Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer, who recently appeared in the Buxton International Festival Book Weekend to talk about his latest work of history, demonstrated in the book how the Edwardians built new theatres such as Buxton Opera House for mass popular entertainment while retaining the great divide in British society.
This throws light on more recent developments.
As an opera house volunteer guiding customers to their seats for many years, I used to get many complaints from audience members in the ‘cheap seats’ - the benches in the gallery - which gave rise to quite a few cases of back pain.
When they were installed in 1903, the opera house was designed so that their unfortunate occupants could leave the theatre via a side exit on Water Street, thus keeping them well away from the better-off clientele in a prime example of Mr Heffer’s point about the haves and have-nots of the era.
After a while I decided that the bench seats had had their day, and in 2005 with the help of the 41 Club as my project in my year as chairman had them replaced by modern upholstered seating with backs.
Now every time a theatre-goer gets up from them without complaint I count it as a standing ovation.
Lismore Park, Buxton
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