Why we must focus on hate crime in Sussex

As reported by the Bexhill Observer on Friday, recorded hate crime has risen by a quarter in Sussex over the past year. During the period April 2015 to March 2016, the total number of recorded crimes rose from 1352 in 2014/15 to 1728 in 2015/16, an increase of 28%.

This follows another large increase, in the previous year, of 34%.

The number of non-crime hate incidents also rose during the same period, from 447 in 2014/15 to 502 in 2015/16 – an increase of 12%.

Reports break down the results as follows:

· Disability 185 (up from 106 in the 2014/15 period)

· Race 1163 (up from 961)

· Religion 133 (up from 106)

· Sexual orientation 304 (up from 230)

· Transgender 40 (up from 28)

These are shocking figures but, despite the rise, police have said they are encouraged. They say this shows better reporting on the part of the police, and a greater willingness for victims to come forward and get the help they need. It certainly does prove that hate crime should be a top priority for a PCC in Sussex.

It follows news from earlier this year that reported a 37% spike in race hate crimes on British railway networks, and news from late last year reporting an 18% rise in hate crimes across England and Wales.

As PCC, I intend to put a great deal of focus on tackling this issue in Sussex. While it is encouraging that awareness and police reporting is improving, these figures show there is a worrying problem in our communities. I will make sure we are tackling the root causes of hate crime, as well as the effects. That means working with charities and support networks to build awareness of hate crime, challenge the prejudices that lead to these offences, and support victims in the most effective way possible.

I want to be part of a community where everyone, regardless of disability, race, religion or gender identification, feels safe and secure in their homes and on our streets.

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What is the Sussex PCC and why should I vote?

If you feel in the dark about the upcoming Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (Sussex PCC) elections, you’re not alone. Only 15% of the electorate voted in Sussex in the 2012 elections, and it was even less in some areas.

That’s not because people don’t care about their local police force. But many people are simply unsure of what they’re voting for, or how their vote will actually affect the way police work in their community. The Green Party wants to change that – we want to show people they have a democratic vote, and they can use it to make things better.

What is the Sussex PCC?

In 2012, the government introduced local Police and Crime Commissioner post, to replace the existing Police Authority system. Each elected  PCC is now in charge of:

  1. Building the vision for policing in the community they serve. They create a Police and Crime Plan, which allows them to make a strategy and set objectives.
  2. Setting the budget, which allows them to prioritise the areas that need more money, and do away with any wasteful spending.
  3. Appointing a Chief Constable, and holding him/her to account for delivering a proper service.
  4. Making the police answerable to communities they serve. If you feel like your police service is doing a poor job, you can vote for a new PCC and make things change.

Why should I vote Green?

It’s no secret that, over the past six years, the government has been slashing the budgets of public services and selling them off to private companies. In Sussex there have been millions of pounds worth of cuts to policing, and at the end of last year £56m more cuts were announced, with up to 1000 jobs to be axed.

Unsurprisingly, that coincides with rising crime rates in the community. Recorded crime in Sussex (excluding fraud) rose by 7.9% over the last year, and over the past six years fell by half as much as it did in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, Katy Bourne earns £85,000, and with a team of staff her office’s total wages last year were £809,297, including £71,208 for her Head of Public Engagement and Communications and £84,642 for her Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer. Overall her office costs, including those salaries, was £1.37 million last year – despite the fact that she promised to cut costs in 2012.

It’s clear that there are major issues facing Sussex. That’s why I will be fighting tirelessly against the government cuts and privatisation, and against unnecessary spending that takes money away from public services. I will also be fighting for:

1) A police service, not a police force.

It’s clear that homelessness and drugs are growing problems in Sussex. I want to see a police service that doesn’t aim to criminalise and marginalise our most vulnerable people, but finds ways to support and help them. Arresting or fining homeless people is not only inhumane, it simply doesn’t work.

2) Honest, evidence-based policing

I will encourage the use of diversion programmes to help people away from re-offending. I will expand restorative justice programmes so offenders can face the consequences of their crimes.

3) Greater focus on hate crime and violent crime

Racism, LGBT and disability abuse, and domestic violence are major issues that do not get the attention they deserve. I will create a strategy and a budget that puts resources where they are needed most.

We want to see a much bigger turnout in the 5th May election. By voting, you will be strengthening our democracy. By voting Green, you will be changing our police service for the better.


