my Art by being insulted by the Chairman of the very place that, seemingly, wants my money but not my presence?  Yesterday was a truly terrible day on South Western trains with delays totalling three hours on a journey of four hours.  I was reduced to sitting on the floor of the train swigging from a mini bottle of Prosecco but thinking I could lose myself in the Evening Standard!  I am up again tonight for Bayadere but as yet another passenger trod on me, I wondered for the first time how much longer this not-so-young ‘elitist’ can keep this up!  Perhaps Mr. Taylor would prefer me to give up the struggle and just send a cheque.  Oh, and remember him in my Will.

 

 

Edited by penelopesimpson
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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

...I was reduced to sitting on the floor of the train swigging from a mini bottle of Prosecco ... as yet another passenger trod on me...

 

 

I really do sympathise with you Penelope :(, but you do paint a wonderful word-picture :). Enjoy La Bayadere tonight, we have a stunning cast.

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I apologise.  I should have put the link in when I started the subject.  I was fuelled by my anger with South Western trains and typed this off on the floor of the train!

 

I left out how much I liked this quote:

 

But I want everybody to feel they can come here and enjoy the ballet and opera as much as they want to, or nor at all.”

 

What a wonderful pseudo-egalitarian statement.  I wonder what it was that was stopping 'everybody' from enjoying opera and ballet before and why it is that he assumes two miles of beige carpet and some Ikea chairs will make them come?  So many critics of ROH (and yes, it is strange that the Chairman seems to be one of them) leave the impression that buying tickets is a mysterious process akin to belonging to a certain secret organisation that can only be accessed by the elite?  I am not a friend and just organise myself for General Booking.

 

(sorry mods: don't know how to reduce the typeface after quote)

Edited by Ian Macmillan
Highlight and use the Size button, 14 being default here
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1 minute ago, penelopesimpson said:

I apologise.  I should have put the link in when I started the subject.  I was fuelled by my anger with South Western trains and typed this off on the floor of the train!

 

I left out how much I liked this quote:

 

But I want everybody to feel they can come here and enjoy the ballet and opera as much as they want to, or nor at all.”

 

What a wonderful pseudo-egalitarian statement.

 

Especially whilst also saying that some tickets are 'too cheap', and in the light of the recent comments about regulars in the less expensive seats coming too often. The ROH's recent media/public statements are inconsistent and self-contradictory, and give a very poor impression of the organisation.

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First we had that Lucy Sinclair arrogant nonsense and now this.  Ticketholders were inconvenienced (for how long?  was it 2 years?) so that we could have an overpriced cafe and ridiculous codes for doors which confuse nearly everyone--a far more congested foyer all 4 times last week that I was there than previously, with people no longer knowing which way to go.  Yes, the redone Linbury looks good from the photos, and some of the daytime programs look worthwhile.

The website is a disaster and I still can't figure out whether by arriving in London a day earlier than planned next week I can see a different cast.

What a pathetic story for a storied institution with a glorious past.

 

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The Taylor interview was very poor PR, indeed an 'own goal'. He should never have been allowed to use the word 'elitist' and certainly not in a way which reinforced that perception.

 

100,000 people through since they 'opened up', meeting the annual target in a matter of weeks? Where's the ambition in that? Where's the categorisation of users? Where's the impact assessment (which it is possible to do after a couple of months)?

 

He may be a good businessman, philanthropist and, even, ROH Chair but he should not have been put in front of the press

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This whole thing just gets me more and more depressed.  So many of us have been attending the ROH for years and decades (in my case, since 1978).  I am just flabbergasted with how this current generation of "powers that be" seem to be disregarding more than 200 years of fine traditions and art.  I have never, ever, found the ROH elitist.  I remember as a newly-arrived student to London how excited I was to go there for the first time, and how wonderful I felt when I finally went (David Wall in Swan Lake....sigh).  As a young girl, and a 'foreigner', I never felt out of place or unwelcome...and I was always in the cheap seats.  I still am, and still feel valued.  Well, until about a month ago, when I discovered the contempt that this arts institution seems to have for its regular customers (unless they are very wealthy, in which case they are very happy to take their money and welcome them).  In the case of the rest of us, they seem to want to take our money with one hand, and push us out the door with the other.  And for Mr Taylor to have said the things he said in the ES is, quite frankly, unbelievable.  As I said on another thread, if the RB weren't in such great shape right now I wouldn't deign to darken their open doorsteps at all.

