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Report of the Theatre Bath open meeting with the Bath Chronicle with regards to their new review policy Held on Monday 8 October 2012, 17:30hrs at The Mission Theatre, 32 Corn Street, Bath, BA1 1UF

Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

In August 2012, members of the theatre and creative communities in Bath received emails similar to the one printed below:

From: To: (Name Removed) Subject: Chronicle reviews Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2012 09:57:20 +0000 Dear (Name Removed) I am writing to tell you that the new editor of the Chronicle has decided not to carry any more theatre or music reviews except for the Theatre Royal. I am writing to say though that if you can arrange a review yourself for any of your productions that Steve Pope who looks after the website has agreed to have them in full on line. Just send them to me and I will put them on. But as regards pre-show publicity it is very much business as usual for the Chronicle. Best wishes Christopher The Bath Chronicle

These emails prompted members of the creative communities to write emails and letters to Lynne Fernquest, the editor of the Bath Chronicle, expressing their concerns about the new policy. A copy was forwarded to Theatre Bath who were asked to help share the information. After conversations between Luke John Emmett of Theatre Bath and Lynne Fernquest it was agreed that an open meeting would be held to discuss this policy further. The following pages contain the notes taken at that meeting and transcribed from the audio recording made on the night.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Special meeting called by Theatre Bath on 08/10/2012 at The Mission Theatre, commencing at 17:30hrs, to discuss The Bath Chronicle’s position on their decision to stop writing any arts and entertainment reviews, other than performances taking place in the Theatre Royal Main House. This meeting was held by Theatre Bath, and the minutes/notes taken by Jazz Hazelwood.

Lennie Almond; The Bathford Players, Colin Barnes; Bath Drama, Jill Bennett; Engage Project - The Theatre Royal, Joanna Bowman; Next Stage Theatre Company, Michael Burgess; The Argyle Players, Bob & Sandra Calleja; Trustees of Andrew Brownsword Charitable Foundation, Sarah Carter; Curtain Up Theatre Schools, Alan Casse; Next Stage Theatre Company, Chronicle Reviewer & Festivals Steward, Rob Cottrell; Ruffled Umbrella, Katrina Cowie; Unity Players, Stephen Curtis; Bath Drama, Cyril Davies; Silver Ring Choir of Bath, Charley Dunlap; Listomania Bath, Carenza Elhery; Rondo Theatre Company, Andrew Ellison; Mission Theatre, Luke John Emmett; Theatre Bath, Lindsay Endean; Bath Spa University, Alison Farina; Butterfly Psyche, Andrew Fletcher; Arts Philanthropist, Mrs. B Ford; Bath Minerva Choir, Ann Garner; Mission Theatre, George Gent; Next Stage Theatre Company, Jane Goodwin; Unity Players, David Gosling; Next Stage Theatre Company, Sally Hardwick; Next Stage Theatre Company, Jazz Hazelwood; Second Face Theatre Company, Theatre Bath, Steve Henwood; Bath Fringe Ltd, Charlotte Howard; Bath Drama, Brian Howe; Next Stage Theatre Company, Belinda Kidd; Bath Festivals, Sarah Larmour; Core Theatre, Nick Lee; Bath Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Jason Lemoir; Numerous Local Companies, Derek LePage; Bath Drama, Jon Lloyd Lewis; Bath Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Peter Lloyd Williams; Chronicle Classical Music Reviewer, Moray MacDonald; Bath Drama, Peter Martin; Bath Choral Society, Emma McDermott; Press Officer - The Theatre Royal, Ian McGlynn; Rondo Theatre, Iorwerth Mitchell; Bath Drama, Gill Morrell; Bath Drama, Shakespeare Live, Matt Nation; Rondo Theatre Company, Darian Nelson; Playing Up Theatre Company, Anna O’Callaghan; Marketing Manager - The Theatre Royal, Paul Olding; Bath Drama, Rondo Theatre Company, Alison Paine; Next Stage Theatre Company, Julie Peacock; Peacock PR, Lindy Platt; Bath Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Harriet Pocock; Rondo Theatre Company, Martin Pople; Bath Cultural

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Forum, Felix Renicks; We Love Bath, Jem Roberts; The Unrelated Family, Darren Rogers; Bath College, Bladud Magazine, Scott Rogers; Zenith Youth Theatre, Mike Roy; Bath Drama, The Mission Theatre, Peter Salt; Arts Development Officer – BANES, Graeme Savage; NODA, Merriman, Keynsham Youth Theatre, Petra Schofield; Freelance Director & Reviewer, Mandy Shaw; Chandos Singers, Daniel Shearn; Core Theatre, Terry Shirley-Quirk; Bath Philharmonic, Isabel Snowdon; Ruffled Umbrella, Barbara Suri; Publicity Officer – Bath Minerva Choir, Ken Tatem; The Bathford Players, Louise Wallace; Bath Drama,Rondo Theatre Company, Joanna Wiesner MBE; Secretary Bath Minerva Choir & Admin Director South West Festival Chorus, Marion Wood; Next Stage Theatre Company, Wendy Matthews; Bath Fringe Ltd, Paul Aubin, Paul & Mrs Brokensha, Val Caren, Lizzie Davies, Dave Dunn, Kay Francksen, Sally Galsworthy, Caroline & Graham Gromm, Dawn Hooper, Phillip Horton, Andy Lloyd Williams, James McCormac, Chris & Gill Rudd, Dennis Simons, Ian Simpson, Mary Simpson, Phillip Paine,

