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Lyn Gardner & The Guardian: the end of an era?

Lyn Gardner

Lyn Gardner Photo credit – Pamela Raith

Like a phantom itch from an amputated limb, the Guardian have decided to call time on critic and journalist Lyn Gardner writing about theatre. It is one of the stupidest things it’s ever done.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. Last year, the idiots who run the Guardian cut her weekly theatre blog,  as a result of cost-cutting measures; saving them £13,500.00 annually. She was then appointed associate editor at The Stage, following the cancellation of her theatre blog contract.

The Guardian stated today, “We have decided to look to add some new voices to our arts coverage. Our commitment to coverage of the theatre remains absolute.” Lyn’s contract, which ends on June 1, comprised of 28,000 words of features & up to 130 reviews a year. Removing Gardner’s voice is not absolute, or progressive or smart. It’s none of that. It’s none of anything. It’s just loads of nothing. It is the short-sighted sound of the end of an era.

Who are these new voices? It may not seem like it, but it’s actually a comparatively small selection of critics who keep arts coverage going. None of them are up to the challenge of replacing Lyn.

Gardner is one of the few arts journalists who don’t subscribe to navel-gazing or hysterical right-on agendas. Her dedication to children’s theatre, new work and regional theatre is unrivalled. Last year she was presented with a Total Theatre Award as a result of significant contribution for her journalism work on the fringe. (I’m not even going to go into the devastating loss of her Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage. I’ll literally lose control.) She was also awarded a UK Theatre Award for her outstanding contribution to British Theatre.

To most people theatre criticism is now a joke. I don’t think it’s very funny. In such hopeless circumstances, the best we can do is cancel our subscription to the Guardian and/or email the editor Katherine Viner: Kath.viner@theguardian.com our despair. While you are at it subscribe to The Stage and pay for your journalism.

It feels like theatre is finally facing up to its shameful diversity problem, though, when it comes to who is writing about theatre and in spite of the economic woes of the mainstream media. Critics of Colour was recently launched for people of colour who write about theatre and to support the development of critics from BME backgrounds.

Anyway, as long as there is theatre and culture there will be critics responding. But the responsibility cannot fall solely to bloggers plugging this particular void. Blogging is not good for your mental health. I’ve run a theatre website for about two years and if I am totally honest, it might have prompted me to have a quiet cry once or twice. Keeping on top of it all is an almost impossible task and it is just not sustainable.

I guarantee you, though, no matter how bleak this is for the arts community, Lyn will be back. Gardner has a new website http://www.lyngardner.com and will continue her work at The Stage, no doubt in a wider capacity. Bring it on. 

Lyn Gardner, Me & Mark Shenton at Theatre Craft, 2017

Lyn Gardner, Me & Mark Shenton at Theatre Craft, 2017