With the exception of one, I love all of the UK’s arts organisations. I fiercely defend them in the face of the criticism levelled at most of them, yawn with derision at the people who pedal that criticism and pride myself on being able to sniff out a bit of an agenda, unwitting or otherwise.

ENO’s strife around its ‘rules’ on taking in water from home reared its ugly head once again this past weekend. According to some reports from ‘punters‘, ENO front of house staff were overseeing the throwing away of water before audience members set foot in the Coliseum. 

Cue the (revisited) furore. Next, cue the righteous indignation. Middle class self-loathing narrative might as well head to the stage too – you’ll be on next.

What surprises me (and convinces me that this is all complete bollocks) is the tweet from a friend, fellow-writer and highly-trusted documenter of fact Fran Wilson, who attended ENO Salome opening night. Thus.

A few thoughts arise as a result of Fran’s clarifying tweet: 

  1. There’s a lot of shoddy reporting of what strikes me as a non-story. 
  2. Venues seek to exploit opportunities to generate revenue through the sale of food and drink. £9 for a glass of bubbly is the price you pay for drinking out – its the same in the sodding theatre. It’s £7.50 in the Royal Albert Hall for a large glass of red. If you’re a member of Southbank Centre’s Members Bar you’re can get two glasses of red for £8.30 between 5 and 7. Everybody quit pissing and moaning about the price of drink in an entertainment venue FFS. 
  3. This non-story is more evidence of the anti-ENO agenda flying around at the moment (the anti-ROH isn’t far behind – brace, brace).
  4. The ENO Chief Exec needs to resist the temptation to rebut stories using social media. 
  5. The ENO PR team need to up their game and manage the story better. Because at the moment you’re unwittingly complicit in sullying the image of the performing arts world by not responding robustly. Or ..
  6. The ENO Chief Exec may need to give the PR team a little more scope to manage the story in a positive way. Someone’s responsible for the inaction. I just haven’t put my finger on exactly who yet. 

If you want people to buy the drinks in-house, lower the price. If you are stopping people from taking in water then don’t. It’s a dumb strategy. It’s only putting extra pressure on your PR department. Handle the story better. You’re torpedoing yourself.  And if you’re writing about the story then seek balance instead of fuel for your class agenda. 

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