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Our Green Worthing: February Newsletter for Worthing Pier

Latest newsletter from County councillor James Doyle and Worthing Green Party: currently being delivered in Worthing Pier division, but still of interest to people elsewhere in the town, so please read and share!

Our Green Worthing February Edition

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Our Green Worthing: January Newsletter for Worthing Pier

For those who haven’t received one (and we’ve delivered 5000 over the past two weeks), here’s a PDF copy of our January newsletter.

Our Green Worthing January Edition

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A Better Plan for Worthing: Supporting Our Town Centre Shopping Economy

With Worthing’s town centre suffering, like so many others, with the closure of HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters, the County Councillor for the town centre area, James Doyle, is calling for joint action on an immediate plan to support the retail heart of the town.


James Doyle in Worthing Town Centre: bringing bikes to the heart of the town helps people shop cheaper, quicker and greener.

 ‘Both the County and Borough Councils, along with the Town Centre Initiative (TCI), need to engage quickly with the retailers in Worthing’s main shopping area, and work together to ensure that Worthing can ride out these adverse conditions and come out ahead of its rivals. I’m proposing a four-point plan of action:

  1. Enhance the street environment: improve the paving in Montague Street, make the crossing of Crescent Road into the ‘West End’ more pedestrian-friendly, and look at shared use in the West End. The County Council has already agreed to look at some of these points, and consultation on the Crescent Road crossing should take place soon, I hope this will be only the first step in an ongoing programme of improvements.
  2. Set up a virtual High Street for Worthing: the Borough Council and TCI need to develop a website and smartphone app to bring all of Worthing’s shops together, developing a stronger appeal for shoppers and allowing cross-promotion of offers and discounts which would be usable on a customer’s next actual shopping trip into Worthing. Who knows, we could even promote discounts on the car parks!
  3. Support Independent Traders: concentrate the work of organisations that offer business training, advice and support around the independent traders who make our town centre unique; Worthing is at the mercy of chains, but we can encourage those traders, like Type 40 Toys in Montague Street, who bring in visitors from far and wide.
  4. Act on Empty Shops: one fifth of Worthing’s empty shops have been empty for over two years; and rents have not been lowered in that time. The Borough Council and TCI need to call commercial landlords to account for their passive sabotage of Worthing’s economy, and ask why they are unwilling to drop rents to get shops open again. The council should name and shame those landlords who are not doing enough. One of the UK’s leading experts on empty shops, Dan Thompson, lives in Worthing and is a passionate advocate for the local economy; why is the Borough Council not using his expertise and advice?

‘These points may not solve all the problems of Worthing’s retail sector, but I hope that they will be a starting point. We cannot stand idly by while a vital part of our economy withers away for lack of support.’

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We Only Hurt the Ones We Love?

Anyone who has attended more than the occasional election count will undoubtedly have heard someone say that their party has lost a seat because of another party splitting ‘their’ vote; it might be a Conservative accusing UKIP, or a LibDem pointing a finger at Labour, or vice versa, but whether on the left or the right, partisans tend to assume that the vote on their side of the political spectrum belongs to their party, and to no one else.

It’s particularly apposite to think about this at the moment, given Michael Fabricant’s discussion paper on the hypothetical benefits from a Con-UKIP pact, and the revived myth (as definitively rubbished by Anthony Wells, http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/4444 ) that at the 2010 General Election, UKIP cost the Tories 20-40 seats.

I had already been thinking of looking at this, as I’d been assembling a large data set of local election results, for council elections in the South East England region, for the most recent election cycle (2009-2012). Whereas the General Election had a maximum of 650 data points – constituencies – to examine for evidence of potential vote-splitting, not all of which will have multiple parties from the same political wing, local elections offer several times the number of data points to analyse.

Does the data bear out the belief that vote-splitting hurts, and that it is parties who should be our best friends – or at least as friendly as that bloke from work we sometimes play five-a-side with and have a drink afterwards – who are splitting our votes?


Parameters of the Analysis

For the purpose of this analysis, I’m counting the following parties as right wing and left wing respectively (in descending order of electoral success):

Right: Conservatives, UKIP, BNP, English Democrats (ED)

Left: Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens

The elections used are council elections from all county, district, borough and unitary authorities in the South East region of England, from 2009 to 2012. Only main council elections (taking place in May of each year) are used; by elections may be subject to many other factors and influences, and have been excluded.

