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Celebrities rally together to support Theatre Artists Fund in video series

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 16 February 2021, Last Updated 17 March 2021

16 March 2021 will mark one year since theatres across the UK were forced to close their doors as a result of the global pandemic. Despite the government’s roadmap announcement, the next few months will still be full of uncertainty for our industry.

During these challenging times, thousands of theatre professionals across the country are unable to do the jobs they have trained to do. Ineligible for government support schemes, many have fallen through the cracks and are in need of urgent and critical financial support.

In July 2020, we launched the Theatre Artists Fund to provide emergency financial support for struggling theatre freelancers in the form of quick, efficient and easily accessible individual grants of £1000. And because we do not want to lose our future stars both on and off stage, we’ve enlisted some friends from the theatre community to raise awareness of this ongoing challenge and to share a turning moment in their lives when they were grateful to be lent a hand when they were otherwise so close to giving up.

In the run up to the anniversary of theatre closures, we will be sharing these stories, starting with the Olivier Award-winning actress, Denise Gough. Back in 2018, Denise was in her final year of drama school and found herself in a position where she was unable to continue her studies when she was awarded an Laurence Olivier Bursary. Here, she shares her poignant story as well as numerous other theatre friends.

Multi-award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne describes how someone taking a risk on him changed his career.

We spoke to Maxine Peake about how a turning point in her career when a friend within the industry helped her to secure an audition for Holby City. She explains how this gave her confidence and helped pay her rent in a time where she might have otherwise struggled.

Actor, writer and director Michaela Coel spoke about the important bursaries that allowed her to become the creative she is today, including the Laurence Olivier bursary, which enabled her to finish drama school.

Screen and stage star Luke Thompson (most recently starring in Netflix’s Bridgerton) shares how receiving help from The Wall Trust had a huge knock on effect on his ability to live and work.

Dame Harriet Walter talks about how she went from working in an interior design business to her long and illustrious career, by way of a phone box that changed her life.

“Don’t care less… just trust more” is the advice George MacKay turns to when he’s feels like he’s struggling. Here, he shares his turning point after leaving the set one day feeling and unconfident.

English singer and actress, Elaine Paige describes how after failing audition after audition, her agent at the time gave her some advice that she will never forget.

Screen and stage star James Norton shares his career turning point with thanks Carne Trust.

As a disabled actor, Ruth Madeley has faced many challenges and experienced times where she wanted to give up. Here, she shares the story of the industry professionals who have supported her with their kindness and for advocating inclusion for the disability community.

Stephen Boxer explains the importance of theatre on our wellbeing and calls for support the Theatre Artists Fund to sustain our talent and world-famous industry.

Victoria Ekanoye shares when she went for a open call for a role in the Lion King and how being able to express her raw and honest feelings with the casting director was hugely important.

Benedict Cumberbatch shares a heartfelt story about his turning point thanking Rachel Kavanaugh, Alan Strachan and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Ariyon Bakare, who you may recognise from British drama shows The Bill, Casualty and Holby City thanks Liz Thompson, Artistic Director of Brooklyn Academy of Music who allowed him to stay with her and her family whilst he was training as a dancer. The belief she instilled in him kept him going during dark times.

Stage and screen star Jessie Mei Li shares how the story of how a director taking a chance on her, changed her entire career path.

Olivier Award-winning actress, Juliet Stevenson shares her turning point with great thanks to Theatre Centre and David Johnston for welcoming her to the profession and opening doors.

Olivia Williams thanks the many off-stage theatre professionals for their dedication to the industry and encourages them to apply for the fund.

Andi Osho shares her biggest turning point, when she quit her well paid job and became a full time actor. Here, she shares her story with a special thanks to her team members from What Happened Last Night.

Anne-Marie Duff shares her love for the industry and her support for Theatre Artists Fund in this touching video.

Danny Mac shares his turning point when theatre director Nikolai Foster brought him back to the stage, igniting his passion and drive which is the reason for where he is today.

Dame Judi Dench takes us back to 1957 and gives thanks to theatre director Michael Benthall for believing in her when other’s didn’t.

If you are able to, please help us support those in urgent need via the the Theatre Artists Fund. Visit www.theatreartists.fund or to donate £10 *text THEATREFUND 10 to 70470

Any donation, big or small, is so greatly appreciated and goes directly to helping those in need.

And, if you’d like to see more stories from our theatre friends, please follow and keep your eyes peeled for the hashtag #FirstInLastOut for more in the coming weeks.



*Texts cost the amount you donate plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS.  If you’d like to give but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text THEATREFUNDNOINFO followed by your chosen amount to 70470.


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dame harriet walters Denise Gough eddie redmayne luke thompson maxine peake michaela coel theatre artists fund

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