Anne & Trevor Rothwell; Erica Jones; Jan Crane; Simon Marcus, Enlightened; Anne Roberts, Second Face Theatre Company; Alex Oliviere-Davies, Second Face Theatre Company & Bath Drama; Mark Bishop, Big State Theatre Company; Tim Harris; Richard Ingham, Amazing Street Cred Band;

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

This report has been made from the notes taken at the meeting on the night and by 5

referencing the audio recording which was made. Some of the questions appear in their entirety, some have been edited down so that just the key points remain. For that reason the report is quite long and therefore a few key points have been listed below. NOTE: These are just a few points – More info is contained in the transcripts.


Why Only Reviews For The Theatre Royal? 

Theatre Royal compared to Bath Rugby. Has the biggest footfall therefore gets more coverage.



Why Are The Reviews Being Stopped In Print? 

Lack of reviewers.

Cost – Chronicle a small business

Lack of space available in paper

What Has Been Done To Source More Reviewers? 

Appeals made – this point was contested quite strongly

How Can User Reviews Be Checked For Impartiality? 

Again this point was debated heavily. Agreed by all that reviewers need to be vetted.


Why So Much Sport Coverage & So Little Arts Coverage? 

Sports groups submit their own content and reports

Chronicle obliged to print what is sent in.


How Will Elderly Readers Be Able To Access Reviews Online? 

Concern was raised over potential alienation of older readers who may not be as computer literate as their contemporaries


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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

The Meeting Report Meeting Opened by Luke John Emmett at 17:45hrs, during which he outlined the purpose and aims of the meeting.


Who Theatre Bath are and what they do.

Health and Safety notice, including fire exits and assembly point.

Mobile phone notice.

Disclaimer; the views and opinions expressed at the meeting are that of the individual and do not represent Theatre Bath as an organisation.

Emails provided are for the use of Theatre Bath only, and solely for the contents of this meeting.


An audio recording of the meeting will be made. No objections were put forward.

Overview of the situation so far: 

The Chronicle sent e-mails to theatre representatives in the community stating their decision.


Theatre Bath contacts Lynne Fernquest.

Official statement made by The Chronicle.

Lynne Fernquest, Editor of The Chronicle, suggests meeting between herself and Luke John Emmett. Subsequently, members ask to be involved in said meeting.


Theatre Bath contacts Lynne to suggest revised meeting plan.

Meeting organised for 08/10/2012.

Lynne Fernquest will talk without interruptions from the floor; open discussion will commence afterwards.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle 60

Lynne Fernquest Addresses The Meeting 

Bath has a very passionate theatre community, which is to its credit.

Lynne was drafted to help set up The Bath Chronicle Pride Awards three months ago. This will become an annual event to celebrate outstanding people within the community; from doctors and teachers to volunteers and


carers. The awards wish to celebrate what is good about the community and people around us. 

The Bath Chronicle strives to report local matters in a sensible and non sensationalistic way to keep readers up-to-date. Taking a more reasoned and measured approach, checking facts and being intelligent enough to resist


knee-jerk reactions. 

The Chronicle strives to be at the heart of the community, and reflect the area it reports on.

In recent years, traditional media has been bypassed by social media like Facebook and Twitter, forcing The Chronicle to think very seriously about


where it stands, both now and in the future. 

The Chronicle was the first daily newspaper in the UK to convert to a weekly publication in 2007 because it was smallest daily newspaper in UK.

The cost of producing The Chronicle is incredibly high, and their market was beginning to disappear; it lost half of its readership over twenty years.


Newspapers, daily or weekly, will only survive if people read them and advertisers advertise in them.

The Chronicle is owned by the 4th largest newspaper chain in the UK; Northcliffe media. This makes people think that The Chronicle is rich and untouchable. The Chronicle is a small business and has to pay its own way


and make a profit; it is not subsidised by Northcliffe or any other large organisation. If people stop shopping at Sainsburys, Greenpark, the shop would close, despite the fact it is owned by large organisation. The Chronicle is the same. 90

As a weekly newspaper, The Chronicle cannot rest on its laurels, and it continues to face many challenges.

24 hour news channels and radio means that the public have more sources to get their news.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

The internet is having a greater effect on society – if not for you immediately then your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. The internet is used


for socialising, working, and keeping up-to-date. 


The Bath Chronicle has two different audiences. 

The print audience, 58,000 readers weekly, and

The online audience; up to 140,000 unique visitors monthly.

After switching from daily to weekly, the editorial team had to look in detail at print product and what would be best displayed online.

It is difficult to preview and review every arts performance because of the tiny editorial team at The Chronicle’s disposal; it has also become increasingly difficult to find reviewers.


Often, the show has finished before the review is printed – therefore it made more sense to put previews in the paper and reviews online.

Reviews posted by Christopher Hansford on the website this year have been read more than 9,000 times; this figure could rise considerably if this service was publicised appropriately.


The Chronicle’s intention was not to upset the theatre community when it made its decision, only to use the paper pages in the best way possible.

Previews will continue to encourage readers to buy tickets for events, making performances a success.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Meeting is opened up to Question & Answer session with LF, PW & CH Martin Pople; Director, Bath Cultural Forum: 115

Why are you only going to review shows in the Theatre Royal Main House with the exclusion of other professional & amateur work, which is equally of interest? And if you have less column space, why cut only the arts and not other areas like sport – would suggest there is a better balance to be made?


Lynne Fernquest: The sports information comes to The Chronicle, they don’t cover it themselves. The clubs organise the information to be sent in. The Chronicle has a small editorial team and cannot get to everything. Two challenges to Chronicle – one the limited space in print. Two, the number of people they


have to report for them. Need to strike a balance between what they can go out and do and what can be included in the newspaper.

The discussion continued as follows:


Martin Pople: Many people at the meeting would be willing to act as reviewers for The Chronicle. If it’s reviews you need, the arts community can provide just as much information as the sports clubs.


Lynne Fernquest: That’s such an interest point because Chris that hasn’t been your experience really has it? In terms of getting people to review things for us.

Christopher Hansford: 140

It’s been very difficult to find reviewers within the community. People start with enthusiasm but are not available on given days, and then only want to review certain things. When the review policy was changed, there were three very strong reviewers, one for music and two for drama, but no one else has come forward, despite asking various drama groups for volunteers.


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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Petra Schofield; Freelance Director & Reviewer: Petra reviewed for The Chronicle in June and was taken on as a freelance reviewer. When she came back to Chris he said The Chronicle could not take on any more reviewers due to funds. All of her details are with Northcliffe 150

media, and she had put herself forward several times but never been offered the chance to review again.

Lynne Fernquest: The Chronicle is a small business and cannot afford to pay reviewers. 155

The discussion continued as follows:

Petra Schofield: The Chronicle is asking for people to be interested in reviewing for them; she 160

is, and is not paid by any other company for which she reviews. She was paid for the review she submitted in June but she has since made it clear that she would be interested in reviewing for The Chronicle free of charge. She has not been aware of The Chronicle asking for reviewers. What worries her is The Chronicle, who pride themselves on their editorial, would accept reviews from


anyone; this means opening yourselves to badly written pieces submitted by cast members, giving an inaccurate reflection of the show.

Christopher Hansford: Petra’s review was submitted a few days before the decision was taken to 170

stop reviewing, Christopher had not got around to getting back to her, so she was never asked to do another one despite the fact that she was available. It might have been a different story had they heard about her six months before. At the time, reviewers were being paid ÂŁ20 per review and reviews were not being accepted unless The Chronicle paid for them.


Petra Schofield: She was under the impression that now reviews are not being printed, the online reviews would be accepted from anyone who wanted to write one.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle 180

Christopher Hansford: The reviews that are submitted will go through CH so a relationship could be established with the people writing them, ensuring only legitimate reviews were published online.


Lynne Fernquest: Only certain things can be monitored online; but The Chronicle tries their best to ensure that things which can be monitored are well managed.

Alison Farina; Butterfly Psyche: 190

How would you approach credibility when it came to the online reviews? How would you know about the person reviewing, and how would you monitor them?

Christopher Hansford: 195

The reviewer would need to get in touch with CH, by phone or e-mail, and outline what they plan to review. Once a conversation has been had it becomes obvious that the person will give a proper review.

The discussion continues as follows: 200

Alison Farina: The person on the phone could give a false name. How could you tell if this was the case?


Christopher Hansford: It is impossible to tell who is genuine and who is not.

Martin Pople; Bath Cultural Forum: Who posts the reviews online? 210

Christopher Hansford: All reviews go through CH who reads them through.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Martin Pople: 215

Does that mean you act as an editor, editing in the same way as you would a print review?

Christopher Hansford: Not in exactly the same way, no. The piece would be read through to make sure 220

it was legal, had all of the information, and that the spelling was correct. However, space wouldn’t be a problem so it could run as a longer piece.