Council wards may be represented by one, two or three members, who may elected one at a time, or simultaneously. If multiple members are elected in one election, and hence there are multiple candidates from a single party, it becomes much more difficult to determine how an election might have been different if a particular party had not stood; therefore, the analysis is based only on single-seat elections.


The Data

Limiting the dataset to single-seat elections gives us 1,895 elections to work with. Of this number, 3 have no candidate from either left or right (all candidates are either Residents, Independents, or other, small parties); 6 wards have no right candidate, and 74 have no left candidate. Further, 38 wards were won by Residents’ Association candidates, and 30 by Independents. This leaves 1,744 seats won by a candidate of the right or left. These can be divided into four groups:

a) 1 right and 1 left candidate: 240 seats

b) multiple (2, 3 or 4) right candidates, 1 left candidate: 151 seats

c) 1 right candidate, multiple (2 or 3) left candidates: 740 seats

d) multiple right and multiple left candidates: 613 seats


a) The Baseline: Head-to-Head Contests

The straightforward contests in group (a) break down into 183 right wins, all Conservative (81 over Labour, 95 over LibDems, 7 over the Greens) and 57 left wins (30 Lab over Con, 2 Lab over UKIP, 25 LD over Con). So in straight 1 right/1 left contests, right wins 76.25%, left wins 23.75%. This is a baseline we can use to compare the other results against.

Right Wins Left Wins
Baseline Case: Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%


b) Splitting the Right Vote?

The Conservatives contested all 151 of these seats; 137 were against UKIP, 7 against BNP, 5 against the English Democrats, and 2 against UKIP and BNP

The left was represented (only one party from the left in each seat in this category, remember) by Labour in 45 seats, the LibDems in 104, and the Greens in 2.

The results were 118 Conservative wins, 1 UKIP win (i.e. 119 right wins), 14 Labour wins and 18 LibDem wins (i.e. 32 left wins)

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%

As can be seen, there is no significant difference in results with multiple parties on the right contesting a seat.

To go further, in 7 of 14 Labour victories, and 9 of 18 LibDem victories, the winning party’s vote was greater than the total of all right parties, meaning that even if there had been a single party on the right contesting the seat, and every right voter in the real election had voted for that party, the right would still have lost. We can therefore add these to the seats actually won by Conservatives and UKIP as seats where splitting the right vote definitely made no difference: a total of 135 seats. So this leaves us 16 seats, or 10.60%, in which a theoretical transfer of 100% of votes to the leading right party would gain them 16 seats, or 10.60%.

A YouGov survey from 2010 (http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-Pol-YouGov-BNP-UKIP-Formattedv2-291110.pdf) shows that not every voter would transfer uniformly to a party on the same side of the political spectrum (in this case, UKIP or BNP to Conservative); the net transfer (the difference between transfers to the Conservatives and a Labour or LibDem opponent) would be around 18 or 19%. If we examine some hypothetical thresholds, assuming that a net of 50%, 25% or 10% of votes would transfer, the Conservatives would gain 6, 3 or 2 seats.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)


c) Splitting the Left Vote?

449 seats were contested by Labour and the LibDems; 20 by Labour and the Greens; 18 by the LibDems and the Greens; 253 by all of Labour, the LibDems and the Greens.

The right was represented by the Conservatives in 738 seats, UKIP in 2, and BNP or ED in 0.

The results were 446 Conservative wins (446 right wins), 135 Labour wins, 150 LibDem wins and 9 Green wins (i.e. 294 left wins)

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%
Single Right, Multiple Left   60.27%   39.73%

This is significantly different to the baseline case, but the left has won more, rather then fewer, seats when the left vote is split. This is a counter-intuitive result; it is possible that this is because seats that are demographically more favourable to the left attract more left candidates, but it would be impossible to verify this without considerably more research.

