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Interview with Keith Wood, Geoff Wragg and Delma Tomlin

Interviews : Transcription, Cllr Keith Wood, former City Treasurer Geoff Wragg and Delma Tomlin

Item type: Interviews
Archive reference: YMP/C/3
Date/year: 2001
Description: Transcription of interview  13/12/01 at The National Centre for Early Music, York
Interviewer: Mike Tyler Recording reference: INT/01
Interviewees: Alderman Keith Wood, City Treasurer Geoff Wragg and Delma Tomlin, Chief Executive of Millennium Production

MT: It's the 13th of December 2001; my name is Mike Tyler. I'm conducting an interview on behalf of the York Early Music Festival/York Mystery Plays research project. First thing I've got to say is thanks very much for coming along and agreeing to help with the very early stages of this project. The first thing I'd like to do is just go round the table and ask if we could introduce ourselves for the purposes of this tape.  If you could give us your name, how long you've lived in York, and how you came to be connected with the festival. We'll then go on to talk about your detailed involvement.  So, Keith, if I could ask you to start the ball rolling.
KW: I'm Alderman Keith Wood, I've lived in York all my life.  How old am I?.Yes, I have to think about that. I'm [general laughter] 57, yes. I had to subtract one from the other there, because I don't really think about how old I am. I've been involved with the Mystery Plays I suppose.my first involvement.since I was at school, when I was introduced to the Mystery Plays, the wagon plays, by Stewart Lack, who at that stage was our French master at Archbishop Holgate's [school]. But since that time I've been involved in many other ways.
DT: So what year was that, that you were first involved?
KW: [pause].It would be the late fifties.
DT: Right, ok, thank you, it just helps.
KW: Do you want me to keep going a bit further, or...?
MT: I think we'll move round, we'll come back to that.
DT: I'm Delma Tomlin, I came to the city in the late end of 1982, specifically to be administrator at that stage of the Council's York Festival and Mystery Plays, and I've hung around ever since really.

GW: Good morning, my name is Geoff Wragg, I was until retirement in 1996 the City Treasurer of York. I came to York in 1966, and first got involved in the York Festival in 1973 when part of my duties was to look after the box office, and then from 1976 to 1984 I was Treasurer of the York Festival and Mystery Plays.

MT: Excellent, so that's a broad range of involvement there. One of the questions that I'm always interested in exploring at the start of this kind of interview is to talk to people really about what the York Mystery Plays are, as far as you are concerned - it's a very, very big question, but, succinctly, what do you think the York Mystery Plays are to you?

KW: Well, I suppose... I don't know....the Mystery Plays are like a drug. Anyone who has been involved in them keeps coming back for more, I suppose that goes for the audience as well as the people who've actually been involved in a production. Certainly, if you have been involved in a production, there's almost a family of people, of all ages, who have come to know - some knew each other before they got involved, many have formed friendships within the Mystery Plays which have continued thereafter. And as far as I'm concerned, having once become involved, it was something that you ...I don't know....  you felt that you had to do it again! Part of it I think goes back to our traditions and our roots in York, the history of doing the Corpus Christi plays many, many years ago. Perhaps it's in our blood, I don't know, maybe that's one key to it. But if people have been involved and are still in the city, or indeed within travelling distance to the city, it's quite amazing the numbers who have come back time and time again to be involved yet again.  There's something about being involved in the mystery plays. I've got to confess that since the decision was taken not to perform them in the open air, I went to the first production in the theatre [1992] , and said, "Well, they've done a great job", but it wasn't for me, never again.  And I don't believe the Mystery Plays should be, are as effective, as are good indoors as.....

DT: Did you come to the Minster [2000]?
KW: I didn't, no, I actually feel that you've got to be outside, there's something about…

DT: [Interrupts] The fascinating thing is, when you talk to all those other people who came [to the initial meeting?], the Theatre Royal production is as important to them, isn't it?

KW: Yes, there's people who've started in there, who've gone on and have got the drug just the same!
DT: Yes, it's the plays, isn't it? The plays are quite extraordinary.

KW: It''s the plays, something to do with...I don't know, whether it's religion, I don't think that people who took part in them are particularly religious, I don't think of myself as a great religious person... Yes, I would say I am of the Church of England and brought up in it, but that isn't the point, there's just something
[DT: Yes, extraordinary] that keeps you going. But for me it was the outside, I think there is something in the way of the staging of it that you start off in the daylight and you go through that lovely twilight of the midsummer months. And I've got [memories of] two Festivals when I was really involved when it didn't pour down and we did get all the productions in, and it falls to that bluey sky behind, and the audience become riveted on what's happening on the set, and it's the surroundings, and the fact that it's sometimes ruddy cold, or even rains, doesn't move them - it doesn't move the cast either, they're quite happy, they just keep going…And that's the feel of it, and I can think back and think of many occasions that I can bring readily to mind of being on that set or on the stand during productions that it's something that never leaves your memory.

GW: Yes, I have to say, my abiding feeling of the Mystery Plays is sort of the family.  Every year, every fourth year, third year, fourth year, the same people turned out to do the same jobs very happily and a lot of the cast, the same cast from the year before... I enjoyed the outside Plays, although I do think that some of our memories were a little bit.... You know the last summer was always hotter than it actually was, and there were many nights when you were actually sitting on the back of the seating stand freezing cold, and the sun wasn't shining, and it was likely to rain.... But I loved the outdoor setting, the Abbey and that sort of thing. When it became clear for various reasons, a lot of it financial, that the outdoor staging was not going to be possible, I was one who pushed in various places to actually transfer it to the Theatre Royal, because I thought rather than let the tradition die, that there was, or there were things that could be done at the Theatre which couldn't so easily be done in the outdoors. The atmosphere could be different, and I have to say that I was disappointed with the Mystery Plays in the theatre, it [dimmed?] them. I did go to the Minster this time [2000] and I thought partly because of the involvement of the Early Music Festival, that I thought it worked a lot better there, and I thought that it was a tremendous evening, in a different circumstance... But for me, I mean it's a wonderful story, I know it sounds crass to say that, but it is a wonderful story.  And the family who take you through that story, and looking at the way the different directors interpreted that story - some I agreed with, some I found not so good - made it something which was York which nobody else could do. I found it very sad when the Mystery Plays moved out of the Museum Gardens, but delighted that the Minster, at the end of the day, I think got as close as ever we could get.

