Is it just me, or is it really difficult to extract myself from my armchair and the evening’s television and actually go out?
A year ago, as I write this, I was Chief Executive at Lincoln Cathedral, a job not without its demands and certainly, if I did go out, it wouldn’t be often and would probably be to the big cathedral concerts. I shall probably never forget the standing ovation that met the cathedral choir’s performance of Messiah in 2012, or indeed The Halle and Vaughan Williams Pastoral Symphony. What I didn’t realise was how much else there was around, how different it was and how brilliant it is.
Last summer as I was beginning work on my book, a friend showed me an advertisement sent out by the Drill Hall for a new chair of trustees. I didn’t think too much about it. Over the weeks ideas would come into my mind and I began to think, ‘I could do that!’ So, I applied, was interviewed and then appointed about six months ago.
In the meantime I had been to two quite different performances. Literature at Lunchtime with Dr Jane Mackay, and Hamlet. I knew Dr Mackay from my time working in Leicester. It was familiar, rich in content and thoroughly enjoyable. Then Hamlet. One of my favourite plays, but one I had only seen at the Old Vic with top line actors. What would it be like? It was billed as ‘abbreviated’ and ‘different’. Not many people were there. Had I made a mistake? Not at all, this was a production of great energy that got to the heart of Shakespeare’s play. I was taken by surprise.
I then attended The Last Post, surely Lincoln at its best: a true community effort that told a Lincoln story well and to great effect. A great deal of hard work, I know, but I hope for more.
My granddaughters’ faces at the pantomime said it all. But then came the question, ‘but is it art?’ Of course, it’s art; it takes immense skill in writing and acting to keep children, and adults, engaged for that length of time.
So far, so good. There were then three performances that I would never have gone to had I not ‘been on duty’. Broke, a play about the burden of debt; Circus Geeks, a show by jugglers and Sinfonia Viva with a programme of well known music.
You will by now have guessed that I enjoyed them, my question is, ‘why?’
One of the joys of live performance is that you are in the same space. There can be eye contact. It won’t and indeed can’t be the same each time. The audience may applaud at the wrong time, a piece may find a whole new energy; things may go wrong. I think that more than anything the energy of performance is contagious, perhaps especially in a relatively small space. This energy doesn’t evaporate, I come away with a bounce in my walk and a brain positively buzzing.
Lincoln is greatly blessed by live performance. Of course, it isn’t just the Drill Hall. LPAC has a great programme. It is working with the Drill Hall over Easter with the Eastival Festival for families with young children. The cathedral puts on large concerts with great professionalism. The newly opened Castle has an exciting programme over the summer. The Collection offers much; for me the Book Festival in September will be the highlight. The Lincolnshire One Venues offer programmes of professional work alongside that locally produced, and a great deal for children and young people right across the county. The Magna Carta weekend in June will see the Lincoln based venues coming together for a weekend of huge variety.
I’m going to get out more, how about you?