In 338 of the Conservative victories, the Conservative vote was greater than the total of all left parties. Adding these to the seats actually won by left parties as seats where splitting the left vote definitely made no difference gives a total of 635 seats. The 100% theoretical transfer to the leading left party would gain them 108 seats, or 14.59%. This is comparable to the 10.60% where a split right vote would make a difference on a 100% transfer. The table shows the effects at 50%, 25% and 10% transfer.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)
Single Right, Multiple Left 14.59% (108) 8.24% (61) 4.87% (36) 1.76% (13)

These figures are noticeably higher than the reverse scenario. This may reinforce the speculation that multiple left parties stand in demographically more favourable territory: not only do the left win more when multiple left candidates stand, but in such areas they could benefit more from theoretical transfers. This would lead logically to a hypothesis that where there are multiple left candidates, the appearance that vote splitting is costing the left potential victories is caused by the seat containing more left votes, rather than actually being caused by split voting. It would be useful to obtain some polling data on potential transfer inclinations of left voters, to see how important this is.


d) Splitting Both Votes?

These 613 seats break down as follows:

Right Candidates Left Candidates
407 seats   2   2
175 seats   2   3
20 seats   3   2
10 seats   3   3
1 seat   4   2

The results were 388 Conservative wins, 1 UKIP win (389 right wins), 45 Labour wins, 178 LibDem wins and 1 Green win (i.e. 224 left wins). As the table below shows, this is similar to the previous analysis of seats where the right vote isn’t split, but the left vote is.

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%
Multiple Right, Multiple Left   63.46%   36.54%

Further analysis of multiple versus multiple elections is more complicated than above, as theoretical transfers are possible on both sides, but we can begin by determining the number of seats in which the winning party got more votes than the total for parties on the opposing side of the spectrum: this is 290 of the 389 right wins, and 162 of the 224 left wins. In the remaining 161 seats, we apply the same transfer thresholds – 50%, 25% and 10% – to both the winning party and the leading party on the opposite side of the spectrum. The results are shown in the table; the figures are marginally higher than, but very comparable to, the case with multiple right parties and a single left party.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)
Single Right, Multiple Left 14.59% (108) 8.24% (61) 4.87% (36) 1.76% (13)
Multiple Right, Multiple Left 26.26% (161) 4.89% (30) 2.61% (16) 1.47% (9)



In areas where multiple right parties stand, there is no significant evidence of vote splitting harming the right. On the left, there is some evidence of harm, but at a very low level, 1 in 20 to 1 in 40 seats. Even this may be an artefact of seat demographics, rather than actual electoral damage. Further research, and opinion poll data, might resolve this.

In short, it would seem that not only does having more parties on the ballot paper mean more choice for the electors, it does not mean more problems for the politicians. Variety may indeed be the spice of (election) life.

I would welcome comments on or criticisms of the above analysis, or suggestions of different ways to look at the figures as presented or further analysis of the base data.


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This Week at West Sussex County Council (17th-23rd September 2012)

Committee Meetings:


September 17th Governance Committee

2.15 p.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/R7u0YF

Governance committee tends, obviously, to deal with the internal workings of the council, rather than policy matters, but there is an important item on the policy of allowing teachers recruited from academies to WSCC schools to count their service as continuous; it might seem rather obvious that it should work that way, but it needs to be made explicit.

September 17th North Horsham CLC

7 p.m.; County Hall North, Chart Way, Horsham, RH12 1XH

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Ox4DyM

September 18th Planning Committee

10.30 a.m.; County Hall

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/U7Ti8h

Considering the draft West Sussex Waste Plan; there will be more debate at the full Council meeting in October, but this will inform that discussion

September 18th Joint Eastern Arun Area Committee (CLC)

7 p.m.; Woodlands Centre, Woodlands Avenue, Rustington, BN16 3HB

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/S04Zxl


Forward Plan Decisions (September-December FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/UXVPBi

[Note: decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]



Decisions made last week:



Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Decisions made last week:



Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Decisions made last week:


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This Week at Worthing Borough Council (17th-23rd September 2012)

Holidays are over, back to work… 🙂


September 17th Licensing Control Committee

6.00 p.m.; Town Hall, Worthing

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/OwPSfA


1 application for a Private Hire Driver’s License. Normally these would be delegated to officers, but there may be some specific information in the application that would require more consideration.



Cabinet/Cabinet Member Decisions

Leader of the Council:

Remembrance Sunday Reception – location: decision due after September 24th

It might seem that deciding where to hold the traditional reception after the Remembrance Sunday service and parade would be uncontroversial and straightforward, but not really. The council has managed to allow almost every possible location in the town hall complex – the committee suite, the Gordon Room, the Assembly Hall – to be booked up for other purposes, or in one case, filled with stored documents. It would seem difficult to be taken by surprise by Remembrance Sunday, but Worthing BC have managed it.


Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Regeneration:

Portland House/Town Hall Car Park – Marketing Brief: decision due after July 2nd, but still not recorded as made!


Cabinet Member for Resources:

Irrecoverable Debts – Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates: decision due after July 6th, but still not recorded as made.


Cabinet Member for Customer Services:


(last decision 30/7/12 – joint decision with Adur)


Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing:


(last decision 16/5/11)


Cabinet Member for Environment:


(last decision 31/5/12)


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Best Foot Forward? Setting an Example on Transport

Our last county council meeting, on May 18th, fell on the last day of Walk to Work Week, and it got me thinking about how I, and other county councillors, get to County Hall for meetings; do we set a good example to council officers, and West Sussex residents, for using alternatives to the car?

Most of the time I cycle to Worthing railway station, take the train to Chichester, and walk from there to County Hall. It’s perfectly feasible to get to County Hall for 10.00 a.m., even gtting an offpeak fare. With the mileage rates councillors get for driving, I save the council money as well as feeling virtuous, or possibly smug, about my choices.

Could others do the same? Well, with a list of county councillors’ addresses from the WSCC website, Google Maps, and a website for checking train times, it turns out to be quite easy to work out who (in theory) should be able to use public transport for their trips to County Hall. Note that this does not take into account individual circumstances: there are at least two county councillors I know of who would find it physically difficult, if not impossible, to walk/train/walk to Chichester. They both do good jobs, so this is not intended to impugn them directly or indirectly; but they are included in the figures I give. There may well be other cases where personal circumstances make it difficult or impossible to use public transport.

The parameters I set for this are:

  1. Is it possible to walk directly to County Hall in less than half an hour.
  2. If (1) isn’t possible, is there a nearby railway station from which it is possible to get a train after 9 a.m. to arrive at Chichester by 10 a.m.?
  3. If (2) is true, could someone walk from their home to that station in 20 minutes or less?
  4. If it’s not possible to walk to a station in 20 minutes (3), can you drive in 10 minutes or less?

I’ve ignored the possibility of cycling, either directly or to a station, as I’d have to start making my own calculations of cycling times. I’ve also left out the option of getting a bus to Chichester; you can do this on Google Maps, but I’m not convinced the timetables are up to date, nor that it would make much of a difference to the overall figures.

Using Google Maps, you can enter two postcodes and ask for walking directions between them. It doesn’t take account of pedestrian short cuts, only using paths beside roads, so some of these calculations could possibly be slightly shorter; I’m also a little sceptical about the projected walking times in Google Maps, as it claims that my walk to Worthing station should take 18 minutes – in fact I can do it in 12 minutes, and my 3 year old can scoot it in 18. So I’ve split the difference and called my walk to Worthing 15 minutes, and hence adjusted down elsewhere by a similar factor of 5/6.

There are 71 county councillors, but only 70 give a full address on the WSCC website: still a pretty good sample.

Here’s what I found:

2 County Councillors live within 30 minutes walk of County Hall

42 live within 20 minutes walk of a station

8 live within 10 minutes drive of a station

18 really have no option but to drive

So nearly 75% could avoid car use without too much personal disruption. And happily, in all but one case the train fare would be cheaper than the mileage allowance – so, given the disruption we’ve asked council staff to put up with pay freezes, job cuts and reorganisation – perhaps even a little disruption to councillors’ lives would really show that we’re ‘all in it together’.

Breaking it down by district:

Councillors Walk Walk/Train Drive/Train Drive No Address
Adur 6 6
Arun 13 9 3 1
Chichester 10 2 8
Crawley 9 6 1 1 1
Horsham 12 8 1 3
Mid Sussex 12 5 3 4
Worthing 9 8 1

Unsurprisingly, it’s the rural areas of Chichester and Horsham, and the farther reaches of Mid Sussex, where councillors don’t have much choice about their travel mode, whereas in the coastal region from Southwick west through Worthing and Arun it’s much easier for people to choose the train.

Perhaps if more people travelled by train, there might be a keener sense of the worth of public transport? And if the bus was a feasible option, perhaps the council might have done more to protect bus service subsidies?


