Mark Featherstone-Witty, principal and chief executive of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts has published his autobiography. "I could have written a book that was called Me and My Friend Paul McCartney, but didn't," he said. Instead, he called his book Optimistic Even Then and then proceeded to write a detailed account of how the derelict Liverpool Institute was transformed into a respected "fame school" thanks largely to Sir Paul's financial support and sentimental attachment to his old school.
In a recent interview with Liverpool's Daily Post, Mr. Featherstone-Witty recalled, "The highlight was the inauguration, opening the doors to the students after so many years. Seeing them on stage before an audience of the benefactors: those who had worked to make it happen facing those to whom it would. As so often with golden moments there was complete silence."
He also gives credit where credit is due: "The time that these highly unusual people, like Paul McCartney or George Martin put in is very important . Without them we wouldn't be here. ... Paul McCartney had the gravest misgivings about it all. He initially worried it would turn into a disaster. It was strange getting to know someone who was once an idol and now dealing with them as a real person in business. I can talk to him as a mate and would not hide or disguise anything about this place."
From the start, Sir Paul felt that LIPA should be open to all talented students - not just to those to wealthy enough to pay for the experience. The school was to be supported solely by public taxes. However, in his autobiography, Mr. Featherstone-Witty discloses that he has already had to call upon Sir Paul to plead for the financial rescue of the Institute on three different occasions. He hopes LIPA's funding problems will be resolved within the next few years, "but it costs a hell of a lot to do. When you ask do you need a place like this? Did the Beatles? The answer is 'No'. On the other hand, do you believe that everyone can start from scratch? ... Taken to its logical conclusion, why teach anyone anything? Perhaps talent will always out. But you could argue the Beatles would have achieved what they wanted faster and not made so many non-musical mistakes."
Mr. Featherstone-Witty is proud to say that LIPA prepares its students for their roles both on and off the stage: "I see a lot of people who are captivated by performers, but that is not where the work is. Paul McCartney's Kings Dock concert in the early '90s had six band members on stage, but 170 behind the scenes making it all possible."
As for his own role as the head of the Institute, Mr. Featherstone-Witty claims, "This is the dream job. I am doing exactly what I want to do. As for criticisms, if you think you can do it better, then go and do it. As David Puttnam told me, 'People should have as many dreams and as few illusions as possible'."
(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)
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