Ann Garner; Artistic Director Of Next Stage & The Mission Theatre: Why is the Theatre Royal continuing to be reviewed while the other events are 225


Lynne Fernquest: For the same reason Bath Rugby gets more coverage than other sports teams; it is the larger organisation with the greater foot-fall. The Chronicle must be careful 230

not to turn off readers.

The discussion continued as follows:

Ann Garner: 235

The changes that have been made make it look like a two-tier system. The productions at the Theatre Royal have been reviewed for the most part; usually they’ve been opened in London. There are already many reviews online. Theatre Royal is a receiving house, productions are only there for a week and not local people performing at the Theatre Royal. There are a number of other theatres in


Bath who perform a range of different performing arts. Ann has no objections to no reviews at all in the paper, just lots of previews and every review online or maintaining the status quo, but it is not right to review only the Theatre Royal and no one else.


Crowd respond by clapping.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

Lynne Fernquest: The Chronicle cannot review everyone, so a decision must be made about what 250

they’re able to cover with the resources available to them. Like the rugby makes sense for them to cover the largest foot-fall.

Andrew Ellison; Mission Theatre: You mentioned that you’re a business and that you need readers and advertisers. 255

However, a large number of people who visit the Theatre Royal are outside of your readership; they travel to see the shows. They do not see the Bath Chronicle or buy it. The people who come to watch amateur shows in and around Bath care about the city and The Chronicle – and buy it. There are more sales to be had from everybody who appears in a theatre review at a local theatre; the


entire cast, their family, their friends. You will get more sales if you attend to reviewing productions that are happening in the amateur sphere. Within the community, within the community you are serving.

Lynne Fernquest: 265

The Chronicle cannot possibly attend everything that’s happening. If reviews are supplied by the theatre community, as many as possible will be printed in the newspaper, but reviews that are out of date will be put online. Emma McDermott; Press Officer – Theatre Royal:


A number of shows do open at the Theatre Royal and have never been seen anywhere else before. If Chronicle are reviewing some of these shows it will be the first time those reviews have appeared. The Theatre Royal has its own production company, Theatre Royal Bath Productions, and their productions appear every season at the Theatre Royal. As many as 8,000 people come to the


Theatre Royal every week; from our Box Office system we know that the majority of those people are from Bath and the surrounding area, approx a thirty mile radius. The majority of them are local. The Chronicle is as important to us, as it is to everyone else, which is why we advertise in the Chronicle as well. The changes are affecting us too; the Chronicle no longer review shows in the Ustinov


Studio or the Egg. The Ustinov is producing productions which are only shown in

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Bath and we are getting four or five star reviews of those. But the Chronicle is not able to print a review of those productions so it is effecting us too.

Paul Wiltshire 285

The system that was being used before was not fair because The Chronicle could not get to every production. In danger of replacing one controversial reviewing system with another. How many people would be willing to review shows here? SHOW OF HANDS – BETWEEN 15 & 20. It makes sense to form a community, peer reviewing team and for one group to review another’s productions. There


could be some obvious pitfalls with that though.

The discussion continues as follows:

Ann Garner: 295

Would those reviews be printed?

Paul Wiltshire: The Chronicle would print as many as possible, but the printing is restrained by the timing of the production. If the production is finished before The Chronicle 300

comes to press then it’s more likely to be posted online.

Lynne Fernquest: There is also limited space in print, while those limits do not apply online.


Unknown Voice: You could always get rid of some of the 17 pages of sports.

Lynne Fernquest: There are 17 pages of arts as well. 310

Voice: No, only 5.

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Ian McGlynn; Rondo Theatre, Larkhall: Reviews are not just used for current publicity; they are needed for funding. Over the last year, 34 shows have come through the Rondo that has been their first run anywhere; 14 of those have had their world premier at the Rondo. Reviews of those shows help the company’s reputation. Will help readers of the Chronicle to


have an appreciation of what the Rondo does. Some figures for amateur companies that have worked with the Rondo over the last year, 22 shows have been performed at the Rondo; that equates to approximately 90 performances, 7,500 people coming through the doors and 250 active participants of the shows. Those are the people who read and buy The Chronicle. As someone who runs a


venue I would be incredibly sceptical of the idea of community reviewers. You could not guarantee impartiality if community members reviewed shows; to think that you can is naive. As a local newspaper you have a responsibility to provide a disinterested, professional service to the people of this city.


Applause from the crowd.

Christopher Hansford: 20 years ago there were a small number of amateur and professional companies, so it was easy to maintain a balance in terms of reviews. However recently, there 335

has been a large increase in the number of theatres and theatre companies. The Chronicle had a small number of reviewers and it was the people who shouted the loudest who had their productions reviewed; other companies were forgotten.

The discussion continued as follows: 340

Ian McGlynn There is a vast increase of demand in a certain sector, so what The Chronicle is saying is that because they can’t fulfil all of the demand, they will not fulfil any. It is like saying there are lots of people who want to buy yoghurt next week, we 345

cannot supply them all so we won’t supply any. That’s not business. That’s just giving up.

