It was announced last week that Charles Hutchinson, Arts Editor for York Press, is under threat from redundancy. You can read up for more context here. This blog is about the local issue of Charles’ valuable position within the York scene, but I hope it resonates with all local communities that feed into and support one another.
I have old clippings from the very first shows I was in as a Youth Theatre member where Charles reviewed the shows. Part of the struggle of Youth Theatre is to get noticed by press, nationally and locally. It is simply not recognised as a ‘proper’ artform by the gate-keepers of the culture, whether the staff of magazines and newspapers themselves or even, sadly, the Marketing Department of theatre buildings. But Charles would come and review Youth Theatre, and continues to do so. It is amazing to say to a young cast we have a reviewer in, and their work will be treated fairly by someone in the paper for all their family to see. There cannot be many reviewers for local papers up and down this country who will readily come and watch, review and champion Youth Theatre. This is one of Charles’s many mighty traits.
Charles must have reviewed every theatre company in this city at some point, giving them time and space in his columns. York has a wide art scene, and Charles could quite easily focus on the larger theatres. But he also visits the pub shows and the site-specific works when he can.
What does this all matter? It shows that someone with power cares about your work. That someone in a privileged position can give you space in the local paper, and a platform. Actually there’s a lot of kindness and generosity in how Charles navigates the scene.
Of course, I have issues with the chap. We’ve been trying to drag him down to Say Owt gigs for years (even though he always does a lovely preview for us). We argued about his call to chop out the Porter in Macbeth (the only working class character!). And I’ll be perfectly honest, I know some people across the network take issue with certain elements of Charles’ reviews or approaches. But there is no denying he’s always up for a lovely healthy debate and natter, whether about theatre or Elvis Costello. He’s amicable and approachable around when you bump into him, always up for a chuckle and puts his heart into the scene. And it sets a great example for cross-promotion, watching each other’s back and valuing our art.
It’s not just the fact we need an Arts Editor for the main paper in the city, but that we need them to be a chummy and committed person like Charles.
I write this because I hope Charles can remain as long as he feels he can best serve York, and that the role of Arts Editor will still exist as a vital lynchpin of such a cultural hub.