Too Late I Conjure Up a Few Germane Ripostes; at Monday's Big Debate, Hosted by the Birmingham Post and the NEC Group at the ICC, Germaine Greer Made Clear Her Dissatisfaction with the RSC and Stratford-upon-Avon. Post Arts Editor Terry Grimley Gives His Reply
Byline: Terry Grimley
The trouble with taking part in public debates - and, bizarrely, I've just taken part in two in two days - is that your best contributions invariably occur to you too late.
You can bet your life that on your way to work the following day you will be framing in your mind the ideal riposte to some irritating inaccuracy or other.
And so it was yesterday. By the time I was half-way to the office I had polished to perfection the response I should have made 18 hours earlier to Germaine Greer.
Germaine doesn't care for the RSC, which she lumps in with the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and English National Opera as bloated, elitist dinosaurs too weighed down by the sheer weight of taxpayers' money to be able to contribute anything worthwhile to the nation's cultural life.
Nor does she think much of Stratford-upon-Avon, which she sees as a nondescript place, all Marks & Spencer and Next, which in the quality of its environment bears no comparison with small cultural hotspots elsewhere in Europe. She seems to think the RSC is a liability to the town, which would be better off without it.
Prompted by the Big Debate's chairman, Richard Morrison, I managed to say with excessive politeness that I did not recognise the picture that Germaine was painting and that if there was a representative of the RSC to hand they would be able to quote the figure the company estimates it contributes to the Stratford economy.
In fact, a figure quoted by RSC executive director Vikki Heywood in The Post last week was pounds 58 million to the region as a whole: there is no readily-available estimate for Stratford itself.
Germaine's retort was that Stratford subsidises the RSC, to which mine was that it does so to a very small extent: the actual figure, I have now discovered, is pounds 25,500.
Her accusation that the RSC has no interest in the local population or the quality of its surrounding environment seems odd in the light of the company's forthcoming redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which has been carefully co-ordinated with a major makeover of the Waterside area. …