Monday, 30 April 2012


The past week has been extremely tedious for the build. The weather, doing its best impersonation of a tropical rainy season, has made every aspect just that bit harder. There was a moment of huge irony on Thursday as I stood in the pouring rain, speaking to Thames Water as they charged us six hundred smackers for permission to use a hosepipe in order that we could use vital cleaning equipment. The only upside has been the opportunity to fully test the watertightness of our new structures around the site (they passed).

It is getting harder and harder to create the theatre every season although this year has been a little more difficult because of changes to suppliers and contractors; changes that have ultimately brought benefits. We have a strategy of trying to reduce the visual impact of the site on the surrounding park which we have done very well indeed, even to the extent that this past winter, for the first time in my 23 years we were able to open the theatre site to the public. But doing so has meant some major changes in the way we do things.

What becomes ever more critical for us and our patrons is a need to create a theatre that is worthy of the wonderful work we do without losing the elements that attracted people in the first place. Years ago, it was the chance to be outdoors listening to a bit of lovely music without too many expectations. Now, people want to hear world class performers without compromise. It is a very fine balance to strike and we do get better at it every year but boy, is it hard. It gives me no pleasure to report that several people at this time of year sit anxiously at their desks waiting for their telephones to ring, in fear of hearing my curt voice when they answer it. After many years, i have a very, very annoying knack of spotting the tiniest detail; a carpenter looked bewildered when I pointed out a slight misalignment of some decking. I have to admit to a touch of OCD in this regard but a few years in the hotel business a couple of decades ago hasn't really left me.

Having said that, there are, across the year, hundreds of people who work very hard to create and maintain the OHP season and there is a significant sense of achievement when the spectacular space is complete. What we have to acknowledge is that whilst we see this magnificent structure, an enormously technical theatre and magical vistas, about a hundred people in total have slogged through quagmires, rain and puddles to get it that way. On a Grade I listed site. In a (small) public park. And with every notch we raise the bar, the expectations of the public and our company rise and the challenge grows. So when we go to the Dorchester on the 8th May to hear whether we have won the RPS Music Award for Best Concert or Festival series, it is for each and every one of those people that we will be hoping for success, including that carpenter, soaked through to the skin, on his knees in a puddle, who had to correct that one inch deviation.

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