MT: It's interesting that we're talking about the story of a story which moves around through different locations and different formats, and we've got some very interesting different perspectives on how that story comes on.  I think at this stage it's appropriate to talk a little bit more about personal involvement with the plays, and, from the beginning really, what roles you have played - whether you've acted, whether you've acted as administrator, whether... you know, the story of your own involvement with the story of this story.  It's a sort of network of narratives we're trying to build now. Keith. 

KW: I might need prompting on some of the dates, because with advancing years your memory goes, you know…Yes, involved with [teacher] Stewart Lack and way back, somewhere in the late fifties/sixties, somewhere around there.

MT: Had you been aware of the productions in '51 and '54, had you been aware prior to your contact with Stewart Lack, of...

KW: Well no, I was sort of fifteen/sixteen at that time, so...I  mean going back to the nineteen fifties it's ... er...I was at school, involved in drama in the [Archbishop Holgate] school, and the school took on the waggon plays, that's how...

DT: Did the school take on the waggon plays from '51?

KW: That I can't tell you.

DT: Certainly when I came here, Keith Daggett was still around doing the waggon plays, and Archbishop Holgate school had its own waggon and all that...

KW: I couldn't tell you whether they did it in '51, you see in '51 I would be seven, so I can't really tell you.

DT: You wouldn't be expected to! [laughs]

KW: [laughs] So it was when I was fifteen/sixteen, our teacher Stewart [Lack] was involved with it, and I got involved in the organisation, not actually as an actor, but in the organisation, making sure the props were there, making sure the waggon got to the right place, that everything was there, that was how I first became involved. And then, having left school,I  went away for a bit, for perhaps a production, I think I saw a production [mutters and thinks]. '74...[1973] I think I saw that production, but wasn't involved at all. But first time I really became involved was '79?
DT: '76 or '80.
KW: Would be '80 then. '80 when I was first…actually...Oh no...

DT: That's Patrick Garland's.
KW: If it was Patrick Garland, he did two, didn't he....
DT: No, he just did 1980, it was Jane [Howell] before that.

KW: It was 1980, then. Yes, 'cos 80....
DT: '84 was Tony. Tony? Toby? 
GW?: Toby... 
DT: Tony...Robinson? Robertson.
GW: Tony Robertson.

KW: Well the first one I became involved with was Edward Taylor.
GW: That's '73.
KW: Now that's '73. Because...yes, that's right, that'd be right. Sorry, just have to get the dates right here. So, sixty....Yeah,1969, that's right. 

    ?: Was there one in '69?

GW: Yeah, '69 was the one which was not with the Mystery Plays, but '69 was the Festival when there was a hue and cry about it becoming a...
KW: That's right...
GW: er...too élite.
KW: Well, I was involved in that.
GW: And dear old Jack Wood.
KW: Took over the chairmanship.
GW: Took over the chairmanship, and actually set up a popular Festival, if you like...
KW: That's right.
GW: ...to move it away from this sort of élitist view that people had got…
KW: That's true.
GW: This wasn't the Mystery Plays, this was...
KW: No, the whole Festival. Sorry, I was involved in that, not with the Mystery Plays but, at that time, I happened for my sins to be the Chairman of the Young Conservatives in York, with a membership of about two hundred in those days, and a hundred people turning up a week - that was the force of politics in those days.  And Jack started this campaign, and we got in behind him to support it, because Jack actually resigned from the Festival Committee at one point, didn't he?

DT: As you share the same surname, Keith, are you in any way related [to Jack Wood]?

KW: No, not related at all. My parents were friends of Jack and May's, and played tennis together years and years ago, Richard and all Jack's lads were same age as me and we all grew up together, but we're no relation. So that was where I was first involved, in stirring it up with Jack.

MT: And which year is it, just clarify which year we're talking about.
KW: That would be 1969.
MT: '69. This was the year...This was an all amateur Edward Taylor production, stage design by Patrick Olsen...
KW: That's right.
MT: With three amateur players playing Christ in rotation.

KW: That's right, on rotation. And that year I actually became involved in further by working on the electrics; I did the lighting. Strand set it up and we operated. And Nick Coope who did the sound, I don't know if you remember Nick Coope, physicist - mad as a hatter! We were on a little box on the very  back of the stand, and the powers that be had taken one look at Nick Coope and another look at me, and thought 'these two left alone up here could be dangerous'. And so they appointed someone to look after us, as Technical Stage Manager, one Charles Dodsworth [general laughter] He was bloody worse than we were! We all became very firm friends after that, so that was the first time that I actually worked within the Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens doing the lighting there. I then did some more, because 1971 became the Festival...

GW: That was the celebrations year...[can't hear the rest] [of founding of York in AD71].

KW: That was the celebrations...where Edward did the pageant, and virtually lock, stock and barrel the Mystery Plays cast moved into the pageant, so we all went on into that...Thereafter, I was on the council, 'cos I joined the council in October 1970. And, by a some quirk of fate - possibly Jack Wood! - got onto the Festival committee, and so I became involved.  It was quite novel to have someone on the Festival committee who actually had any hands-on experience of the actual Mystery Plays, so I was shoved onto the Mystery Plays sub-committee pretty damn quick, and then became involved with the administration of it, first of all with Gavin [Henderson, Artistic Director]... who did two festivals?
DT: Which are presumably '73 and '76...
KW: And then with Richard [Gregson-Williams] who did two more.
DT: '80 and '84.
KW: That's right, and I rose from being committee member to vice-chairman, and subsequently to chairman.
DT: By 1984.
KW: Yep.
DT: By the time you got me.
KW: That's right. Got you. Well no, got you twice...
DT: No, I wasn't involved in '80, I came up to see the plays....
GW: It's Geraldine.
DT: It's Geraldine.
KW: I remember meeting, sorry, I knew you'd been around...
DT: Nice that you mix me up with Geraldine! [laughs]

KW: No, no, I don't think so. So, that's sort of the history of my involvement of actual hands-on bit, and although as Chairman of the Festival committee I was responsible for all of it, I always kept the Chairman - there was a sub committee around the actual Mystery Plays - and I always kept that chairmanship for myself, that was...

DT: So after 1984 is the change in the political climate of the city, which meant that you could no longer be Chairman.

KW: That's right, and Ken King became Chairman, I still stayed on the committee, and was involved, but we had this sea-change of policy, and  - I've got to bring politics into it - we suffered because the Labour party that took control of the City Council viewed the Mystery Plays and Festival as being élitist. I strongly objected to that view, because if you'd walked through the streets of York in 1980 and '84 and seen the thousands of York people from all walks of life that were going to different events, and I remember a great sense of self-satisfaction standing in Duncombe Place, looking at the queue that stretched round the Assembly Rooms and into Museum Street, waiting to get in to the Real Ale and Jazz festival....There was old-age pensioners, there were eighteen year olds, there were professional people, there were labourers, there were....

