4 May 2018

200 years of The Old Vic

From 1818 to 2018 – celebrating 200 years of The Old Vic; a world leader in creativity and entertainment.

Statement by Sally Greene OBE to mark The Old Vic’s 200th anniversary on 11th May 2018.

In a matter of days, The Old Vic, London’s independent not-for-profit theatre and world leader in creativity and entertainment, will be 200 years old.

I have had the honour of being part of this hub of great creative talent for the last 20 years.  After a plea in 1998 by Lord Chris Smith, then Culture Secretary, I stepped in to save The Old Vic from closure. I revitalised the theatre, forming a Charitable Trust, and asked Lord Alex Bernstein to chair it. Within four months we had raised £1.5 million towards the purchase price of £3.5 million. Over the next two years we raised a further £2.5 million to transfer ownership of the theatre from the Canadian entrepreneur Ed Mirvish to a charitable trust.

I used my powers of persuasion to establish a distinguished and effective Board – Lord Attenborough, Michael Bloomberg, Sir Richard Eyre, Stephen Daldry CBE, Lady de Rothschild and Dame Judi Dench – to help reinvigorate one of the most famous theatres in the world.  In 2002, I asked Elton John to succeed Lord Bernstein as chairman of The Old Vic Theatre Trust.

Twenty years on, keeping The Old Vic afloat without subsidy remains a tough act with no safety net.  We have many wonderful donors who help us to raise the £3.6 million a year we need to continue our amazing education, community and emerging talent programmes, as well as put on critically-acclaimed plays each season. We could not do it without them. The Board is working with management to deliver a capital building project to raise £16 million, which will allow The Old Vic to pioneer a financial model of self-reliance. The project encompasses upgrades to the historic building, disability access to the front and back of house, and expansion into a new education, community and emerging talent wing. All this work is intended to secure The Old Vic for future generations of audiences, actors and creatives.

Artistically, the theatre continues to go from strength to strength, which is a testament to the many talented individuals working behind the scenes and on stage. Artistic Director Matthew Warchus is building on 200 years of creative adventure, with The Old Vic recently being hailed as ‘London’s most eclectic and frequently electrifying theatre’. Three years after his appointment, Matthew has doubled the number of productions on stage. He has diversified the artistic programme, offering an eclectic mix of new writing, musicals, dance, family programming, arthouse plays and re-imaginings of the classics. Daytime family work and late night music, magic and comedy have been added. The theatre is now commissioning and programming new plays, musicals and dance.

The Old Vic celebrates its Bicentenary with HRH The Prince of Wales as its patron and continues to be a vital and vibrant part of London's cultural life. The Old Vic is committed to giving access to world-class theatre to as many people as possible, with as few barriers to access as possible, and that mission will continue over the next 200 years and beyond.

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