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Lynne Fernquest: 350

The Chronicle carried out some research looking at, over the last year, what it would cost organisations to advertise in The Chronicle. It would cost organisations like the Rondo, who are being covered free of charge, nearly £8,000 to advertise. The Chronicle is not asking for organisations to pay for the service, but it costs The Chronicle a lot to publicise events. We want to carry on


publicising the events. But we are a tiny team and we cannot possibly be everywhere in the city to cover these events. I have figures for all the other theatre groups as well. But it’s just to give you an idea of what we are doing and what we want to continue doing.


Ian McGlynn: Do you have figures for cinemas and the food distribution chains that you cover?

No response.


Martin Pople: Does this policy apply to other art forms or is it just theatre?

Paul Wiltshire: The policy The Chronicle is pursuing will apply to all art forms. 370

Christopher Hansford: Other music events like the Bath International Music Festival will not be reviewed in the paper; but they will be online.


Martin Pople: So it’s just the Theatre Royal. That’s the only cultural event within the city you are going to include in the newspaper?

Lynne, Paul & Christopher: NO (lots of disagreement). 380

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Christopher Hansford: No. We are going to cover as many different events as you let us have details for. 385

Martin Pople: No. Reviews. Reviews! This meeting is about reviews. Are you going to review music events?


Lynne Fernquest: No. We cannot get to all the events.

Martin Pople: Are you going to review music events? 395

Lynne Fernquest: How can we when we can’t get to all of them.

Unknown Voice: 400

I don’t think you’ve got your pulse on the feeling of this city at all. We’ve got major interest in arts generally. You’re a local paper and you just don’t understand what this city is about.

Darian Nelson; Head of Drama Hayesfield School & Playing Up Theatre 405

Company: A lot of the students I teach work in music and theatre. Ian pointed out the supermarket analogy, it is nonsense I’m sorry. If you don’t like Sainsbury’s you shop online at Asda. If they allowed us to have an Asda in the city I would shop there rather than online. Mentioned two things in your speech Lynne, local and


heart of everything. There are over eighty people that have come out on a Monday night. Are you going to cut us out? That’s not the heart of everything is it? Put your hand up if you have bought a paper in the last four weeks. MAJORITY OF ROOM RAISE HAND. Put your hand up if you have bought more than one copy because there was a


review in it. ALMOST EQUAL AMOUNT RAISE THEIR HANDS. Page 17 of 30

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There’s some sales figures for you. Applause. Rather than become confrontational, we all want to work together. As a teacher, 420

tickets for the Theatre Royal main house are booked in advance, so reviews have to be read beforehand. I am taking 15 students along to the show because of a review I read. People will go to see performances in the Main House because of the name, not because of a review. In this room are a massive amount of people who read you paper, who represent old people, young people, amateur and professional. This


venue for example, I’ve read your reviews of this place Christopher. You’ve have helped other people go “yeah, let’s go there”. Touring companies look at venues and then look at the reviews before considering touring there. We do not want a battle, we either want the status quo put back or we want a compromise. You need vetted reviewers; we don’t care if the review comes out the week after the show, or if it


comes out online. I don’t think you’ve been honest about this! There are many professional, independent reviewers who are prepared to review for The Chronicle without pay. The theatre companies provide the tickets so that they get something in the press. It benefits us. It benefits you.



Gill Morrell; Bath Drama & Shakespeare Live: If people from the theatre community review other shows, we’re likely to end up with reports. What we see for the sports fixtures is a report. Is The Chronicle 440

looking for a report or a review? We cannot have reviews done by people from within the same theatre company; many people also belong to more than one company which will cause problems.

Joanna Wiesner MBE; Bath Minerva Choir & South West Festival Chorus. 445

There are hundreds of people involved in music events. Represent Bath Minerva Choir which has 150 members and also South West Festival Chorus which has about 400 members. Every singer wants to see themselves reviewed; most have friends and relatives coming to watch performances – they also want to see reviews. A lot of our audience members are not computer literate, and to assume


that everyone is happy to look online is very optimistic. You have a duty to Page 18 of 30

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support performers in Bath and their audiences in Bath; these are the people who have supported your paper all their lives. Give a little back. Applause.


Peter Martin; Bath Choral: If we want independent reviews. How much money would it cost to pay for reviews covering everything?

Lynne Fernquest: 460

That’s not something we could afford to do.

Peter Martin: If the money were made available to you, would you pay for them? We want independent reviews and the barrier for doing this is probably a few thousand 465

pounds. There may be ways of addressing this. At the end of it you have some money to pay independent reviewers.

