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City Varieties Theatre - Leeds, West Yorkshire.

17th May 2012

Dear Peter Charlton - Editor - Yorkshire Evening Post

It is with utter astonishment and sadness I have learned of the redundancy of Peter Sandeman, General Manager of The City Varieties.

No-one I know has done more to bring a Theatre back from the brink of collapse:- He has been the Captain of Industry - instigating and seeing through many changes including the restoration, putting on shows the people of Leeds and beyond flock to see and, consequently, putting the Varieties "back on the map!"

Could the reasoning behind this mad decision by the council be to 'save money' but having one man to oversee both the Grand Theatre and The Varieties is just that - mad!

Peter took over after Stanley and Michael Joseph (who were my agents) inherited the Theatre from their Father. Eventually, they couldn't afford to maintain it and so, put it up for sale. Councillor George Mudie, then leader of the council, stepped in to secure it for the city.

Peter is very hands on. Not only does he manage the Theatre, box office, bars, front of house, the 'Friends of the Theatre' volunteers and the backstage crew he also programmes the yearly entertainment:- One nighters:- Comedians (like Michael McIntyre);- Musicals;- Shows;- The Panto (The only professional one in Leeds suitable for young and old alike!);- the Music Hall Season;- the sponsorship of seating and 'The Friends Of The City Varieties' coffee mornings. He does a full days work and then, in the evening, you will find him in the Theatre talking to the public, asking what type of shows they would like to see, making sure all goes smoothly, and generally enjoying himself! A job? No, not with Peter, more a dedication to the Theatre.

No doubt the Council believes the new Manager is able to oversee both The Grand Theatre and The City Varieties. But, I ask, does the new Manager have the time and experience to give the Public what they want? The Grand's programme of entertainment is completely different to that of The Varieties, which is why both work! Peter personally knows hundreds of artistes. How long will it take the new Manager to learn what the public want and how to get hold of the artistes. It's taken Peter over twenty years!

Folk will remember well the debacle we had a few months ago when the council decided to 'save money' by transferring the 'Varieties' telephone booking lines accross to the Grand Theatre. The lines were constantly engaged. I rang to book a show and, after holding for twenty minutes and being told every few minutes that I was first in the queue, gave up. How many other did the same? saving money? I think not. False economy I feel.

It's a sad day when someone so dedicated is made redundant in the name of 'progress'. I worry what's going to happen to our lovely Theatre. There are not many original Victorian Music Hall Emporiums left (Three in the country I believe) - lets hope ours continues to thrive without it's rudder and helmsman. It will continue but, in what fashion? Like lots of other folk, I am downhearted to feel it will never be the same!

All I ask is - Why fix something that isn't broken?

WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID TO ME

Ken Dodd and Anne
"A disgraceful move from the council. What a stupid idea. I love that Theatre. It's one of a kind and holds special memories for myself and Anne. Lets hope it doesn't change. I send Yorkshire and it's wonderful folk my love".

Pam and Colin Ford of The Derby and Nottingham Music Hall Association (Of which I am President) who come up regularly to support the Theatre and artistes (When I appeared recently in The Good Old Days Music Hall Show, 70 of them came up from Derby) say:-
"Goodness, where did this suddenly come from? The council made sure he did all the restoration before sacking him, didn't they. How despicable. Glad we don't have Leeds City Council!"

King Rat - Keith Simmons - (Grand Order of Water Rats) of Comedy Duo Simmons and Simmons says:-
"It's ridiculous. It's horrendous. What is your council playing at?

Geoff Bowden - Editor of The British Music Hall Society's Journal - 'The Callboy' says:-
"But Peter is The City Varieties, what's going to happen to it now? Whoever's made this decision is obviously not a Theatre goes!"

Stu Francis - Comedian and former Crack-a-Jack presenter says:-
"This Theatre is a one off and, whenever I've been there over the past 100 years (the last time being March 2012), it has always been managed beautifully by Peter Sandeman. He had a knack of looking after everyone - artistes and public alike. What a shame he won't be there anymore. he will be greatly missed."

Norman Collier - Hull comedian says:-
"Dear Peter, what a shame. He ran the Varieties with a firm hand, achieving so much in his time there. He was a proper gentleman and a good friend. I've had some wonderful times there as the audiences were always terrific. Peter will be missed and will be remembered as the person who brought the Theatre back to life".

Dorothy Wallis - (Wife of Leeds own Comedian, the late Peter Wallis - who appeared more times at the Varieties than any other Comedian says:-
"Tell me you're joking! What a shame for the Theatre. I'm glad my Peter can't see this sad day".

Roy Hudd - Comedian. Columnist in YOURS Magazine and President of The British Music Hall Society says:-
"He's the chap who's seen the Theatre through so many bad times and brought it out the other end as a great success. Anyone who is as enthusiastic as Peter is about his job should never be allowed to lose it. He will be missed".

Kindest regards to all who know me and to those who don't.

Caroline Fields

PS. If you. like me, feel strongly about this then write, phone or email your thoughts to Paul Pobinson, The Yorkshire Evening Post, Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 1RF.

 

 
Tel: 0113 2886393. Mobile: 07836 747730. Email: cfields237@btinternet.com
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