DT: I know, I know, and there were loads of snooker and football etcetera etcetera, but at that stage the Labour group weren't able to see the plays as a community play, were they....
KW: No.
DT: Which has, I think hopefully, changed.  They didn't choose to understand that they are everybody's plays.

KW: But it was all events they seemed to take umbrage about, and also a lot of their argument was the fact that the prices had been going up.  And I could not get through to some of them even in private discussions, let alone in committee meetings, that the price that we were charging to go and see the plays - admittedly you had to build a stand so you had to be - was nowhere near the price that people were paying for theatre elsewhere in the country. And that we were still cheap, and we were bloody cheap for what we were actually doing...  [See this page for some ticket prices.]

DT: Yes.
KW: And that it was not élitist to be asking - I forget the prices now - to be asking fifteen/twenty quid a ticket was not being élitist for what we were doing, it was giving...

DT: But do you think it was actually genuine, I mean Geoffrey, you'd know really more, whether they were generally anti-the-Festival-Mystery-Plays or actually it was just about politics...

GW: I think there was a change, a political change, and with political change often comes a situation where anything that was done before comes under the microscope, because there were things that the new political party wants to do. One of the problems with the Mystery Plays - and it happened at the same time - was that the costs were escalating quite considerably, they were escalating for three basic reasons.  One, the seating stand was becoming so expensive to produce, it was built on an ancient monument, it was there for six weeks, it was subject to a tremendous number - quite rightly in many ways - a tremendous number of health and safety requirements that were the result of various sort of disasters that had happened over the years, so much so that that things like emergency lighting had to be put in at great expense. Things like areas within the seating stand had to be reserved for urgent exit, emergency exit, and the cost was going up and up. The second thing was part of the Mystery Plays and part of the problem of the Mystery Plays was that each director wanted to do something different to identify the Mystery Plays as theirs, and it became, if you like, an escalating cost.  The sound had got to be better or the lighting had got to be better or the special effects had got to be better, and so that was going on.  And the third thing, which goes back to the stand, was that in fact because of all these extra gantries that had to be built, the numbers that you could actually accommodate on the stand were actually reducing.  So you caught in a two-way pincer, between higher costs and lower income potential. The only way you could sort out the lower income potential was to increase the ticket prices, and then you got to the dilemma as whether these ticket prices then became 'élitist', you could argue the matter.  And it was all because of that that the Labour party considered - the Festival committee at that time which was controlled by them - considered changing the way that the Mystery Plays actually operated, keeping them in the Museum Gardens but actually not producing the seating stand, which didn't happen, but that was all part of the thing.  So, I mean the answer to the question is, I think it was a question of looking at their priorities.  Possibly if the Mystery Plays had stood on its own I think they might have gone on with it, but it was because it was the central part of a bigger Festival which a lot of people in the town did think was élitist - quite wrongly as far as I'm concerned, but that was their view.  But they decided they couldn't go forward with it, and that's how it got moved into the Theatre Royal, and reportedly [?] was picked up by the Early Music Festival.  But it was always going to be a problem, whichever political party was in control, it was going to be a problem because we were in a situation of reducing local expenditure levels where the thirty thousand pounds which they allocated to the Festival each year could well be used for other things, political priorities, and it sort of died on that basis.

DT: But the interesting thing is, Geoff, that they still ring-fenced the money for the Theatre Royal production and gave the Mystery Play production I think a grant of £seventy thousand, might have been £ninety thousand, so in a way it wasn't about the grant each time, it's about that way of presentation, as you say, politics, as you say, standing around.....

GW: That's why I think if the Mystery Plays had stood alone it might well have gone forward, but it was part of…and if you look back, which I did, and I haven't got the information here, but if you look back at the 1951 festival, and take out the Mystery Plays, 'élitist' was the word [general assent]. It was astounding some of the things that Hans Hess did in 1951. And you can see this sea-change after Jack in 1969, to some extent carried on by Gavin Henderson, but then really ?moulted on by Richard Gregson-Williams, and you look at the programme in the Gregson-Williams era and it is in danger of becoming not a true Festival, in my judgement; you are losing something of the festival...
RW: Yeh, yeh, there were a lot of populist events.
GW: The populist were taking over from what I would call true festival events.
MT: And this was in what sort of era?

GW: This was in the 1984, 1980 time, when we suddenly started having snooker and darts and fishing competitions...
DT: And a lot of football! Certainly by '84 there were...
GW: And American football, would you believe...
DT: ...four hundred and fifty events in 1984...

KW: But we were reacting in a way though, Geoff, to try and stem the Labour Party argument that the festival…I mean their argument had been going on long before they got control, and in fact at one stage they didn't even join the Festival committee, they didn't even put any Members up for it!

GW: But it may well have been a political argument, and I can understand where you're coming from, but there's no doubt that it was an argument that split the town, you saw it.  And we were getting into tourism a lot more then, but I mean a lot of people in town saw it not as a festival for them but a tourist attraction - again, in my view, quite wrongly.  So the local political scene was only I think mirroring the general populace view anyway, and people in Acomb would probably not come anywhere near a Festival event, even in 1984 when it was much more popular. It's interesting that I've got some statistics of 1984...

KW: What was the percentage of seats sold?
GW: ....Which allocates as best we could, monies by the origin of the order, and it was only 20% of the total audience - this is not just the Mystery Plays, this is all the festival - it was only 20% who came from York. Fifty percent came from Yorkshire and Humberside, but only 20% came from the rate-payers of the city.

MT: This is twenty percent of the funding....
GW: Of the total numbers of tickets sold....
MT: Oh, tickets sold.
GW: ...twenty percent came from the city. 
KW: You've got to remember there as well, Geoff, that York was not the York of today.
DT: A much smaller city, yes.

KW: York was the 98,000 people, tight boundary, with all the dormitory areas on the outside of the ring-road - what is now the ring-road - that we have now brought in, but you wouldn't have counted them before, because they were in Ryedale, Selby, wherever.

GW: I mean, thirty-six percent came from York, Ryedale, Harrogate and Selby.  So that left sixty-four percent coming from if you like, outside the town and its immediate area.  And that I think was always a significant thing.  And that's for the Festival as a whole, we haven't got the figures for the Mystery Plays.  I  would think - I might be quite wrong - that actually the percentage of York people who came to the Mystery Plays was higher than the average twenty percent. I would think that, from looking at your [indistinguishable]. Which I think showed the Mystery Plays as being, if you like, a more popular addition to the festival, the most popular addition to the festival. And of course, a lot of the two hundred people [acting] brought in friends, family, mothers and fathers, who all bought tickets to see little Johnny doing his little bit, and so that helped. The great problem always with festivals - not just in York, across the country - is it popular, is it for the locals, or is it just a tourist attraction?

KW: It was a tourist attraction, and I saw nothing wrong in that, because it brought money into the city.  There was the political view at that time, which is still not completely changed, but has changed fortunately, that tourists weren't as welcome as they may be now...
DT: The interesting thing is you're still absolutely passionate about it, aren't you? It still, as it were, gets you, nearly twenty years later!
KW: [laughs] Well yes, I mean you don't....we fought a lot of battles to keep it going, and Geoff, I don't know whether your figures are there, but some vague memory tells me that in 1984, did we sell ninety-four percent of all Mystery Play seats, and overall on the festival some eighty-seven or ninety percent of all seats available within all venues?

GW: Yes, I mean, it was a very successful...
KW: So we sold it!
GW: 1984 was very successful, in terms of its overall profitability, but the big problem was as I say, was that we suddenly then moved into a situation...I mean I do remember, I think it was 1984, Delma will know, it might have been 1980....The Fire Brigade doing their pre-show inspection, was that...?
DT: It must be '80.
GW: 1980. The Fire Brigade doing their pre-show inspection...
KW: I remember that.

GW: and basically saying the plays can't go on! And this was the day before.  Because various new regulations which had been brought in, which required the seating stand to have different access, and particularly emergency lighting, and I do remember Harry Raylor coming up trumps with a very large emergency generator which satisfied the Fire Brigade. It was from that time that the seating stand became an issue, as I said, an issue in terms of cost, but also an issue in terms of the number of people we could accommodate. The first festival I did there were two thousand two hundred on the seating stand...
DT: There were seventeen hundred by '84.
GW: Sixteen hundred by '84.
DT: Oh, sixteen hundred....
GW: Something of that nature, but initially there had been two thousand two hundred.
DT: And we only had a thousand seats in the Minster, because that was all we could fit in with present regulations by 2000.

GW: And I think this was the problem, that you were reducing.  If you came down from sixteen hundred to say twelve hundred or a thousand, to produce a seating stand which was acceptable under the regulation, at ninety-four percent sold, which is the sort of figures that we were at. Because the Mystery Plays essentially, looking at the overall look of the Festival, the Mystery Plays we used to budget to break-even. If it made a profit, good, but basically we always thought we could get the Mystery Plays to cover their costs. The rest of it would not break-even, unless there was substantial subvention from either the Arts Council - who always did very well from the Festival - and the City Council. The Mystery Plays was vitally important because it at least broke even, and at best provided a little bit of cross-subsidy, which would be used to do some of the more, or less financially successful...

DT: You mean it broke even just on ticket sales?

GW: In broad terms, you could get to a situation - I might be wrong -  but I mean my memory tells me that the Mystery Plays broadly broke even...I mean, if I take '84 it was down a little, but £thirty thousand I suppose...

DT: Certainly by 2000, the whole production cost three-quarters of a million pounds, and we sold, again, ninety-four percent, but again, as you say, of a thousand seats rather than anything else, and it did break even, but it was because of the sponsorship that it also....

GW: Well yes you're right, my memory does go, I mean, in 1980, which was Richard Gregson-Williams' first Mystery Plays.
DT: With Patrick Garland.
GW: With Patrick Garland and Christopher Timothy, etc.
DT: And Rachel the sheep!

GW: And Rachel the sheep. We actually did break even, but that was only because the Midland Bank - now HSBC - gave us a sponsorship deal of twenty thousand pounds directly towards the Mystery Plays, and we got television facilities who came along and did...
DT: And did they pay a facility fee?
GW: Yes, yes. Eight thousand pounds.
DT: 'Cause by 2000 the TV weren't paying facility fees, you had to be grateful.

GW: Yes. But I mean, the basis of the Mystery Plays was, to near enough get it to break even, that's what you tried to do.  And so it was important that you: a) kept your cost down, and b) got as many bums as you could possibly get on seats. And that was difficult, because part of the problem was the open air, people…the York people - not unreasonably - would wait until a couple of days before, until [forecaster] John Kettle…wouldn't be John Kettle then, but whoever gave the sort of long term weather forecast, would say 'it looks like being a lovely three days'. and people, local people, would then flock in to get their tickets, because it was a beautiful experience to sit in the balmy summer evening on an open stand, looking at the abbey, to watch the Mystery Plays, I can't tell you...

KW: With the sun going down behind.
GW: ...with the sun going down, I cannot tell you...
DT: And the peacocks in the distance!
KW: And the peacocks.!
DT: They were a wonderful part of it  There's only one peacock left now, so....

GW: ...and I make no apology, I have been reduced to tears watching that well known story, particularly in Patrick Garland's production, which I personally think was the best production that I've seen.  But that was the exception, I have to say, and memory's failing....I can only remember. We started off with a policy of not giving refunds on tickets, you bought a ticket and on the back it said 'if it's cancelled you've lost your money.' Which again, wasn't very helpful to local people coming to buy their tickets early! The Festival board, I think probably Keith Tong [?] decided that they couldn't go forward on that basis.  And so they asked me to take out an insurance policy, to cover for loss of income if we had to refund tickets on a cancelled production. And I got this information, and it was going to cost effectively the result of the income from one night's performance. So what the insurance company was saying was "we reckon you're going to get one night rained off"' In my experience at that time we'd never had a night rained off! We'd always managed to get them on.... Sometime, I remember helping, I remember helping dear old Elsie [Farnsworth] with a brush, sweeping the water off the set at the interval, in order to get the second half, when they had a cascade of water at the interval. And I went to the Festival Board, I well remember to my... I said 'Look. You've got to take a gamble. Take a gamble, don't pay the insurance policy, and refund the tickets. And providing you don't get more than one night off, you're winning.' And they took that, and I thought 'crikey, what have I done?' I think this must have been 19__, can't remember... and I remember sitting, I live near Easingwold, and I remember sitting in my garden of an evening, watching the black clouds come scurrying over, thinking 'It could be off tonight and we've got to refund!' I mean just the logistics of refunding the money was one....

KW: Ridiculous! 
GW: ....but we're going to have to refund a lot of money, and we're not covered! We're no insurance to cover it, on my advice. I have to say that if the Mystery Plays had been held in my back garden, they would have been off two or three times, but they went on every night -by hook or by crook, one night they in fact only did the second half.  It was sort of -  people sat about under umbrellas, and then at the interval....

KW: We were on the phone to Linton-on-Ouse weather, er Meteorological Station, and they were giving us, you know, what was happening exactly every hour....
GW: …and they said 'you're going to be all right after nine o'clock', and so they sort of sat about, and people.....
KW: I think I have a photograph somewhere of the stand, with seventeen hundred people on it or whatever it was, all with their umbrellas up....
DT: You should bring it in Keith, seriously, bring it in and I'll scan it, if it's all right with you.
GW: This idea that we're all sitting there on balmy summer evenings, watching the sun go down...
KW: It did happen.
GW: ....it did happen....

KW: ...on a lot of nights, though Geoff, I mean, '84, I think we had a super run, and got through with loads of good weather and loads of good nights.
GW: '84 was, particularly, but it was a particularly good summer.
KW and DT: It was.

DT: But 2000...  Because I thought about it all the way through the rehearsal period - this past time as we went into the Minster production, because clearly I had an interest in getting it back into the Museum Gardens.  In 2000 we wouldn't have been able to rehearse, the rehearsal period would have been completely wiped out.

KW: But - your run would have been OK, you can ask June (sorry, my wife); my car, where it is parked outside the house, we face exactly the same direction as the abbey, or the set would have....looking at the set....and the number of nights that I walk out in the summer, and I say to June 'It's a Mystery Play night'. 

GW and DT: Yes.
KW: Still, there's something, you've only got to see that sky (general assent from GW + DT) at that time of the year and you think 'by Jove, yes'.
GW: Yes, I mean different years obviously were different, I know '84 was a particularly good year, don't remember '88....
KW[?]: Which year did lightning strike the tree?
GW: I honestly don't know, I know...
KW: We had somebody.... we had somebody got
MT: 1988.
DT: 1988, was it.
GW: Was it 1988. I know, I think 1988 was 1988 was the first one that we had to refund; the first one in my experience. And as it happened, amazingly, I don't think we refunded anything like the value of the tickets we'd sold.  I mean people sort of took it on the chin and forgot about it, but I think in '88, and again, because the guy who was doing the '88 festival for them took the same line, that providing we don't get more than one, we're winning, and he actually had to refund one. But that was the only time in my experience.  It was damn close at times.


MT: Let's just take a little bit of stock at this point in the discussion, and see the kind of stories that are emerging. And it seems to me that there are two quite distinct threads here that we're starting to explore.  One of which has, sort of, been looked at and the other which we've sort of glossed over a little bit. The stories that we're looking at, we're thinking very much about an administrative event, we're looking at the plays as an organised thing, something that involves people in a task, activity. We've talked about the financial arrangements of those, and we've focussed there very definitely on this key period of the early 1980s.  That sort of middle five years of the 1980s seems to be the period when something changed, something evolved there, that's the sort of view that we're getting.

DT: So, in a way we've got the '69 change, haven't we?
KW: Yes.
DT: And then we've got sort of '88, '84-'85 change, in terms of....
MT: That's right.
DT: ....the politics of it.
MT: To look over to the other side, the second strand, and this is where I do slot in the 1960s, we're talking almost as, of the event as an artistic event, a piece of theatre, a performance, something, a story which needs to be interpreted for an audience, for ... to meet a number of different needs, and that's a sort of artistic direction side. This is where I think we're talking about the 1960s as being a period then where something did change. Because the event seemed to want to sort of, having been something - this is a wider Fstival - having been one thing, it seems that a conscious decision was taken to become something else.

KW: Maybe the Festival, yes, but not the Mystery Plays.
GW: Oh no, I think, I do think the Mystery Plays saw a sea-change.  I mean the first Festival I got involved, I remember was when I came to York in 1966.  The Mystery Plays moved considerably in the late sixties, early seventies, it moved from an essentially, a totally amateur production, and with a local amateur director, as we said, three amateurs playing Christ, in a rotation [in 1969], with Keith Wood on the soundboard. It was if you like, a production that was the old style, a local voluntary production, but people, I suspect, were becoming a little more sophisticated. 

KW: Theatre became more sophisticated.
GW: The theatre became more sophisticated… 
KW: Outdoor theatre, especially.

GW: So the big change in the late sixties, early seventies, was getting in professionals, to do, we suddenly got a professional actor. I mean, I think David Bradley, whose mother lived down Burton Stone Lane, which is the only thing, I mean I've heard of him since, obviously, but at the time, the only thing I knew about this wonderful professional actor was that his mother lived down Burton Stone Lane! And he was the first, I think, the first professional Christ we had... [in fact 1969 was thr firest all-amateur cast - Ed.]

KW + MT: No!
KW: I don't think so.
MT: The first professional Christ was Joseph O'Conor in 1951.
KW: That's right, yes, Joseph O'Conor.
GW: Oh yes, yes, sorry. But, I mean we had the years when John White was Christ, wasn't it?
KW: Yes, but he was in the three. [actors all playing Christ]

GW: He was one of the three, that's right. But then, we got a production company in, a company I recall called the White Light Theatre Company, for the first time, who invested heavily in sound and lighting.  Because again, going back to the old, I mean the first one I saw, if the wind was in the wrong direction...

KW: Couldn't hear a thing...
GW: …then the sound, and if you were in the back row of these two thousand two hundred seats, I mean you were struggling.

KW: You were a long way off it!
GW: You were struggling. So you got that, and you got professional directors coming in, Jane  ....the name's....

DT: But Jane was '76.

KW: Jane Howell!
GW: Jane Howell. 

DT: Was she the first, then, of those sort of....
KW: That was the animals, Jane brought the animals.

GW: Yes, I don't know, who was '69…or '73. But I saw that sort of sea-change, which in a sense, I think, lost some of the beauty of the Mystery Plays, 'cause a lot of the beauty, I thought, was that it was sort of local people, and it was done in a local, low-key way, but the public wanted more than that, they wanted sort of....

KW: You had to sell it.

GW: ....fireworks, and things!

KW: You've got to sell it, it's the problem that the amateurs face in the Theatre Royal today, that to get your audience now, audiences so sophisticated, as we still have the best television service in the world for drama, and their expectations.  Really, to persuade them to get off their backsides and come out and see something live, and actually pay money for it, you've got to be getting better all the time, and doing different things, and the Mystery Plays had to react to that as well.  And I think that's why we did have, we moved from the pure simplicity of Pat Olsen's wonderful set, [1969] which was a local guy who worked in the Planning department of York City Council, and also did design work for Joseph Rowntree Theatre and some of the amateur companies, Edward Taylor got him to do the set, and he built a polystyrene (which was only just coming around at that time), Bar walls stuck onto the museum! And it was wonderful, it looked like the Bar walls do, and that really was moving forward, although that was still the local....

DT: And is Pat Olsen still alive?
MT: Yes, Pat's still alive.
KW: Yes! You need to talk to Pat.
DT: Yeah, I do.
MT: Pat has an excellent model of that set...
DT: Oh, does he?
MT: ....which makes a very nice centrepiece for a display, which....
GW: He was the official model maker for the City Council, made all the models for planning applications....

KW: So we moved from that, sorry, that was the first time we did it, and yes, the sound needed to improve, because as you say Geoff, you couldn't do it.  And even when I was involved, we got to the sophistication (although it was early technology to do it, it's easy now), of delayed sound, so that the speakers at the very back of the stand were two milliseconds after the speakers at the front of the stand! So that it at least arrived at the same time as you would have expected it to have arrived, if you would have heard it with the naked ear, and we were improving the audience appreciation of the play.

DT: Yes, but certainly by, again, by 2000, we couldn't possibly have sat all those people in the Minster and them not being able to hear extremely clearly, and have an entirely professional production.

KW: That's right.
DT: It is the way it has gone.
GW: I mean, I think, yes people have become much more sophisticated....
KW: Yes, standards have....
GW: …and to get ninety-six percent of fifteen hundred seats for what, twenty-eight performances, or whatever it was, I mean you had to sell it on the basis of a)....

KW: You need to see it!

GW: ....you need to see it, and b) because a lot of the people were return people, were people who came every year, it's going to be that little bit different, you're not going to see the same thing.  As I say, the fascination as far as I was concerned was how a different director interpreted well-known scenes....

KW: Which plays they did, and which plays they didn't.

GW: ....which ones they did…
KW: Which ones they cut out was always interesting.

DT: Geoff, did any of the directors that you worked with have any interest in Christianity? 
GW: Patrick Garland....
KW: Yes, very much.
GW: ....was very much a practising Christian.
DT: And did you, is that why you enjoyed that production more, do you think, in any way?
GW: Possibly. Possibly. 

DT: But I found out to enormous sadness with Toby in 1984, that he wasn't interested in Christianity at all, it was just a story, in some senses he consciously rejected anything that it might have to do with, with the Christian faith.

MT: This is Toby who, sorry?
KW: Toby Robertson.
DT: Who was the director in '84.
MT: Toby Robertson, director in 1984.

DT: And by the time Greg was involved, Greg Doran, was involved in the year 2000, he may have been a slightly mixed-up Christian if you like, but he had a great interest in people's reaction to that side of the story, and again [indistinguishable]

GW: Pat was a practising Christian, and I'm not, not sure that he wasn't a lay preacher.  

DT: He was.
GW: If a lay preacher is in the Church of England?
KW: He was, because actually during the fFestival he actually preached at some service. 
GW: At the Minster.
KW: You're right.
GW: I can see him in the...
KW: You're right.

GW: But yes, I mean I think that was the closest that it brought to me, and it was the one that moved me most, and the Ascension, the last scene with Chris Timothy going up into the black, dark sky, on a CO2 hoist [general laughter]
KW: Oh, the CO2 hoist!

GW: Which didn't make a noise, with the spotlight just picking out his face, I mean I still see it now, I think it's the most moving thing I've ever seen.  That was theatre, but it was also a sort of Christian.... I do think his was the best, and it may well be because Pat was....saw it in a different way.

KW: The most striking, for me, when you say 'pick something', or the most theatrical or whatever it is you call it, was when Jesus is being tempted by the Devil, and it's gone, the lights, the daylight has gone, and we're just falling into the blackness of the sky behind, and he suddenly turns right and says 'Michael, my angel'.  And on the very pinnacle of the end of the Museum Gardens there, was Michael with his sword, and we had him picked up in two ruddy great 493 spots, and that just blasted out, and he suddenly 'magically' appeared, you know; and, same thing - absolute theatre, but it was all part of the story, wasn't it?

GW: But I don't know, I mean different directors, obviously saw it differently.  Different Christs played it in a different way…

KW: When we had the three Christs it was very apparent that they were very different productions, and that was night after night after night rollover! God, Christ and the Devil. [actually Judas

GW: I mean, certain things still make me...sort of cringe a little bit, cringe is the wrong word, I mean feel sort of the hairs go up on the back of you neck.  I remember sitting there in, one night, and (I think this may well have been Patrick's production, but it might have been Jane's) and Barabbas [sic?] was saying 'what do we want to do with him? And a guy from behind me - I was engrossed in this - a guy from behind me shouted 'Crucify him!'. I immediately thought 'what the hell are you....' then I can remember feeling so silly 'cause I turned round, said 'what the hell are you talking....' you know, and I was engrossed. That was theatre, magnificent theatre. Because they'd secreted some sort of actors to the back of the stand, up the back of the stand, to yel.  It was a most, oh dear, [shudders] I can't explain to you the feeling you got, and then this sort of feeling 'stupid fool... it's only a play!' But no, the Mystery Plays ... well it's a beautiful story, that's all I can say, and....

KW: There are things isn't it, you, I did try and think of things before this, but it's only when you talk like this with other people that have been involved that things come back.  One bit that always amused me was Dougie Waft playing Joseph, who...  Joseph had always been played before as a very straight part, and it came to Dougie doing it this year, when he first learns that Mary is pregnant, and he comes on and he says 'Where is this, this, this bloody virgin!' [general laughter] That he played it far more as the, the amazed man, you know 'where is this virgin that I married?'. That was the first time that anyone had dared to shift it from the more traditional, very straightforward way that it was played. I can still see Dougie standing there doing it. 

GW: And again, I mean, one of the things which one gets into all sorts of discussions on this, I mean directors in order to create another talking point, selling point, I mean we've gone through the Christ being coloured, haven't we, or God.... was that God?

KW + DT: God. God!
DT: God was this wonderful, huge... 
KW: Keith... [Jefferson]
GW: Magnificent man, wasn't he.
DT: Exactly. So gregarious. Love it, I mean you could believe absolutely boy, had God just arrived! 

GW: And then we went to the lady [God] that was in...
DT: Ruth Ford was in....

GW: Ruth Ford, that was in the Theatre Royal. I mean, again, and I'm not arguing that's right or wrong, but again it was just changes which directors felt they had to make in order to generate a new sort of idea, and I'm not convinced at the end of the day, whether a lot of these things worked, but....

MT: Do you fell there's perhaps too much pressure on directors to do something different and new? 
GW: Well yes, because...
MT: Just the few I've heard.
GW:...yes, I think there was too much pressure.
KW: It didn't come from us.
DT: No, it didn't, it was from them.

GW: No, it was from them professionally, because they knew that they were gonna come and do this sort of three week, four week run, they would never be asked to do it again, because...
KW: That's right.

GW: ...they wouldn't want to do it again. And they'd got to put their sort of imprint on that production, and so... The other pressure, which in a sense did come from us, but never articulated, was because it was every four years, and because a lot of the people were coming back for more, it had to be different, and... marginally different. And so people could say 'Oh, I liked that one better than that one.' Unlike a normal theatre production, where you run the show, at the Theatre Royal, you run it for three weeks, people come and see it once, and they never come and see it again. It might reappear on the schedule in ten years time, but generally...

KW: Unless your name's Berwick Kaler.

GW: Yes, unless you're Berwick Kaler! [laughter from group] But, there was this sort of self-imposed thing on directors that they had to put their imprint on it, and they had to sort of make it something which was memorable.  And to some extent, for various reasons, they did, because my memories of the Mystery Plays are actually, you know...my memories of Toby Robertson's production was a most appalling squeaky ladder, which he bought in to…I can't think what he was doing with it.  Was he getting onto the cross?

DT: Somebody was certainly ascending, weren't they.
GW: Were they ascending? There was a most...and it was stainless steel as well, and I thought this is...No, it's not right.
DT:It's very strange, and he dressed Simon [Ward] in pyjamas as well…[general agreement] just as though he was a prisoner of war.

GW: Yes.  So you see....the extent the director either succeeded or not, I can remember different things by different directors, Keith mentioned Jane [Howell], Jane is, in memory, is the...she....cats and dogs...
KW: The animals!
GW: ...and all sorts of things.
MT: This is Jane who, sorry?
GW: Jane Howell, 1976. So, I mean, that the directors without doubt

DT:    [Interrupts] But I partly felt that Toby had put that as it were, ladder, wrong word, whatever it is, lift in, almost because he didn't care for the story, 'cause it was so inappropriate, it was almost like he was sort of trying to say something else, really.

MT: Reacting against the narrative...
DT: Yes. 

GW: Might have been, as I say...I didn't know that Toby was going down that line. I mean I do find it difficult how you can produce something like the Mystery Plays, perhaps a director could tell me - as a non-theatrical, how you can produce something like the Mystery Plays without the basic view of the validity of the story…

DT: Or sympathy, too...something, but it was just....
GW:…or sympathy, yes, but obviously they do.

MT: Do the productions that you've been involved with, do you think that as a tradition of production, is it a play that make the most of local talent and resources, or do they shy away from making the most of local talent and resources?

KW: I don't think they shy away from it.

GW:I think, I mean I think....Delma will remember better than I do, I do recall various Festivals when the notice went in the paper that said auditions were being held on such and such a date in such and such a place, and it was very prestigious, if you get, quote, a 'leading part in the Mystery Plays'then you were...It was....

KW:Look who's gone on to do...

GW: ...and people have gone on to do better things, over the years.  But even local actors, who are you know, who play to the minor principal roles in the Mystery Plays, sort of came back year after year.  It was a very local event.

DT: But I think was has changed, I think the actors remain, as it were, as interested, etc, etc.  But if you like, the people like you they do [?] the lights, like Betty Doig doing the wardrobe, Elsie doing front-of-house, all those things have changed, haven't they? Those people no longer have a role as part of that changing professionalism. And it's also partly the fact that people were involved in '51, and physically, as it were, aren't necessarily that able by 2000 to do it.

GW: I mean I did see a quote in an article about Robson Green, who did the [mutters] '92?

DT & MT: 1992.

GW: Who said it was the worst experience of his life, and that he'd never been told he was working with a load of amateurs, words to that effect, and if he'd known that, he wouldn't have gone into it. I think that's the beauty of it.  I mean I didn't like that production, I have to say, but the beauty of it is getting the local talent, and the same people.  I mean, there were the same people year after year after year who did the same jobs, and they had it pretty well!

MT: This is, this is...?
KW: Front-of-house was screwed down by, by Arthur Pickering and Elsie Farnsworth, and they had it all organised, they had the teams of people who came.

DT: But that changed, also, by going into the Theatre, didn't it? [assent] it just absolutely broke that. 
GW: You cut the tradition off.

MT: This is an interesting picture that we're building here, because, growing out of that question saying do we use local talent, and saying yes, look at this continuity and things like that.  Are we saying…that here is something which has its own identity, we will bring in a director, and perhaps bring in one or two professionals?  But, effectively what you are doing is bringing people in whose hands are tied. And who cannot win because, what we're saying is, here is an entity, we know how it works, some of us have been doing this for years, come in and do it, and we will tell you how good you are - or not?

GW:[pause] Well - but that was only...

MT: Is that what we're saying?  If somebody from outside, somebody from outside, I've got a friend in Australia, if she comes in, and looks at this thing as an entity, is she going to come away with an idea that what we've actually got, what we're working towards is something, a production which during its  lifespan has become very, very insular?

KW: No. No, I don't believe that, I think, I think it, it, yes people were invited to come in to change it, because, we'd seen what had happened in years gone by with the same director doing it on a number of occasions, Jeremy Edward Taylor, who was involved, and the organisers had realised that in order to continue to produce a Mystery Plays, and to make sure you've got the audience to fund that, you had got to advance…in techniques and production styles.  And to do that you need to bring in people who had that up-to-date vision and experience which was acceptable in the commercial theatre. So, it was always interesting to see people coming out, I don't think that they were pressured to do it in any particular way.  They were judged afterwards against other productions, yes, but that would happen whoever did it. I don't think we were insular in that respect, and I think that it's no different to the tradition of Mystery Plays way back in the Middle Ages, where the same people would do the same thing every year, let alone every three years! 

DT: I think, in a way Mike, we pick up on this conversation because we are talking about a very, if you like, a period of time, when a lot of people from the early production were still involved.  I say I think it did change when it came to the Theatre Royal, it will change again with the Minster.  But it's part of that extraordinary continuing tradition of the plays, that each group of people take them on each time, and believe that they are theirs. 

DT: You know as I say, some just as passionately talk about the Theatre Royal production as you do about the Museum Gardens ones…it's the plays, they have a life...

MT: So can one be objective?  I mean one of the things that I think we...

DT: No. Absolutely not! [laughter]

MT:  Whatcomes across very strongly here is that the sense of ownership, I mean it was a point right from the very first sentence that Keith was saying. You know, these are plays that we have a sense of ownership about, and there is something which draws you to that story.  Can one really be objective about something that one has such a sense of ownership in?  My question which I return to you again is: an outsider, and in this case an outsider is someone who comes in, perhaps theatrical, whatever, looks at these plays, and sees a lot of people who are passionate people -is it not, and I'll push this again, is it not almost inevitable that what is seen is something which is very insular, very looking in upon itself?  it's looking in upon an owned thing, a thing in which there is that much emotional investment that it's almost self-destructive as a piece of art, as a piece of performance. 

[general disagreement]

GW: No, I don't see that, but perhaps we're not the persons to judge it, because we are part of the insular activity, if your premise is right. I mean, there is, if you talk to the amateur actors - and I'm sure you have or you will - there is no doubt that they have, all have, their favourite directors, if you talk to them now, they all have their favourite productions, and some feel their favourite production was the first one in the theatre, or you know...

KW: Oh yeah, it goes right through.

GW: ...the one in the Minster. But that's a natural thing, some directors are extremely good with amateurs, some directors are not good with amateurs.  They expect amateurs to have sort of professional attributes, which amateurs haven't got. Some are great with crowd scenes, some are great with individual performances [sic?], I mean that's the nature of individual directors.  And so if you asked  individual actors, they would have a different view, depending whether they were in a principal role, or whether they were sort of third spear-carrier on the left…in the chorus. Whether that's insular, I'm not certain. 

DT: I think it's almost the other way round, Mike, because, because in a way, we are, yes, true we can't answer the question, but having been here for quite a while, and as you say, being very, having this great ownership about the plays, I find it sort of fascinating when people like the Dean come into the city, who if you like, know nothing about the traditions of this city, but then take the plays themselves as under their own wing.  And certainly Dean Ray Furnell presented the plays to the city of York as though they were his plays in the Minster.  Which is fascinating, and in a way took absolutely no notice of what had happened since 1951.  And only now would probably acknowledge that there are other productions of the plays that have taken place that are as valid or as interesting. And when Jane Oakshott came in '84, she was trying to do something else, and you know, did her own thing, you [to Mike] will no doubt do your own thing, for the 2002 productions, the plays are big enough to take it all.  They're just fascinating that they move each time, and eventually they just sort of mop up everybody, and it's all part of that tradition isn't it, and years by...

KW: But it rolls on! The great thing, I suppose, is that the same play has been rolling on...
DT: Exactly, all that time!
DT: Great story.

GW:It's a wonderful story. I mean that's something I keep coming back to, and - everybody knows the story - it sounds trite, but I mean everybody,. And I mean I would love to see them back in the Museum Gardens, I don't think it'll ever happen. [indistinguishable] but I would love to see them back in the Museum Gardens. And I don't think that's the basis of  [indistinguishable], I'd just love to see them, and I enjoyed thoroughly, I enjoyed the Minster one, [indistinguishable] which I was captivated [indistinguishable] good Christ, that was important, and I think you know, that really  I didn't enjoy the two, was it two?

DT: Yes, two.

GW: ....I've seen now, in the theatre? 'Cause I was very disappointed in the way that the Theatre, I thought the Theatre Royal could have used the assets in the Theatre…a lot more in the production than they did, and I thought both of them were tremendously under-rehearsed.

KW:They didn't really use the proscenium arch…
GW:They didn't at all, they didn't use it.
KW: ...at all, and they tried to open it up and say 'we're outside' and you weren't!
GW: Yes.  I mean I, but whether that's being insular…


GW: Not being very helpful.

KW: No, we aren't.

MT:I was trying to be provocative [general noise], I think you were actually extremely helpful! You'd be surprised, all the little changes in posture, and movements, and... 

DT, GW, KW: Ahhh, I see, etc.

DT:[ says something indistinguishable about videoing]

KW: We are available for consultancy![general laughter]

DT: Exactly, exactly!

MT:C onsultancies, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

KW:Oh, yes, indeed.

MT:Well, we're actually approaching the end of the recording time on this particular disc, and I wonder if it's appropriate for us here to just sum up, we've got very different backgrounds there…and it does seem to be the case that we've been looking at these things from, you know, trying to tease out the stories.  We started off with something that was, was a sort of amorphous mass, we looked at threads of these stories, we looked at an administrative thread, financial thread, we looked at an artistic thread. It seemed to me in this idea of it, is the Festival, was the Festival a populist thing?  Did it want to be, was it trying to be, should it have been?  And what are the stories of people's views on that...you know, the place, the idea of the stories in a place. And we've come…we've almost come full circle, because, the strongest element that we've ended up with is something very vague, a sense of ownership, but although it's a vague idea it is clearly something that is very, very strongly felt.  This ...intangible thing, story, is owned very strongly by everybody who comes and has an input. People may think that it's perhaps a different thing, but the common factor is a sense of ownership, and it's that sense of ownership that fascinates me.

KW: I suppose I may be partly guilty of leading the team to a more populist side, and I think that is probably because I moved from being involved in it, working for it, to take being on the Council and looking at it from that side.  I have for years, and this is I suppose the egotistical, political animal coming out in me, that I've always believed that "art left to the artists" would be bankrupt in two years, and....

DT: Can we edit this bit out? [laughter and hissing]

KW: No, but my involvement since I got on the Council has been to try and make sure that art continued, and I served for many years on the Theatre Royal board, where we did manage to balance the books.  That right, Geoff? Or we got away with it!

MT:    [laughs]
GW: No, no, we did very well, actually.

KW:And similarly with the Festival, that I moved from being involved, actually working in it, to working to ensure that it continued. And that was my part of it, I was a…but I needed, I wanted to ensure that it continued.  And yes I do admit that I encouraged by, most by the appointment of Richard [Gregson-Williams] as director, because clearly he was going to go down the route that I would like to see, to involve more people.  Because I believed the more people we could get to see all the events of the Festival, the more chance we stood of both the financial success and the continuation of the Festival, and the continuation of the Festival as far as I saw it, had to have as its cornerstone the Festival.

DT & GW: The Plays, the Mystery Plays.

KW: Sorry, the Plays. So, it had to...

DT: Again the riveting thing is, that we're back, we said this at the meeting, we're back in the same position of not knowing what's going to happen to the Mystery Plays?

KW: Yeh!

DT: after the Wagon production in 2002, all over again, aren't we, so...
GW: Yes, I mean, in my sort of, facility....In my thirty years in York, the festival has always been, to some extent, a political football that is kicked about, and different people have different views, I mean, when I first came, the leader of the Labour group dear old Will Birt [?] was extremely art-orientated, he felt that that was, basically he said why.

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