So farewell Eric Ashley ...

So farewell Eric Ashley and goodbye Mr Gray’s blog…

Many, many of you will have read the reviews of Workshop productions, and more, in Michael Gray’s Arts blog over many years now - but not,any longer for Michael retired from blogging at Christmas. (Oh, no, he didn’t! Oh, yes, he did!). He’s not moving away or leaving Workshop behind thankfully, but will be stopping general reviewing and blogging and publicising our productions, and we will miss him greatly in that role.

When I joined workshop in the 70s a young man called Eric Ashley wrote reviews of concerts and other musical events for the Essex Chronicle, back in the days when they had an Arts editor and a very popular Arts Page.  His colleague, Jon Richards, reviewed dramatic productions.  It took me a while to realise that Eric Ashley was actually Michael Gray and that he and Jon (really Hugh Homan) were using noms de plume, probably to conceal the fact that they were both teachers at KEGS.  Michael was already an active member of CTW (Lord Darnley wearing a pink taffeta doublet in ‘Vivat, Vivat Regina’, anyone?) and has appeared in more productions than I can remember over the years, both for Workshop and for other local groups but it is his role as reviewer/blogger that I want to concentrate on here.

When Hugh moved away, Michael/Eric took over as Arts Page editor/co-ordinator and added drama crits to his musical interests, until he was succeeded by Mary Redmond in 1988. He still contributed pieces to the Chronicle until it decided to prune then cut its Arts coverage. At that point Michael began working with Peter Andrews, another Workshop member, who was also - amongst other things - Arts Editor for the Chelmsford Weekly News and both of them continued to support, publicise and review CTW’s work until Peter retired.  Michael then worked with Peter’s successor, Jim Hutchon, but also took up blogging.  Since 2006 Michael has had his own blog, initially as ‘Mr Gray’s Blog’ and then ‘Michael Gray’s Arts Blog’.  Throughout all of that time Michael has been a strong friend to and supporter of CTW particularly, but also of all other local, and not so local, amateur and professional groups, writing knowledgeable, constructive and sensitive reviews, praising good points but not afraid to identify areas for improvements.  His blog pages, with approximately 200 reviews a year, demonstrate his commitment to the Arts and reveal his extensive love, knowledge and appreciation of music, drama and ballet.

I know that Michael will continue travelling far and wide to watch and enjoy performing arts but that will soon be without the pressure of having to produce reviews. So Eric Ashley can stop sharpening his quill pen, Mr Gray can put away the chalk and Michael Gray’s keyboard can finally cool down - but we will miss his vital contribution to the continued existence of performing arts at a time when local media barely acknowledges the existence of the huge range of arts groups across the eastern counties.  Michael’s blogs/reviews also cover productions in London, Chichester, Salisbury… anywhere that Michael visits where there is a production taking place.  On behalf of CTW, I thank him for more than 40 years of support and for the education and sheer pleasure that his reviews have given.

Christine Thomson

President, Chelmsford Theatre Workshop

No comments:

Post a Comment