Let’s reflect on the responses to my Open Letter

Stop the clock: It has been an interesting seven days since I posted an Open Letter calling on thirteen of London’s theatre PRs who regularly extend The Daily Mai’s Baz Bamigboye preferential treatment. The blog was addressed to the major players in the world of west end and commercial PR following columnist Richard Littlejohn telling readers to not consider same-sex parents as “the new normal”.

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Richard Littlejohn Mail headline

One instantly responded to my blog via direct message stating that they will no longer do deals with the Daily Mail or Baz when it comes to cast announcements, which is amazing.

I asked PRs and/or Head of Press if they wished to comment. Most of them didn’t reply, which is a shame. Rather more curtly, one replied: “No thanks.”

I had two very interesting ‘off-the-record’ conversations that basically passed the buck to producers – especially for the commercial west end productions. However, there was some ray of light with one of the organisations that said that they had reviewed their internal policies and decided they would not be giving scoops to the Daily Mail for in-house casting. Nevertheless, they were at the mercy of external producers when it came to transfers.

One Off West-End publicist got in touch independently, though, saying: “We’ve attempted to ban Baz exclusives before but it’s a bit tricky as we work with so many different PR’s and they just report to producers. But it’s on the list of things to do!”

However, one PR did take the time to respond in depth.

“We live in an increasingly siloed world. Everyone feels happier and safer in their own ideological echo chambers than they feel engaging with others across those boundaries and having their entrenched theories of the world challenged. This is a well-documented phenomenon. It is hardly new, but it has certainly become more pronounced and more dangerous in recent years.

Do we personally agree with Richard Littlejohn that the press shouldn’t report on a gay male couple having a baby as ‘normal’? No. Did we personally agree with him when he said, back in October, ’Every dopey bird who has ever been on the end of a bungled fumble has reinvented herself as a victim of attempted rape’? No. Do we personally agree with the Telegraph’s stance on Brexit, or the Times’ and the Sunday Times’ coverage of Trump? No. Do we personally agree, even, with every single word published in the Guardian? No

Theatre itself may be ideological, in motivation, in content, in form. But the process of bringing an audience to theatre shouldn’t be. We would be doing our clients a disservice by restricting our activities to newspapers whose political stances more or less match up with our own. But more importantly, we would be doing a great disservice to theatre and to its audiences.


Theatre shouldn’t be about preaching to the converted. What playwright or director worth her salt wants to use her work to simply mirror the opinions of a homogenous audience back at them? Is the hallmark of a good play once that sends everyone off into the night nodding silently in agreement? We all talk a good game about attracting more diverse audiences, but that cuts both ways.

Our response to the problem of the filter bubble cannot be to simply refuse to engage with people with whom we disagree. How can we possibly hope to puncture the ever-thickening membranes of our Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds if we don’t even want to share the space of an auditorium for two or three hours with someone who might feel differently to us about immigration

If we believe that theatre can be a socially important medium, that art can raise questions and change people’s minds – beliefs we all probably have to hold to a greater or lesser extent in order to do the jobs we do – then we would be foolish to attempt to exclude the readers of the Daily Mail from the conversation. Without them, we are all just sitting in the dark, applauding each other, until the house lights go up and we find that all of our mutual congratulation and consensus has accomplished nothing in the world outside.”

In business terms, it makes sense. The Mail is a million-selling newspaper, with a big online presence. But it has also become the UK’s most fanatical anti-liberal voice.

But while it might make good commercial sense, the PRs unspoken policy is already a guaranteed turnoff for many audiences. In this shockaholic era, we crave transparency and truth.

We as theatre-goers understand the pressure modern marketeers face. We understand that everyone has to do deals for ‘coverage’. Considering the media narrative on the Mail, though, with Mail advertisers moving away left, right and centre, it doesn’t add up. One also wonders if these Baz ‘exclusives’ actually lead to any noteworthy tickets sales. Is it out of tradition that these exclusives occur?

It’s hard to imagine how, why or when this cultural way of announcing theatre news might end, but end it one day will.

In times like these I look at the snatch of dialogue that hangs over my desk from Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love.Only to shed some light,” Stoppard writes. “It doesn’t matter where on what. It’s the light itself against the darkness. It’s what’s left of God’s purpose when you take away God.”



Tom Stoppard

Check out the latest episode of COMMIT NO NUISANCE  a podcast by Carl Woodward and Mark Shenton


Open letter: It’s time to put an end to the toxic West End PR culture.

Dear all,
Long story short, it’s time to put an end to the toxic West End PR culture.
There are times in life when you have to say, “do you know what, let’s not put up with idiocy anymore.” The Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn piece arguing that two dads are not ‘the new normal’ crossed the line. Freedom of speech isn’t a passport to spout hatred and bigotry.