Lynne Fernquest: As long as they are available, yes. 470

Matt Nation; Rondo Theatre Company: How have you gone about trying to find independent reviewers? There are lots of social media outlets that can be used to contact people. There are lots of people who write well but have no interest to perform on-stage. Why not advertise on 475

The Chronicle website which as you say is viewed by thousands of people. It wouldn’t take much to put a banner on there advertising for reviewers. “How would you like free tickets for theatre events across the city?” They send the details and you get hold of them. Get them to do a test one for free. If it’s no good then you don’t use it or them again, but if it is good you have a reviewer. The


Rondo Theatre is manned on performance nights – front of house and the bar – by unpaid volunteers. The perk is that they get to watch the show for free. This could work for reviewers in exactly the same way.

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Paul Wiltshire: I think we could do with getting some clarity. There are some interesting views, and lots of food for thought at the meeting. The Chronicle needs to look further afield than the people in the room for reviewers, but if there’s a willingness to help them find reviewers who could be vetted then there may be a way forward. Part


of Christopher’s problem is they have to be reliable and go where they say they will go and turn up and write what we want them to write. If you can help us find those people, and I appreciate we have to do a lot more ourselves to find them. Then we might be in business. However, The Chronicle may be part of a big group but it is a small business with tight margins. We’re not some faceless


media that has massive pockets. We are a small organisation and we have this problem of supply and demand. You’re absolutely right, we need to be business like about it. If people here are prepared to work with us and help us find reviewers then it is something that we can give some thought. There is a financial impact to it but the main stumbling block to us operating the system that we


previously thought was fair is that there was a lot of events, and we could only cover a very small percentage of those, and the way that we chose them wasn’t ideal. Christopher was spending a lot of time trying to find people to review all these different plays and musicals and productions etc. So if we can find a way of tapping into a resource of more people then I think we might make some


progress. and the previous system wasn’t fair.

Alison Farina: Sounds very much like the model that they use at Venue magazine. They still go out and still do reviews. Steve Wright who is the arts editor has a collection of 510

people who go out and do reviews. They go out, get free tickets, have a nice night out. They don’t get paid any more to do it. But there is a whole group of people and some are based in Bath who are very good reviewers and want to do this. Also on Twitter, that is the perfect place to start putting this info out. There are loads of people out there who are literate and are interested in the arts. That


would be the first place to start.

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Andrew Fletcher, Numerous Arts Organisations Just to encourage this idea. It has been done already by the Bath Chronicle, 520

when David Gledhill was editor, they had a team of local correspondents. Who were trained and vetted. You have Bath Spa University up the road – you probably have students doing journalism. Paul Wiltshire: You’re absolutely right. I remember the days of correspondents and they started


with thousands of names of people who said “yes we’ll do something for you”. There was a hardcore of about ten, even in the early days who wrote regularly. We need those people to be reliable and consistent and to have some longevity about it. It was a system that kind-of-worked but needed a lot of investment of our time.


Harriet Pocock, Rondo Theatre Company There’s two universities who both run courses in creative writing. The students are broke, so don’t have much money to see shows. They also need practical experience. A degree is not enough now. You need to be able to show your reviews. There is probably a large proportion of those students who would be


willing to get that experience and a free night out. Secondly, I also work in a care home. You are not just shutting us out but you are shutting out a whole generation of elderly people who do not have skills on a computer and whose only link to the theatre, now is those reviews. Lots of my residents cannot get to the theatre any more and they absolutely value being able


to read and stay in touch with what is happening. It’s not just about us, it’s about a generation who has supported you and brought your magazine for as long as they’ve been living in Bath and now they can’t read any reviews. Christopher Hansford: Firstly, it’s a newspaper not a magazine. We have a system of work experience,


and we are usually booked up with somebody – very often from Bath Spa University who are on the writing courses. I thought when they first started arriving, there would be an answer to my prayers and it wasn’t. One or two of

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them did express and interest and did do reviews. But then it didn’t work out for various reasons. It isn’t that we haven’t looked. Maybe with modern technology I 550

haven’t looked as well as I could have done. We have in the past advertised for people in the What’s On Section. Harriet Pocock: And the other point. The elderly? Christopher Hansford:


I don’t know... Lynne Fernquest: That’s a very interesting point. We’re no saying that we would only carry information online. Certainly we don’t want to exclude anyone from the newspaper. Of course we don’t’. The difficulty is we can’t do everything. We’re


looking for a way to move forwards and do the best we possibly can. Gill Morrell: So because you get lots of sports articles sent to you you’re happy to print lots of pages of sport. So if there was a system that was evolved that meant there was a group of reviewers. You would be prepared to have more pages of printed


reviews on a regular basis? Lynne Fernquest: I think with sport... Sport is a different subject. There aren’t lots and lots of pages of sport. A lot of children and a lot of adults take part in sport. In the same way a lot of...


General Noise and talking. Peter Lloyd Williams: Older people not having access online. People who can’t read it in the paper. Concerned about the Mid-Somerset Festival & Bath Young Musician of the Year. Young people able to access it easy but what about elderly relatives.

