Drama hosts special conference on Heart of the West End

Posted on 20/03/2012

The Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway,  in collaboration with the V&A and Theatre Royal Haymarket are hosting a special conference on the past, present and future of London’s Commercial Theatre in the West End.

The Heart of the West End is an innovative two-day multi-disciplinary conference that will be held from the 25 to 26 March, and will bring together some of the UK’s leading academics, theatre owners, makers, managers, performers and critics to discuss, debate and deliberate the West End’s, past, present and future.

Spread over two days at the historic Theatre Royal Haymarket, the conference will include a variety of academic papers and industry-lead round-table discussions. Participants will get the opportunity to meet and interact with many of Theatreland’s driving forces, whilst learning more about the district’s historical roots and evolution to becoming one of the world’s most famous entertainment districts.

Sunday 25 March will focus on the West End’s history, encompassing topics as diverse as Oscar Wilde, Christmas pantomime, James Winston’s part in the founding the Garrick Club and the Gatti family’s virtual monopoly on providing electricity to light the West End stage. 

Sunday's programme will include the launch of leading scholar Professor Jacky Bratton’s new book The Making of the West End: Marriage, management and the mapping of gender in London, 1830-1870, which presents a new history of the beginnings of the modern world of London entertainment. The day will conclude with guest speaker and world-renowned expert John Earl delivering a fascinating talk on the West End’s theatre buildings. 

The Theatre Royal Haymarket’s Royal Box will hold an exhibition of theatrical ephemera from the Roy Waters collection. Participants will have the opportunity to browse and purchase theatrical books courtesy of the Society for Theatre Research and help shed light on some of the Theatre Royal Haymarket’s own collection of archive materials, from unidentified portraits to many other rarely seen theatrical gems.

Monday’s focus turns to the West End today. Round table discussions will ask the questions: “What makes the West End special?”, “What do audiences want from their ‘good night out’?” and “How important is Theatreland to the future of the West End?” Audience members will be invited to contribute to the discussion on the West End in 2012. The morning's session will focus on new theatre-makers, with presentations from Blayne George of the Theatre Royal Haymarket’s Masterclass followed by a discussion with Kate Dorney from the V&A Theatre Collection on the launching of their Hundred Plays app.

In the afternoon, Variety critic and academic Karen Fricker will chair a discussion on the future of the West End with guest panellists Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner, the Donmar's executive producer Kate Pakenham and Jack Bradley, Literary Associate, Sonia Friedman Productions.

Conference organiser Dr Gilli Bush-Bailey, from Royal Holloway, said:
“The Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway works closely with cultural industry partners to ensure that our students and graduates have the very best opportunities for their future. We are delighted that the Theatre Royal Haymarket has recognised the value of such partnerships and agreed to host this important conference on the West End theatre, linking our research and the futures of our graduates. With many College alumni now working in West End theatre production it is a timely moment for Royal Holloway, the V&A and Theatre Royal Haymarket to join together to offer a closer look at the Heart of The West End.”

Tickets are now on sale from the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Visit the box office in person, call 0845 481 1870 or visit the website



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