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A sandwich and a copy of the Adver...what the stars want
WE’VE all heard of outrageous celebrity demands on theatre managers, but in Swindon it seems a plate of sandwiches and an Adver are the order of the day.
Showbiz websites and rock biographies are full of stories about famous people and their ‘riders’ – special items they expect to find in their dressing rooms before or after a performance.
It’s difficult to separate the truth from the urban legends, but there are tales of stars demanding vast quantities of alcohol, all manner of illegal substances and even that the entire dressing room be gutted and remodelled.
Meeting these demands can cost venues and promoters thousands of pounds.
At the Arts Centre, in Devizes Road, things are a bit different.
Last year’s roster of performers, including Britpop trio Dodgy, 1960s rock legends The Animals and comics Barry Cryer and Henning Wehn, cost as little as £1.30 to cater for.
Programming manager Clarry Bean said: “We don’t get any of the weird or ridiculous requests – nobody has asked us to redecorate the dressing room or provide sweets with a certain colour taken out.
“I once had somebody who complained about a light which was making a noise that I think only dogs could hear. He was a musician. He got very upset and he insisted on the lights being off.
“A lot of comedians ask for the Adver because they like to refer to local stories. Often comedians are very easy – they just want a sandwich.”
He added that stars in the midst of gruelling tours, or who were over from the US or Europe, sometimes asked for hotel rooms to be provided.
We asked Clarry about riders after receiving an anonymous letter from a local performer who’d obtained details of last year’s under Freedom of Information rules.
The person wrote: “As an artist and performer at the Arts Centre myself, I am aware how much it costs local users to hire the place.”
The anonymous person then lists 18 acts and their riders, although only five made it into three figures. They were veteran folk duo Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick (£148.25 for a hotel and £5.10 for catering), the Celtic Fiddle Festival (£235 for a hotel), American bluesman Mud Morganfield and his band (£457.75 for a hotel), American guitarist Buddy Whittington and his band (£120.20 for catering) and folk singer Martin Simpson (£103.50 for a hotel and £3.50 for catering).
Other acts asked for rather less. Comics Bob Mills and John Maloney ran up a catering bill for all of £1.30, while raconteur Dr Phil Hammond cost £2.60 and German funnyman Henning Wehn £8.45. Comic and writer Barry Cryer managed £10.85.
The Animals, rockers from the same generation as The Who, The Beatles and The Stones, upped the rider stakes to £37.90, while Dodgy outdid them with a rider worth £69.13.
Sadly for lovers of showbiz gossip, the Wyvern Theatre is just as lacking as the Arts Centre when it comes to debauched celebrity demands.
Some of the performers do have excellent taste in newspapers, however.
Director Derek Aldridge said: “In my time here, nobody has requested anything ridiculous – the only things I’ve ever seen have been catering requests which have generally been hot or cold meals. Some have had dietary requirements, which have never been unreasonable.
“All comedians who do topical gags request that day’s copies, and maybe the previous two or three days’ copies, of the Swindon Advertiser – Julian Clary was the most recent.
“One touring musician and orchestra were notoriously requesting large quantities of alcoholic drink, but this act has never performed at the Wyvern. Said act would never touch the alcohol while at the venue – they would put it into the back of the car at the end of the show.”