On Wednesday 5th June, Next Stage Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Ann Ellison and Company Director, Andrew Ellison were invited by Lord Don Foster of Bath to the House of Lords in London. Arriving promptly at the Peers Entrance, Ann and Andrew were warmly greeted by Don who led the pair on a 2 hour tour around the Palace of Westminster. As the tour proceeded, the extent of Don’s knowledge of Parliamentary business wowed both Ann and Andrew. As they walked with Don they discussed the working day in the life of a typical Parliamentarian, the architecture of the Grade I listed building, gained insight into many of the monumental events that have taken place over the centuries on this historical site as well as looking inside a few of the 1,100 rooms. Both Ann and Andrew were fascinated by their private tour with Lord Don Foster, brushing shoulders throughout it with some of the 15,000 pass holders who work in Parliament daily.
The tour commenced in the 778 seater House of Lords - the second chamber within Parliament and this was followed by a visit to The Robing Room - a beautiful suite where the Queen puts on the Imperial State Crown and her ceremonial robes before making her way to the House of Lords at the Opening of Parliament. Stepping inside St. Stephens Hall, the oldest part within the Palace of Westminster, Don retold the story of the monumental trial of Charles I in 1649 which had taken place at Westminster. Next was a visit to the House of Commons where Ann and Andrew were also lucky enough to be introduced to 2 of the prestigious Doorkeepers with their historical badges. Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole tour was when Don took Ann and Andrew into Committee Room 12 and explained the business that goes on in these committee rooms out of sight of the public. Bills are drafted and amended by MPs who are serving on a committee, all of whom need to quickly grasp the legalistic language of all the documents. This fascinating and personal tour left both Ann and Andrew with a completely different outlook on Westminster and politics and for this they must thank Don for taking the time to give them this experience.
Lord Don Foster, a regular in the second chamber, has this week taken part in a debate regarding Theatre, and in particular, ticket prices and accessibility. Prior to his speech Don had quizzed Ann and Andrew about their experiences in setting up and running The Mission Theatre. They were thrilled to receive the Hansard account of the debate and to read, amongst others, the fascinating speech made by Don which mentioned The Mission Theatre’s excellent performances, as well as one of Next Stage’s 25th Birthday incentives to encourage audiences into the theatre: ‘Pay What it’s Worth’ Matinees. To be mentioned in this debate, in such a prestigious venue is very rewarding and Next Stage and The Mission are extremely grateful to Lord Don Foster for this inclusion.
To read the full debate please click HERE