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Canterbury’s Marlowe theatre branded ‘disgraceful’ as JGH Academy denied school discount tickets

A Kent theatre has been branded “disgraceful” for refusing to offer school discount tickets to students at a performing arts academy.

The Marlowe in Canterbury provides heavily reduced rates to groups of pupils studying at primaries and secondaries across the county and further afield.

But the principal of a local theatre school teaching students aged 16-18 says they are being denied the concession, despite enjoying the “generous” discount in previous years.

“The Marlowe don't consider us worthy,” said Mr Hodges, who heads the JGH Academy in Canterbury.

“What they’re saying is that someone studying maths A-level can get the school discount but our students - who are devoting their lives to the theatre - aren’t allowed.

"I think it’s absolutely disgraceful for a theatre to do this and it’s hugely unfair on our students.

The independent theatre arts academy offers a two-year sixth-form course culminating in a Level 3 diploma in creative and performing arts, equivalent to three A-levels.

Mr Hodges says in each of the past three years since JGH opened, students have been able to attend performances at the Marlowe at a generous school discount.

But when he called to book a showtime for his pupils in February, he was told they do not qualify for the special price.

Joe Hodges says the Marlowe in Canterbury is no longer offering students at his theatre school special-priced tickets
Joe Hodges says the Marlowe in Canterbury is no longer offering students at his theatre school special-priced tickets

The educator believed there had been a rule change at the Marlowe, but the theatre says this is not the case.

KentOnline understands the policy is unchanged from years past, but was previously being applied inconsistently.

A spokesperson for the theatre said: “The Marlowe is passionate about broadening access to the arts and has a strong record of encouraging young people to engage in world-class theatre.

“Our school discount applies to primary, secondary and publicly funded further education settings where young people up to 18 years of age can access a free education.

“Our Box Office team encouraged Mr Hodges to get in touch with theatre management to discuss his circumstances further, but we have no record of any correspondence.”

Mr Hodges, who lives in Thanet, says more than the financial impact, it is the principle of the matter that has upset him.

“The Marlowe don't consider us worthy...”

“I've been attending shows at the Marlowe as long as I can remember, but unfortunately I'm so disappointed in them and their commitment to arts education, that I simply can't continue to endorse them,” he continued.

"As much as the pricing aspect is infuriating, it’s the principle of the thing and feeling like we’re being let down by the performing arts industry; it feels a little personal.”

“Ultimately, we will make it work, because there is theatre life far beyond the Marlowe - we still get school rates in the West End so maybe we’ll go there instead - but it is sad that our students will miss out on vital trips to our local theatre.

The Marlowe is one of the largest theatres in Kent
The Marlowe is one of the largest theatres in Kent

The spokesperson for the Marlowe added: “We appreciate that the further educational landscape is complex.

“We’d very much welcome the opportunity to further discuss this situation with Mr Hodges.

“Aside from the school discount, we offer a number of other discounts for young people, including special group rates and our Discovery Ticket scheme, which offers £10 tickets for 16–26-year-olds visiting The Marlowe independently.

“In 2023 alone, we gave away over £218,000 in discounts through Discovery Tickets, making it one of the most generous schemes of its kind.

“Alongside our variety of discounts and offers, we have multiple programmes and classes which demonstrate our commitment to developing pathways into the theatre industry.”

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