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Critic overlooks moral location of Baz Bamigboye’s scoops.

I was disappointed to read Matt Trueman’s Opinion piece for The Stage: ‘Baz Bamigboye’s envious critics overlook hard journalistic graft.’

In it he disapproves of my recent Open Letter to London Theatre PRs – asking them to address their relationship with The Daily Mail. My open letter was not an attack on Baz’s credentials as a journalist. However, Baz and the Mail are inextricably linked

Trueman writes: “My colleague Mark Shenton regularly tweets his dissatisfaction at what he deems preferential treatment, while blogger Carl Woodward recently called for a boycott of Baz’s column.”

Trueman refers to my blog as a ‘boycott’. It is not a boycott. His use of the term boycott reveals a distinct lack of the understanding of the English vocabulary.

He continues: “To suggest as Woodward does, that he (Baz) has all his “scoops handed over” by obliging press reps is not just naïve, but positively insulting.”

By the end of the last paragraph, however, something unexpected had happened. The article had become so pompous and self-righteous it was making me laugh. Quite a lot.

How so? Well, it’s purely down to the fact that this is not accurate arts journalism, obviously, it’s littered with political propaganda and is a contemptuous way to treat readers. Alan Lane brought some sense to proceedings with his response to Trueman’s article.

I mean, really there’s no point in getting Trueman’s back up any further (for me, or anyone), since the last thing that anyone wants is for his stance on Baz having ‘exclusives’ to harden. I obviously hit a nerve. 

As a result of today’s article Baz even dismissed his sources. The mind boggles.

If one of our leading theatre critics wants to defend a right-wing tabloid that whips up hatred and bigotry, then fine. But I’m really tempted to suggest Trueman can take a run and jump.


Cheap journalism thrives on whipping up feelings. When we talk about tolerance it is a moving line – then there’s a grey area. In the heat of the moment I referred to Matt Trueman as witless and I was not entitled to do so. I have apologised for that.  



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