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle 575

Paul Wiltshire: Even if we had stuck to the original policy we were considering, which I think we’re evolving some new thoughts on. But even if we stuck to that – it would not effect our coverage of the Mid-Somerset Festival and would not effect our coverage of young musician of the year.


Unknown Voice: Thanked the Chronicle team for responding and attending the meeting. Made the point that Bath Rugby results tend to be in the National Papers and are less important late in the Chronicle – whereas the previews are interesting. Belinda Kidd, Bath Festivals:


We issue over 200,000 tickets a year. We directly sell about 90,000 tickets. That roughly translates as about 70 or 80 thousand people. So it’s a large number of people who are in Bath and are interested in the arts. We sell for 120 different organisations around Bath. It is just an indication of the sector in and around Bath. We as festivals really value the preview coverage. That really helps us sell


tickets. We run a young reviewers scheme from ages 5 to 18. With support of festivals staff – this could perhaps be mirrored with adults. There is a culture now of reviewing online. Alison Paine, Next Stage: I think it’s an extraordinary commercial decision for a local paper to make in a


city like Bath which is a major cultural city. There is still some confusion as to whether it is because there isn’t enough reviewers. Whether it was to do with the circulation figures for print and online. Whether it was to do with the size of your team or whether it was to do with money. Lynne Fernquest:


It’s a combination of the whole lot.

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Alison Paine: I am absolutely certain that the print circulation will drop dramatically. If you 605

cease providing the local arts coverage, that you have been providing. Lynne Fernquest: It isn’t the arts coverage. It’s the reviews. We haven’t stopped the coverage. Alison Paine: I think this meeting shows that it’s a pity you didn’t consult on this before the


decision was made. I think what you need is a policy, and a plan and some kind of intention to get the resources that you need. I think if you had presented the community with the problem we may have been able to come up with a solution. David Gosling, Next Stage: You answered the narrow question, without looking at how you might best


support, with the help of the community, the arts in Bath. Darren Rogers, Bath College & Bladud Magazine: We have a monthly page in the Chronicle called Bladud Magazine. We need theatre reviewers. We are interested in promoting youth theatre. We urge anyone who is interested in youth theatre to get in touch with ourselves or Paul. We will


help promote youth theatre. That is one part of the solution to your problem. Charley Dunlap, Listomania Bath: Our website contains listings and reviews. We are possibly the second biggest website after the Chronicle. The solution may not be with the Chronicle. If they leave a vacuum it will be filled. We list everything and we review everything. We


have a growing review staff. So maybe that is the future. We’re just a website. Sally, The Mission Theatre: Have you looked in areas outside Bath for reviewers or have you limited the search just to Bath?

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Lynne Fernquest: Of course we accept reviewers from outside of Bath. Paul Wiltshire: I think we are all agreed, that there are perhaps options that we can explore to find more people. Don’t forget though that our unique selling point is Bath. We


don’t cover other areas. Jane Goodwin, Bath Unity Players: 17 years ago the College Theatre closed. We started the Bath Community Theatre Project to try and get a new venue in Bath. Sadly it didn’t work. But the Chronicle were absolutely amazing. Not a day went by without there being


something in the paper about the need of an arts centre in Bath. That proves it was such a community newspaper. I don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that the Chronicle should be our newspaper. Therefore it should be reporting on the things that we want to hear. Not we, as drama people but as people of Bath. I think they want to see reviews in print, online as well. It must stay a community


newspaper otherwise you’ll lose it completely. Lynne Fernquest: That’s a really good point. But the only way we will stay is if people read the newspaper and advertise in the newspaper. Paul Wiltshire:


Really grateful that you’ve said such wonderful things about what we’ve done in the past. I hope that people here don’t regard the Chronicle like a church, or a Post Office or a pub. Something which is nice. They love it to exist and they like to dictate what goes into it but they don’t actually buy it. So they don’t have any business relationship with it whatever. I was gratified when we did a show of


hands how many of you appear to be regular readers of the Chronicle. What actually sticks in our throat is, this is what we want you to be doing but we’re not actually going to buy your paper. The only way we can solve this is through team

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work. If we all work together. If we can meet somewhere half way then we’ve got something to talk about. 660

Julie Peacock, Peacock PR: I just wanted to say thank you. I think it is a really good thing that you have turned up tonight. It hasn’t been easy. I have agreed with most of the things most of the people have said. The important thing is that we find a solution. It seems to me that you’re willing to do that and willing to re-think in some ways. It’s up to us.