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13 minutes ago, Sim said:

This whole thing just gets me more and more depressed.  So many of us have been attending the ROH for years and decades (in my case, since 1978).  I am just flabbergasted with how this current generation of "powers that be" seem to be disregarding more than 200 years of fine traditions and art.  I have never, ever, found the ROH elitist.  I remember as a newly-arrived student to London how excited I was to go there for the first time, and how wonderful I felt when I finally went (David Wall in Swan Lake....sigh).  As a young girl, and a 'foreigner', I never felt out of place or unwelcome...and I was always in the cheap seats.  I still am, and still feel valued.  Well, until about a month ago, when I discovered the contempt that this arts institution seems to have for its regular customers (unless they are very wealthy, in which case they are very happy to take their money and welcome them).  In the case of the rest of us, they seem to want to take our money with one hand, and push us out the door with the other.  And for Mr Taylor to have said the things he said in the ES is, quite frankly, unbelievable.  As I said on another thread, if the RB weren't in such great shape right now I wouldn't deign to darken their open doorsteps at all.

 

Never has cutting off one's nose seemed quite as tempting ...

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Agree totally with Sim. Sadly, it seems that the only audiences the ROH wants are the very rich Patrons and those using the drop.in facilities! People like many on this forum who have visited the ROH for many years and have never felt anything other than happy and comfortable there are now being made to feel unwanted and under valued. With the increased prices, and high prices in restaurant s and bars it has become a truly elitist organisation. I wonder if any of this very unpleasant atmosphere is noticed by the dancers?

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Yes- there does seem to be a rather important point this chap and his ilk are missing...the idea they now seem to have that just 'encouraging' or allowing people to go in the building is enough in itself..whether they  'enjoy ballet and opera or not at all'

eh?? what is the point in increasing access, diversity, open up etc etc etc , if it doesn't involve people seeing any opera or ballet?

Hes asks 'who knows?' whether any of them who drop in for a coffee might 'go to a show' - er, but isn't it your job to know?

 

Baffling.

 

 

 

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Well said Sim! All the recent changes, reports, handling of the "Open Up" in the press, whatever and wherever etc. makes for a very depressing state of affairs at the ROH. That Lucy Sinclair should have been sacked! They've made changes that make no sense at all, have upset many many of their regulars and biggest and loyal fans, their website is a total mess and they don't seem to bother getting it right or being able to get it right. NEVER has the ROH/RB website cast listing been so confusing and messy. 

 

It is not my beloved ROH any longer and as you said, if it were not for the RB, I would turn my back to the ROH too. I feel being taken for a ride and an unappreciated loyal patron. 

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3 hours ago, penelopesimpson said:

Somewhat irrelevant, anyway, as should anybody who has popped in for a coffee want to buy a ticket, they will not find a Box Office without going outside of the building they’ve just been encouraged in to.

 

It says it all that the picnic area was assigned a higher priority than the provision of somewhere to buy tickets.

 

As it is, the Box Office hasn't yet acquired the status of afterthought, even.

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Sadly, although the ROH has been so open about how little regulars are valued, they are by no means the only company to make you feel like that.

 

My feeling is that the artistic staff of companies are still welcoming and appreciate regular supporters but the office staff are money men who don’t give a toss about anything except the balance sheet!

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30 minutes ago, Jan McNulty said:

Sadly, although the ROH has been so open about how little regulars are valued, they are by no means the only company to make you feel like that.

 

My feeling is that the artistic staff of companies are still welcoming and appreciate regular supporters but the office staff are money men who don’t give a toss about anything except the balance sheet!

You hit the nail right on the head Jan

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I understand where people are coming from over correspondence with Kevin O'Hare but maybe we should also consider:

1) his extremely heavy workload, especially at the moment;

2) all the casting issues which currently beset him;

3) that the website problems are not his responsibility;

4) he is not responsible for all the issues arising from the 'open up' initiative; 

5) he does not set the ticket prices; and

6) the plot outlines were introduced within the cast sheets at his instigation (and I doubt very much that he would have approved of them being pared down as they have been).

