Tuesday, April 18, 2017

There is more than a car park to worry about at Snape


Quite rightly plans to build a 470-space car park on the river bank opposite Snape quay with connecting footbridge have been met with widespread concern. But there is more than a car park to worry about. The holding company at Snape is the private limited Snape Maltings Ltd (formerly Aldeburgh Music), which has annual revenue of £6.1 million, and former BBC Radio 3 and Proms controller Roger Wright is its chief executive. This company owns 100% of Snape Maltings Trading which is the company responsible for the retail activities on the Snape site, specifically the artisanal retail complex which generates much of the demand for car parking.

Snape Maltings Trading's board includes retail big hitters Clive Schlee who is CEO of fast food chain Pret a Manger, and Stuart Rose who was chief executive and chairman of retail giant Marks and Spencers. Stuart Rose has also been a director of retail chains Argos and Woolworths. He is a Conservative peer who sits in the House of Lords and has political clout, as instanced by his recent role as chair of Britain Stronger in Europe which campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU during the recent referendum. Another non-executive director of both Snape Maltings companies is Simon Robey who was joint head of mergers and acquisition at financial services conglomerate Morgan Stanley (2016 revenue $37.95 billion US) before founding his own boutique investment bank. Robey was ranked as number 12 in the Telegraph's most powerful people in British business listing.

These corporate power brokers aren't board directors because of their track record in advocating Britten's music. Snape Maltings Enterprises owns 100% of both the Elm Property Management Ltd and the newly incorporated Snape Maltings Enterprises Ltd. Concern about the commercialisation of Snape has been mounting for years, and my header collage was created for an Overgrown Path post back in 2012. This concern has been compounded by recent Aldeburgh Festivals which have not exactly set the creative juices flowing, with visionary artistic director Pierre-Laurent Aimard departing after last year's Festival and replaced by a committee of 'artist-programmers'. In addition the ticketing hierarchy makes it virtually impossible for those without privileged status to attend many Festival concerts. Rumours that locals have heard the sound of something turning in the graveyard of nearby Aldeburgh Church where Benjamin Britten is buried may have some substance.

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