Thank you for not just going ahead with you plans and consulting the people of the community. People like us. Derek LePage, Chairman, Bath Drama: I am worried that reducing the coverage, in anyway, is the thin end of the wedge. I still believe that Sam Holliday was bought in to do away with the daily paper and


create a weekly one. I am now worried that you are here to do away with the printed paper and put it all online. How long do you think the printed paper will last? Lynne Fernquest: I have no idea! But to say I’ve been brought in to close down the product I work


on, well that doesn’t seem like a very good career move to me. Paul Wiltshire: I think you quite understandably criticize some of our business decisions. But that would be the most ludicrous business decision ever. I think we’ve got quite enough to worry about without worrying about that.


Scott Rogers, Zenith Youth Theatre: The Chronicle has a responsibility for recording the social history of Bath. Having just created a new website to celebrate 50 years of Zenith, it’s absolutely incredible. There has been a review for every show. Which is an incredible historical reference of what Bath is all about. We’re all a part of that cultural


history. And for me it’s part of the Chronicle’s job to record that cultural history. And to make sure that it is there in a place most people will go to. Websites will

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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

come and the Chronicle has bee around for 250 years. I think that is also an important responsibility from your point of view as well. Ann Garner: 690

Wondered whether Christopher thought there was any mileage in a working party coming out of this meeting. We still don’t quite understand what it will take even if we find the reviewers and funding and you can provide the pages. Christopher Hansford: The three of us need to go back, having listened to everything that everybody


has said, and see what we can do within the confines of what Lynne has decided. Lynne Fernquest: And what we can quantify for you Ann. Christopher Hansford:


Maybe that is the way. To get a small group together. When Lynne has said what she can do. What she can provide. What we can provide as a paper. To come back with some key people to see how it might move forward. I sense that what we were doing before roughly met with everyone else’s approval. General Sounds Of Agreement.


It didn’t look like that when you saw all the arts events that were taking place. I was always worried that we weren’t reflecting a cross section of everything. Ann Garner: I don’t think there would have been this reaction if you had said no reviews. I want to read the reviews of the Theatre Royal. But I also want to read the reviews


of everywhere else as well. Paul Wiltshire: I think one of the most useful things to come out of this, Luke, when you email out your minutes. Is that if everyone can come back to us with “I want to be a

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reviewer”, or “I know this person who would love to be a reviewer”. It’s stuff that 715

we need to do as well. This would give us a better idea of people who would be committed to the cause. There might be room for little chats but what we can’t do is run the Chronicle by committee. But there might be a chance to come back to a few people with some of our thoughts. Alan Casse, Former Chronicle Reviewer


When I started we got trained to review. Important to learn how to do it the Chronicle way. Paul Wiltshire: I think we need you Luke, to send out emails to everyone here and find out who’s out there and what they are willing to do. If we can satisfy ourselves that there


are people out there we can begin thinking about making different decisions. Until we have that information and we’ve done out other bits of research I don’t think we can commit to much more really. Luke John Emmett, Theatre Bath: Can we get a promise, in front of everybody here that you will actively look into it


and this is not going to be forgotten about. Paul Wiltshire: We’re not going to stand here and pretend to you. That would be suicide. The difference between the national press and local. If we do something wrong, I will bump into you in street and have to look you in the eye. We will of course look


into it. Luke John Emmett, Theatre Bath: Is everyone here happy that this is the way we move this forwards? Sally Galsworthy: No! Actually I would like to propose we have a vote. Let’s go back to where we


started. Let’s see what people think. You just want to review the Theatre Royal. We want everything reviewed. Let’s have a vote on that. A show of hands.

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Luke John Emmett: So what are we voting on? Iorwerth Mitchell, Bath Drama: 745

Now I don’t think that would really be fair. There are the best part of 100 people here and we all want the same or similar things. There are 3 people at the front. There is no point having a vote when you know what the outcome is going to be. They’ve come here. They’ve talked to us. They’ve relented a little bit. They’ve quite happily agreed to think it over. They’ve listened to what we’ve had to say. I


think we need to call it an evening. Andrew Ellison, Mission Theatre: I would like to thank you. I do feel there has been some movement. For which I’m very grateful. You haven’t come here with closed minds. I understand Paul’s need to know what resources are out here to help you. I think we also need to


understand what resources you need. So if those two bits of information can cross over. We would all be in a position to better understand each others issues and maybe find a resolution that satisfies everyone. Luke John Emmett: Is everyone happy with that?


General Indication of Yes. Good. Well I’d like to thank the Chronicle Team for turning up and all of you for coming. Thank you. The meeting was closed by Luke John Emmett at 19.45hrs.


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Report of the Theatre Bath Open Meeting With The Bath Chronicle

This report, (which should be seen as a first draft), has been put together by Jazz Hazelwood and edited by Luke John Emmett of Theatre Bath. Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure that they reflect an accurate representation of the meeting, mistakes may have occured. Please contact us with corrections or suggestions.


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Theatre Bath Meeting With The Bath Chronicle Draft Report  
Theatre Bath Meeting With The Bath Chronicle Draft Report  

Meeting Report about the Bath Chronicle's New Review Policy. DRAFT Report.