It all started with the blogs. We all knew something was amiss when last year The Guardian decided to cut the 150 annual theatre blogs written by arguably one of the most well-respected theatre critics in the country.
Then came the news this week that the Guardian Newspaper had discontinued her contract after 23 years. No more reviews. No more features. No more Lyn Gardner at the Guardian. In a statement the paper explained, “We have decided to look and add some new voices to our arts coverage. Our commitment to coverage of the theatre remains absolute.”
The message was taken both at its word and also seen as a thinly masked admission of cost-cutting measures that are taking place at The Guardian. But that’s a discussion for another piece.
Regardless of the true meanings behind the national paper’s actions, the phasing out was complete. On the 8th of May at 9:56 in the morning, Lyn tweeted, “Sadly the rumour is true. After 23 years the Guardian not renewing my contract from June 1”
The news started to spread and reactions to the shocking news were coming thick and fast, with The Stage newspaper publishing three pieces alone on the issue this week. And in our day of instant reactions, readily available for the world to read, the theatre industry wanted to have its say on Lyn’s departure via social media.
Telegraph theatre critic Dominic Cavendish tweeted “She didn’t need an accolade from the Stage, she didn’t need a UK theatre award. Lyn Gardner has been an indisputably good thing for the Guardian, for British theatre and for the reviewing culture. She made us all travel further and work harder. Shocked she’s going. Irreplaceable”
Evening Standard’s Fiona Mountford added, “Simply cannot believe the news that @lyngardner is leaving the Guardian on June 1st. She’s far and away the single most valuable critical voice in British theatre.”
Theatres even got in on the act with The Bush Theatre tweeting “Huge thanks to Lyn Gardner for her support of new writing in her 23 years at The Guardian. Without her, younger, emerging and experimental artists would not have had the critical voice they need to thrive. It’s a sad day for theatre.”
Lyric Hammersmith producer, Peter J Holland, reached out to the Guardian in his response: “I’m really hoping the @guardianstage reconsider not renewing @lyngardner’s contract. Her work is vitally important and crucial in supporting theatres and artists across the U.K. - she champions work fairly and without self promotion! This would be a huge blow to the industry.”
Emma Rice, someone who has recently felt the blow of disappointment of being let go after an incredibly successful season at Shakespeare’s Globe, put out a tweet through her WiseChildren account: “This feels like bad news for our theatrical landscape - @guardian deciding not to review our boldest and most influential critic @lyngardner’s contract from June. What can we do about it?”
The outpouring of support for Lyn Gardner has been overwhelming from the industry, because we know the value of fair, honest theatre criticism. And to lose a voice in such a major publication is worrying. But Lyn has created a website www.lyngardner.com where she will continue to post blogs and other writing. No doubt, the traffic to the new site will be reassuring to her that there are many, many people who care about her views.
But don’t take our word for it. Here is what Lyn tweeted out: “Just wanted to say thank you again for all the support over the last 36 hours. The tweets, messages, emails and complete strangers stopping me in the street (and on a train) have kept me buoyed. Thank you.”
No Lyn, thank you.
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