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Directing King Lear, Part One

This will be the first in a series – an irregular series – over the next eighteen months on putting together and directing a play.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine confirmed something we’d discussed some months back: that he wanted me to direct him in King Lear.

This is the third time over nearly a decade that we’ve attempted to get a production of King Lear organised together, but on each previous occasion events have conspired to prevent us; this time, however, there’s nothing in either of our lives likely to be an obstacle to actually making it happen. We have a play, a venue – the King’s Theatre, Southsea, and a time – November 2013.

The company is called One Off, and was started by David Lippiett because he was frustrated at not being able to get ‘classic’ drama – Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Miller, and so on – on to the amateur stage in Portsmouth. David knows just about everyone on the amateur drama scene in the Portsmouth area, and his simple rule was to decide what play to do, and then pick the best people he knew for the cast. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a handful of One Off productions, and in each one I’ve felt very lucky to be among a people who know their craft and art so well; it gives a huge level of comfort to know that everyone knows what they are doing and is going to be able to pull you out of a hole if necessary.

Our first step will be putting together a cast for the production: David (who’ll be playing King Lear, but is also the producer) has some ideas, as do I, as to people we’d like to have on board, and we’ll be meeting in a couple of weeks time to see how well those lists marry up, and how we fill the gaps. Then of course, once we start contacting people to ask them, we’ll find out some people are unavailable because of commitments to other plays or for ‘real life’ reasons; or unwilling to be in the production, or to take the part we want them to play – we’ll try to persuade people, but in the end it will be up to them. So there will be more holes to fill, even before we get to the start of rehearsals (by which time we’ll probably have lost a couple of extra people to unforeseen circumstances).

Meanwhile, I’m going to be working on a script. King Lear runs to nearly 3,300 lines – that’s roughly 3 hours 40 minutes performance time, so cuts have to be made, and sizeable ones, to get it down to a reasonable running time for a modern audience, and theatre, and a cast that would like a post-performance drink: rule 1 of directing – give your actors time to get to the bar after the curtain’s come down, and they’ll be halfway to being on your side before the first minute of rehearsal.

Here’s a funny fact I’ve learned from directing and acting in Shakespeare’s plays over the last 25 years: 15 lines equals 1 minute. A friend once laughed when I told her that my production of The Taming of The Shrew would finish at 10:17; we were within 1 minute every night, except the performance when the bar as overcrowded and the interval was extended by five minutes – we finished at 22:22. Overall, it doesn’t matter how much business you throw in, how the actors deliver their lines (as long as they do deliver them, of course), or how the production is blocked (i.e. how the actors move around, on and off the stage):

15 lines on the page = 1 minute on the stage

So if we begin at 7.45, and finish at 10.30, with a twenty minute interval, that leaves us with 165 minutes of performance time, or 2,475 lines. So I need to cut around twenty percent of the play to get it to a reasonable length; a big job when you’re messing with Shakespeare’s lines, and one I’ll come back to in a later instalment.

What I do first – don’t laugh – is write the play. I start with a base text, from one of the published versions of Shakespeare’s plays – and literally retype the whole play, to create my electronic text. The first positive point about this is that once I have made the cuts I have a script which I can email to or print for each actor, without everyone having to buy a copy of my chosen text and strike through the cuts, so everyone is literally on the same page.

The second and more important positive is that this forces me to look at every single word of the script, every punctuation mark, every stage direction. Sometimes while doing this, a word or a line will jar, or will spark a thought about how to present hat on stage, and I’ll note that for later consideration. It creates a familiarity with the text which is invaluable when deciding how to cut.

Once I’ve developed the base text, I’ll go through again comparing it with other texts that I have to hand; in the house I have the following complete works: a facsimile of the First Folio, the Norton Shakespeare, Oxford Shakespeare, a Nelson Doubleday edition from the 60s, the Irving Shakespeare works of 1897, and the Malone edition of 1786; and my single play King Lear texts include the New Penguin, Arden 2nd and 3rd editions, and Cambridge. That makes ten texts; some of these are very close (or even identical) to each other, but by the end of the comparison I’ll have read my base text in detail four or five times, paying particular attention to anywhere I’ve made notes, and adding more notes on punctuation or textual differences as I go.

Then, I’ll start work on cutting the script down to size…

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