 

However, pleeeeeeeeeease, Kevin, could you get the people responsible to get accurate and understandable casting up for the imminent triple bill? It opens next Tuesday, you know........... ! ! ! !

 

And, if it was the RB's decision not to announce cast changes on the website but to send out e-mails to people with tickets and to minimise the use of slips for last minute alterations, you got that wrong!

 

 

Edited by capybara
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42 minutes ago, capybara said:

And, if it was the RB's decision not to announce cast changes on the website but to send out e-mails to people with tickets and to minimise the use of slips for last minute alterations, you got that wrong!

 

I understand they're applying the same policy to the Opera, so it seems unlikely it was KO'H's doing.

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43 minutes ago, capybara said:

 And, if it was the RB's decision not to announce cast changes on the website but to send out e-mails to people with tickets and to minimise the use of slips for last minute alterations, you got that wrong!

That was the substance of my letter! I accept that correspondence from the much maligned and unwanted audience members is not a high priority for KOH, but he must surely have minions who can at least produce an acknowledgement? 

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If they are concerned about saving the environment (ie. saving paper by not issuing cast change slips) then I demand they do away with plastic so that I can drink my tap water from a glass! (btw I used to always treat myself to a glass or two of champagne or a spirit - no more since this whole Open up Baker Richards fiasco) 

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3 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

Sadly, although the ROH has been so open about how little regulars are valued, they are by no means the only company to make you feel like that.

 

My feeling is that the artistic staff of companies are still welcoming and appreciate regular supporters but the office staff are money men who don’t give a toss about anything except the balance sheet!

Ghastly though this attitude is, it would at least be brutally honest.  My gripe is that they continually bite the hand that feeds them.  It is a truly weird state of affairs when the Chairman of a cash-strapped organisation confesses himself more intested in attracting footfall than in loyal spending patrons.  

 

As for the infamous Ms Sinclair and her Gerald Ratner approach to marketing, I wonder at her efficacy.  A vast sum of money has been spent re-building a restaurant that, although a little tired, was an efficient enjoyable place to eat with a sense of the theatrical.  Now it is a faceless beige blancmange with a personality bypass and patrons are voting with their feet rather than upping their spend.  Perhaps Ms Sinclair is not aware of the Chairman’s directive to increase revenue. Pre re-opening, I never received any notification of its availability, let alone an inducement to make a booking, indeed, I had to continually look for news of this important new revenue generator.  Even now, menu’s are not easily accessible online as they used to be.  Certainly nobody is doing much to promote this rather large IKEA with PR efforts spent promoting the outdoor terrace which anyone can access on a bring your own bottle/picnic basis.  They haven’t yet added advice to ‘come early so you can bag the best seats and elbow those awful toffs quaffing extortionately priced champagne out of the way.’  More fool them for buying it at the bar - I mean, why would you?

 

i don’t think I am imagining it when I say there is a different atmosphere now.  Maybe all that beige saps the spirit but my heart no longer sings when I walk into the Floral Hall or whatever it is called these days. I used to love the fact that the audience was so wonderfully diverse - newbies in awe, youngsters taking it all in, families with the kids dressed in their best.  Okay, I dress up a bit and I love fashion rubber-necking but am equally comfortable with those in jeans.  It was and should be a comfortable place for all with the common denominator being a desire to experience world-class opera and ballet.  Yes, public subsidy muddies the waters a little but surely public monies are for the Arts, not to provide a central London drop-in Centre?  Covent Garden is awash with cafes and bars so what exactly was the thinking behind enlarging ROH if there is to be no correlation between footfall and participation in the Arts?

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It is sad to read of the sorry state of affairs at ROH. I think people should vote with their feet and whilst not totally abandoning ROH perhaps should look to patronise provincial ballet. I recently went to Buxton to see The Trocks and had a delightful day out in a lovely town and beautiful theatre.  We have BRB who are always a good buy, ENB, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Matthew Bourne, Rambert etc etc..it is good to see other companies and often far cheaper than ROH and I feel my £ is more greatly appreciated.  It's a shame for ROH because their dancers are on a high at the moment. I've not managed to get as many tickets as I wanted for ROH but it has meant I can go elsewhere so now I have several new productions and old favourites to look forward to abroad. 

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