For too long PR and The Daily Mail have had a toxic relationship with ‘scoops’ being handed over to their ‘Entertainment Reporter’ Baz Bamigboye. London theatre PRs extend Baz preferential treatment — when they owe equal attention to all media.

But the more you find out about theatre, and the more you find out about the way theatre works, don’t you find yourself realising that nothing, not even Baz’s scoops, really happen by accident?

The Daily Telegraph Chief Theatre Critic, Dominic Cavendish summed it up recently with this Tweet. 

Arts journalism and arts journalists deserve better. What are we, the theatre-consuming community, to take from all this? Well we can simply say that enough is enough.

I call on the following Press Managers / Publicists to restore the Arts PR business in the interests of preserving the sense of an inclusive, free and fair press and in recognition of transparent arts journalism.

NT Press Office

RSC Press Office

The Almeida Theatre

Emma Holland PR

Target Live

Jo Allan PR

Kate Morley PR

Cornershop PR

Draper Conway

Royal Court Theatre

Kevin Wilson PR

Premier PR  

Amanda Malpass PR

I will be updating this blog in 7 days time – I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Carl Woodward 

Time to rethink #unpaidinternships

It all began with a retweet!

I retweeted the tweet below by @chloenelkin.


I wouldn’t have shared it if I didn’t think it was a decent opportunity. It would be bad form to judge this particular scheme by the details on the company website.  The advert says: We offer an internship scheme to recent graduates who are considering public relations as a career option. Internships last for a minimum of one month and expenses are paid. A love of the arts is essential and the successful candidates should be enthusiastic, organised and trustworthy. This scheme allows people to get a feel for working with CNC at our Soho office. 

Is it wrong to assume that ‘last a minimum of one month’ implies it is a full-time position? Quite frankly this is all a bit shit. After reaching out to them on Twitter they replied ‘Do agree but we’re trying to support young people wanting to work in PR. Doing all we can in that regard as a small company.’ This suggests it is a job, not just a golden opportunity. Don’t get me wrong I’m not singling CNC out, I’m sure there are worse offenders out there. But what we need now more than ever is transparency.

Unpaid internships and #ChampagneFridays

It is rather unfortunate when a company offering an unpaid opportunity like this is at odds with one companies “Our Team” page: “When REDACTED’s not dodging Soho’s cobbles in her signature stilettos, she loves spending time on the Italian ski slopes or visiting international art fairs with clients. Her penchant for fine dining and bubbly means that corks are often popped in the REDACTED office for #ChampagneFriday“.  Mind you these unpaid internships offered by profit making companies are not the same as voluntary work youngsters choose to do for not for profit arts organisation. It is interesting to note that companies like Cornershop and Kate Morley PR do not use unpaid interns.

Its not about whether you learn or not…

Its about whether you can afford to learn without getting paid or not. Who benefits? The ones who can afford to learn and gain this enriching experience without getting paid. Cameron’s Britain? These sorts of schemes are a prize for people who can afford to participate in them. There are so few opportunities and it is such a competitive industry. If you are unable to work for nothing then you are priced out of potential jobs. Most interns have to supplement internship with extra work (so do lots of ‘proper’ freelancers).

The criteria for getting unpaid internships with these companies is therefore affordability and not ability. In a Twitter poll I ran ‘Are unpaid internships ever ok?’ 15% said ‘Yes’ 58% said ‘No’ and 27% opted for ‘Sort of’. I am confident the results will be similar if run on a larger sample as well.

Are unpaid internships ever ok?


Unpaid internships do provide valuable experience 

Does the younger generation really have a choice if the only option they have is an unpaid internship? Nobody reading this will dispute that being part of a small team as an intern can be a valuable experience for any young person. In 2009 when I graduated I was all at sea until I got an internship at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with the education department. I was also Team Leader at a branch of Superdrug. During my time on this placement I had experience of working in a busy environment. Nothing life changing, just database administration, answering enquiries and supplying departmental support. Subsequently I have gained invaluable experience of working in professional theatre contexts. I am sure most of my colleagues have similar experiences to share.

Its time to rethink

Unpaid internships could create a closed shop, but surely not offering these opportunities produces the same? The arts cannot afford to shut out the next generation. There has long been a debate about young people to work for free to get a foot in the door. This whole issue isn’t ‘breaking news’ but it is not ok and looks like it is still going on. It’s clear that as well as being ‘amazing’ for a young person it also can have cancerous effects on society’s mobility. I have been quite distant for some time from the nuts and bolts of internships, but I have kept a strong interest in the philosophy and practices of learning and participation within the arts sector. I will be glad if I can play my part in addressing what has been a crisis and is now a challenging murky area. We have often neglected the fact that we need to produce citizens before we produce theatre professionals. You could characterise this in an Arthurian way. We re-draw the sword from the stone, we wield it to fight for what we stand for and set up a new kingdom. To everybody I say; we have all got some rethinking to do.

Some useful links 

Intern Aware:

The Law: