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The name of the game is community

14 September, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Protesters voice their disapproval of the Tricycle’s name change

THE raucous protesters outside the new Kiln Theatre, angry over the change of name from The Tricycle to the Kiln, seemed to be acting like spurned lovers on Monday evening.

Baffled, I stepped aside of the crowd who had filled the pavement, shouting slogans and handing out leaflets to passers-by and those going inside who took them in good nature. Only one grimaced and tore one up, throwing it onto the pavement.

I couldn’t work out why local people had got so steamed up over a change of name.

The theatre was packed with a typical theatre crowd. I couldn’t see any locals I knew or any Brent or Camden councillors whom I expected would have gone to the new theatre.

Inside, I discovered actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton sitting at a small table were equally perplexed.
“But there must be something to explain it?” I asked. But they shook their heads. As for the new theatre, they thought it was just wonderful.

But, on reflection, I think I have cracked it. The protesters, I reasoned, felt they represented the commun­ity and to them the theatre belonged to the people. I know that sounds high-flying but that’s how they probably felt – over 20 years they had built up close links with the theatre. Families used it as a community space. Tickets were subsidised. Extensive grants of public funds were siphoned into it.

It had got a reputation as a political maverick theatre, staging riveting documentary dramas, for example, based on scripts by the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor – no other theatre had been willing to touch them, but the “Trike” had stuck its neck out.

So, in a sense, they felt the theatre belonged to them – a relationship no other theatre could claim. And the new director Indhu Rubasingham – the protesters felt – had ignored all this and gone and changed the name on what could be called a whim without any involvement with the local community.

Moods have changed. A growing number of people – especially in the Camden area, the home of way-out radicalism – feel ownership of organisations people would consider to be private concerns years ago. One of the protesters said: “Look, if you wanted to change the name of the Camden New Journal we would want to be consulted.”

For a second I thought part of something bigger than just being a representative of a newspaper, and I could see what he was getting at. Times have changed but perhaps the new broom that took over the “Trike” from the old director Nicholas Kent isn’t sensitive to it.

How will the conflict be resolved? Will the protesters pack up their tents and steal away in the night? Or will it rumble on?

What’s in a name? Quite a lot. And perhaps those who took over the theatre didn’t realise it.


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